Eve Arden's career was shaped by her portrayal of Connie Brooks. However, Arden was not the producer's first choice for the title role of Our Miss Brooks old time radio show. Their first selection for the role was Shirley Booth (later on the TV show Hazel), but after further study, they thought that she would be too serious for the role of Miss Brooks. Their second consideration was Lucille Ball, but she was committed to the radio show My Favorite Husband. The chief network executive of Bill Paley encouraged Arden to try out for the role.
Eve Arden was born Eunice Quedens on April 30, 1908; her parents divorced when she was a child. She left high school at age 16 to join a theater group. Eve Arden's made it on Broadway in 1934, when she was cast in that year's Ziegfeld Follies revue along with Fanny Brice, Josephine Baker, and Bob Hope.
Landing a role in the film Song of Love, Eve Arden played a wisecracking supporting role as Maisie LeRoy, which was to become her career specialty. She played similar roles in Oh, Doctor as Shirley Truman; Stage Door as Eve; and Mildred Pierce as Ida Corwin (received an Academy Award Nomination). Film roles include At the Circus with the Marx Brothers andAnatomy of Murder with Jimmy Stewart.
After her success with the film Mildred Pierce, Arden found herself typecast as the wisecracking sidekick. On playing supporting roles Eve Arden said:
"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."
When the opportunity to play the lead character on Our Miss Brooks, old time radio show, Arden escaped the typecasting in supporting roles. Her role of Our Miss Brooks was an example of women's worth outside the home. Miss Brooks comes across as a relatively normal person, dropped into the alien world called High School with a frog collecting love interest, squeaking voiced teens, and a blustery buffoon of a boss. The word most used to describe the Eve Arden's characterization of Miss Brooks is sardonic. The 17th century origin of the word sardonic is Sardinian plant which when eaten was supposed to produce convulsive laughter ending in death—laughing to death, not a bad way to go.
Eve Arden's lines are often cynical and sarcastically humorous, as if whispering her thoughts to the old time radio listener. She seems somewhat resigned to the fact that the people around her are nuts. Our Miss Brooks showed that non-homemakers could be smart and engaging during a time when female domesticity was romanticized. This role defined her entertainment career and she worked as Our Miss Brooks old time radio and television for over a decade.
Later in life she played the role of Principal McGee the movies Grease and its sequel Grease II. These performances gave a nod to her previous role in Our Miss Brooks as an educator. Arden died of colorectal cancer and heart disease at her home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 82 on November 12, 1990, and is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California. Eve Arden was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.
For further reading on Eve Arden please read her biography Arden, Eve. The Three Phases of Eve. New York: St. Martin's, 1985.
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