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Eve Arden (1908- 1990)


Eve Arden
Eve Arden

Eve Arden never became a major Hollywood star, but she had a hugely successful career spanning six decades, in Hollywood movies, Broadway theater, and on radio and television. As well as acting talent she had a natural wit and the ability to perfectly deliver a comedy line which led to her being cast invariably in supporting roles as the funny, fiery girlfriend.

She became one of the most highly regarded character actresses in Hollywood performing many memorable screen roles including Ida Corwin in 1945's Mildred Pierce," for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and Maida Rutledge in 1959's Otto Preminger classic 'Anatomy of a Murder.'

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Biography

She was born Eunice Quedens in Mill Valley, California on April 30, 1908 and from childhood was fascinated by acting and the theatrical world. After her parents' divorce she moved to San Francisco where her mother opened a milliners shop. At age seven years young Eunice won a medal for reciting a pro temperance poem at a WCTU meeting and she often put on her own plays for friends and neighbours.

After two years she returned to Mill Valley where she lived with her mother's sister and attended Tamalpais High School. On graduation, encouraged by her mother and her aunt, she had ambitions only for the stage, and she joined a San Francisco stock company, Henry Duffy Players. The company performed in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and Eunice made her stage debut in 'Alias The Deacon'. She later moved to the traveling Bandbox Repertory Theater where she further honed her theatrical skills.

She was spotted by Columbia Pictures whilst performing on stage in Hollywood and she made her movie debut in 1929 in a hit black and white Talkie, 'Song of Love'. Her next movie role was not until 1933, uncredited in the Joan Crawford, Clark Gable film, 'Dancing Lady'. Still with ambitions for the theater and not the screen, Eunice continued travelling with the Bandbox Company, eventually moving to the prestigious Pasadena Playhouse.

She was seen by New York theater impresario, Lee Shubert who in 1934 persuaded her to move to Broadway to appear in the annual 'Ziegfeld Follies'. He also recommended she change her name and Eunice created the name "Eve Arden", allegedly inspired by the cosmetics giant, Elizabeth Arden.

After several successful seasons in the Ziegfeld Follies she re-started her movie career with a small role in 'Oh Doctor' in 1937, followed by a supposedly minor role in 'Stage Door' later in the year. By the end of filming, she had so impressed the director, Gregory la Cava, that her part (she was called "Eve" in the movie) had been expanded into a sarcastic, wise-cracking, best friend to the lead. Almost overnight she became a well known Hollywood name and the character type she created was to stay with her for the rest of her career. Over the next fifteen years she made forty eight movies, nine in 1941 alone, ranging from the knowing secretary in the comedy 'That Uncertain Feeling' in 1941, or the sophisticated journalist in the smash hit 'Cover Girl' in 1944 to Ida Corwin, Joan Crawford's fast-talking and prescient friend in 1945's 'Mildred Pierce', for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Whilst continuing to make movies, Eve began appearing on radio during the late 1940's, with considerable success. In 1945 she appeared on the Lux Radio Show and in the same year became a regular on Danny Kaye's show for its first season, her spikey wit dove-tailing perfectly with Kaye's own zany comedy. In 1947 she was offered the title role in 'Our Miss Brooks', which became her most famous show, on the radio for nine years and moving to television from 1952 to 1956. The character of Connie Brooks fitted Eve perfectly. She was sarcastic and funny, just like Eve, and many listeners thought she was a real teacher. Eve accepted numerous speaking engagements with educational groups and Parent Teacher Associations. and in 1952 she was made an honorary member of the National Education Association.

Throughout the 1950's Eve alternated between television and movies including a 1956 movie spin off from the radio show, also titled 'Our Miss Brooks'. After an unsuccessful series in 1957, called 'The Eve Arden Show, Eve successfully reverted to the big screen again to play to play James Stewart's secretary in the well received 'Anatomy of a Murder' in 1959 and the following year in 'Dark at the Top of the Stairs', but for the rest of her career she concentrated more on television than the big screen. She made guest appearances in popular series such as 'Bewitched' and 'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' and from 1967 to 1969 she had her own regular series with Kay Ballard, called 'The Mothers in Law'.

After a long break from movies Eve became known to a whole new generation when she appeared in Disney's 'The Strongest Man in the World' in 1975 followed in 1978 by her performance as Principal McGee in the highly successful musical 'Grease'. She returned four years later as the same character in the sequel 'Grease 2'. It proved to be her final movie and after a few more appearances on television, Eve finally retired due to ill health in 1987.

Personal

Eve was married twice, firstly to Ned Bergen from 1939 to 1947, and then to actor Brooks West from 1952 until his death in 1984. She and West adopted two girls and a boy and had one natural child, a son in 1954 and Eve always made sure her family came before her career. She wrote her biography, 'The Three Phases of Eve' in 1985.

Eve Arden died from a heart attack on 12 November, 1990, at her home in Los Angeles after suffering from colorectal cancer for several years . She was 82 years old. She is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California.

Eve Arden Academy Awards

One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Supporting Actress ... Mildred Pierce (1945)


Eve Arden Filmography

1925
1926
1927
1928
1929
Song of Love (as Eunice Quedens)
1930
1931
1932
1933
Dancing Lady (uncredited)
1934
1935
1936
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
Comrade X
No, No, Nanette
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
Let's Face It
Hit Parade of 1943
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 Arnelo Affair
Song of Scheherazade
The Unfaithful
The Voice of the Turtle
1948
One Touch of Venus
Whiplash
1949
My Dream Is Yours
The Lady Takes a Sailor