Three Phases of Eve
By Eve Arden,
St. Martin's Press, 1985
Beautiful Smart Aleck
Eve Arden (born Eunice Quedens) was the only child of a gambling-addicted father and former-actress mother. Her parents divorced when she was barely a toddler, and her mother, a great beauty with a talent for fashion, moved the two of them from Mill Valley, California, to the heart of San Francisco to open a millinery shop. Young Eunice had a lot of free time on her hands, and spent much of it inventing stories and acting them out.
After a couple of scary years at a convent school in the city, Eunice went back to live in quieter Mill Valley with her father's sister, and attended Tamalpais High, while her mother visited on weekends. The drama bug bit hard and immediately after graduation, Eunice landed a job in a San Francisco stock company and never looked back.
She went from stage to couple of walk-ons in movies, then headed to Broadway as a Ziegfeld girl (changing her name to the more euphonious "Eve Arden"), which in turn landed her a gig on radio, which led to greater opportunities in Hollywood. Her breakout role in Stage Door as one of the struggling actresses living in a theatrical women's hotel, was originally one without lines. She so impressed director Gregory LaCava with her comic delivery and bits of business, that he kept giving her more dialog and action.
Throughout the rest of 1930s and 1940s, Arden played a host of smart-talking best friends, sidekicks, and career women; there was no better wisecracking second lead on screen (who wasn't Thelma Ritter). He most famous such role was as Joan Crawford's business partner at the chicken-n-waffle franchise and best friend, Ida Corwin, in Mildred Pierce, a part that earned her an Academy Award nomination. But always a bridesmaid...at least in film. It was radio that gave Eve Arden the chance to shine as a lead actress in the comedy series, Our Miss Brooks. A tremendously popular program, Brooks ran for nine years on radio, four on television, and was made into a feature film in 1956.
Arden deftly moved to television with a short-lived show of her own, but mainly made guest appearances on many of the highest-rated programs of the 1960s. Then in 1967, she starred with Kaye Ballard in my irrational favorite, The Mothers-In-Law, which only ran a few seasons. Perhaps her most memorable film role of the few she did in the 1970s was as Principal McGee in the kind-of-awful-when-you-see-it-as-an-adult-but-couldn't-get-enough-of-it-when-you-were-13 film, Grease (and of course, Grease 2).
The woman did everything and worked well into her seventies, on stage, film, and television. Eve Arden passed away November 12, 1990, of cancer at the age of 82.
The Mothers-In-Law Clip
Appearance on What's My Line?