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Eve Arden

Filmography

1929      

Song of Love

 

1933      

Dancing Lady

 

1937      

Oh, Doctor

Stage Door

 

1938      

Cocoanut Grove

Having Wonderful Time

Letter of Introduction

 

1939      

Women in the Wind

Big Town Czar

The Forgotten Woman

Eternally Yours

At the Circus

A Child Is Born

Slightly Honorable

 

1940      

She Couldn’t Say No

No, No, Nanette

Comrade X

 

1941      

That Uncertain Feeling

Ziegfeld Girl

She Knew All the Answers

San Antonio Rose

Whistling in the Dark

Manpower

Last of the Duanes

Sing for Your Supper

Bedtime Story

 

1942      

Obliging Young Lady

 

1943      

Hit Parade of 1943

Let’s Face It

 

1944      

Cover Girl

The Doughgirls

 

1945      

Pan-Americana

Earl Carroll Vanities

Patrick the Great

Mildred Pierce

 

1946      

My Reputation

The Kid from Brooklyn

Night and Day

 

1947      

The Unfaithful

The Arnelo Affair

Song of Scheherazade

The Voice of the Turtle

 

1948      

One Touch of Venus

Whiplash

 

1949      

My Dream Is Yours

The Lady Takes a Sailor

 

1950      

Paid in Full

Curtain Call at Cactus Creek

Tea for Two

Three Husbands

 

1951      

Goodbye, My Fancy

Two Tickets to Broadway

 

1952      

We’re Not Married!

 

1953      

The Lady Wants Mink

 

1956      

Our Miss Brooks

 

1959      

Anatomy of a Murder

 

1960      

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

 

1965      

Sergeant Deadhead

 

1975      

The Strongest Man in the World

 

1978      

Grease

 

1981      

Under the Rainbow

 

1982      

Pandemonium

Grease 2

Awards

Eve Arden was nominated for a Best Actress in a Supporting Role Academy Award for Mildred Pierce (1945).

I’ve worked with a lot of great glamorous girls in movies and the theater. And I’ll admit, I’ve often thought it would be wonderful to be a femme fatale. But then I’d always come back to thinking that if they only had what I’ve had – a family, real love, an anchor – they would have been so much happier during all the hours when the marquees and the floodlights are dark. ~ Eve Arden

Eve Arden, (Eunice Mary Quedens) was born April 30, 1908 in Mill Valley, California. to Charles Peter Quedens and Lucille (née Frank) Quedens. Lucille, a milliner, divorced Charles over his gambling, and went into business for herself. Although not Roman Catholic, young Eunice was sent to a Dominican convent school near Modesto, and later attended Tamalpais High School, a public high school in Mill Valley until age 16. After leaving school, she joined a stock theater company.

She made her film debut under her real name in the backstage musical Song of Love (1929), as a wisecracking, home-wrecking showgirl who becomes a rival to the film’s star, singer Belle Baker. The film was one of Columbia Pictures’ earliest successes. In 1933, she relocated to New York City, where she appeared in multiple Broadway stage productions in supporting parts. In 1934, she was cast in that year’s Ziegfeld Follies revue. This was the first role in which she was credited as Eve Arden. Told to change her name for the show, she looked at her cosmetics and “stole my first name from Evening in Paris and the second from Elizabeth Arden”. Between 1934 and 1941, she would appear in Broadway productions of Parade, Very Warm for May, Two for the Show, and Let’s Face It!.

Her film career began in earnest in 1937 when she signed a contract with RKO Radio Pictures, and appeared in the films Oh Doctor and Stage Door. Her Stage Door portrayal of a fast-talking, witty supporting character gained Arden considerable notice and was to be a template for many of Arden’s future roles. In 1938, she appeared in a supporting part in the comedy Having Wonderful Time, starring Ginger Rogers and Lucille Ball. This was followed by roles in the crime film The Forgotten Woman (1939), and the comedy At the Circus (1939), opposite Groucho Marx, a role that would require her to perform acrobatics.

In 1940, she appeared opposite Clark Gable in Comrade X, followed by the drama Manpower (1941), opposite Marlene Dietrich. She also appeared in a supporting part in the Red Skelton comedy Whistling in the Dark (1941), and the romantic comedy Obliging Young Lady (1942). Her many memorable screen roles include a supporting role as Joan Crawford‘s wise-cracking friend in Mildred Pierce (1945) for which she received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress, and James Stewart‘s wistful secretary in Otto Preminger’s murder mystery, Anatomy of a Murder (1959). (One of her co-stars in that film was husband Brooks West.) In 1946, exhibitors voted her the sixth-most promising “star of tomorrow”.

She became familiar to a new generation of film-goers when she played Principal McGee in both 1978’s Grease and 1982’s Grease 2. She was known for her deadpan delivery of jokes in films.

Arden’s ability with witty scripts made her a natural talent for radio; she became a regular on Danny Kaye’s short-lived but memorably zany comedy-variety show in 1946, which also featured swing bandleader Harry James and gravel-voiced character actor-comedian Lionel Stander.

Kaye’s show lasted one season, but Arden’s display of comic talent and timing set the stage for her to be cast in her best-known role, Madison High School English teacher Connie Brooks in Our Miss Brooks. Arden portrayed the character on radio from 1948 to 1957, in a television version of the program from 1952 to 1956, and in a 1956 feature film. Arden’s character clashed with the school’s principal, Osgood Conklin (played by Gale Gordon), and nursed an unrequited crush on fellow teacher Philip Boynton (played originally by future film star Jeff Chandler, and later on radio, then on television, by Robert Rockwell). Except for Chandler, the entire radio cast of Arden, Gordon, Richard Crenna (Walter Denton), Robert Rockwell (Mr. Philip Boynton), Gloria McMillan (Harriet Conklin), and Jane Morgan (landlady Margaret Davis) played the same roles on television.

Desilu Productions, jointly owned by Desi Arnaz and Ball during their marriage, was the production company for the Our Miss Brooks television show, which filmed during the same years as I Love Lucy. Ball and Arden became acquainted when they co-starred together in the film Stage Door in 1937. Ball, according to numerous radio historians, suggested Arden for Our Miss Brooks after Shirley Booth auditioned for but failed to land the role and Ball – committed at the time to My Favorite Husband – could not.

Arden tried another series in the fall of 1957, The Eve Arden Show, but it was canceled in spring of 1958 after 26 episodes.  She later co-starred with Kaye Ballard as her neighbor and in-law, Eve Hubbard, in the 1967–69 situation comedy The Mothers-in-Law, which was produced by Arnaz after the dissolution of Desilu Productions. In her later career, Arden made appearances on such television shows as Bewitched, Alice, Maude, Hart to Hart, and Falcon Crest.

Arden was one of many actresses to take on the title roles in Hello, Dolly! and Auntie Mame in the 1960s; in 1967, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre. Arden was cast in 1983 as the leading lady in what was to be her Broadway comeback in Moose Murders, but she wisely withdrew (and was replaced with the much younger Holland Taylor) after one preview performance, citing “artistic differences”. The show went on to open and close on the same night, becoming known as one of the most legendary flops in Broadway history.

Arden was married to Ned Bergen from 1939–1947, and to actor Brooks West from 1952 until his death in 1984 from a heart ailment, aged 67. She and West had four children; all but the youngest were adopted. All four survived their parents.

On November 12, 1990, Arden died from cardiac arrest and heart disease, aged 82, at her home, according to her death certificate. Some sources, including her manager, Glenn Rose, said she had also been battling cancer. However, cancer is not mentioned in her death certificate. She is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, Westwood, Los Angeles, California.

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