Eve Arden


Actor
Eve Arden

About

Also Known As
Eunice Quedens
Birth Place
Mill Valley, California, USA
Born
April 30, 1908
Died
November 12, 1990
Cause of Death
Heart Disease

Biography

From an early age Eve Arden evinced brilliant comic timing that set her apart from the rank and file of young Hollywood hopefuls. A seasoned stock player out of high school, she made her film debut in an early talkie, but it was on Broadway and radio that she cultivated her brand as a tart-tonged comedienne. Given a small role in RKO's "Stage Door" (1937), Arden so impressed director Gre...

Family & Companions

Edward G Bergan
Husband
Literary agent. Married 1939, divorced 1947; adopted two children.
Brooks West
Husband
Actor, artist. Married 1951 until his death in 1984; adopted two children.

Bibliography

"Three Phases of Eve"
Eve Arden, St. Martin's Press (1985)

Notes

Arden claimed that when she was told by producer Lee Shubert to shed her real name Eunice Quedens to play a showgirl in his "Ziegfeld Follies" of 1934, she studied labels of cosmetic jars on her dressing table and "stole my first name from Evening in Paris and the second from Elizabeth Arden."

Biography

From an early age Eve Arden evinced brilliant comic timing that set her apart from the rank and file of young Hollywood hopefuls. A seasoned stock player out of high school, she made her film debut in an early talkie, but it was on Broadway and radio that she cultivated her brand as a tart-tonged comedienne. Given a small role in RKO's "Stage Door" (1937), Arden so impressed director Gregory La Cava that he ordered her part expanded to give her equal time alongside stars Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Lucille Ball. Better roles followed, supporting the Marx Brothers in "At the Circus" (1939) and playing the first of many independent professional women in "Comrade X" (1940) opposite Clark Gable. Arden flourished as a second female lead and was nominated for an Academy Award for playing the best friend of Joan Crawford's anguished "Mildred Pierce" (1945). In 1948, she created the role of spinster schoolteacher "Our Miss Brooks" for CBS radio and brought the character to television four years later. Moving effortlessly between the stage and screens big and small, Arden remained a viable character player well past retirement age, upstaging film newcomers John Travolta and Olivia Newton John in "Grease" (1978). Ill health forced Arden's retirement in 1987 while her death from cancer in 1990 dropped the curtain on the brilliant career of a unique and irreplaceable comic talent.

Eve Arden was born Eunice Quedens on April 30, 1908 in Mill Valley, CA. The only child of Charles and Lucille Quedens, she was raised primarily by her mother after her parents' divorce. Relocating to San Francisco, Lucille Quedens found work as a milliner, eventually opening her own hat shop. Often left alone while her mother worked, Arden developed a vivid imagination and staged plays of her own invention for friends and neighbors. Her first experience at public performance came when she was asked to recite a poem for her second grade class. When her recitation of "No Kicka My Dog," a monologue about an immigrant and his four-legged friend, moved a classmate to tears, Arden knew she had found her niche. After two years in a convent school, she returned to Mill Valley to live with an aunt while she attended Tamalpais High School. After her 1926 graduation, she joined the Henry Duffy Players, a San Francisco stock company, earning $35 as a repertory player.

Performance dates in Hollywood attracted the attention of Columbia Pictures, for whom Arden, billed as Eunice Quedens, made her feature film debut in "Song of Love" (1929). Uncredited in a bit in the Clark Gable-Joan Crawford pair-up "Dancing Lady" (1933), she enjoyed greater acclaim for her stage work at the Pasadena Playhouse. Lured to Broadway, she rechristened herself Eve Arden for roles in "Ziegfeld Follies of 1934" and "Ziegfeld Follies of 1936." Her successes on Broadway led to work in radio. After appearances on bandleader Rudy Vallee's weekly broadcast, Arden signed on for CBS' "Laugh with Ken Murray," in which she supplied sardonic comic relief as star Murray's tart-tongued sidekick. With her mother's death in 1936, Arden returned to California and to films with a bad girl role in "Oh Doctor" (1937). That same year, RKO's "Stage Door" (1937), an adaptation of the Edna Ferber-George S. Kaufman stage play about aspiring actresses sharing a second-rate Broadway boarding house, put her on the screen with no less than stars Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers, as well as up-and-coming starlets Lucille Ball and Ann Miller.

Though she had not yet refined her Hollywood persona, many of the attributes of Arden's seminal performances were already in place, among them her agility with rapid-fire dialogue and a slightly masculine aspect that set her apart from her fine-boned contemporaries. Second only to Rosalind Russell, Arden specialized in quick witted, indomitable professional women whose plucky joie de vivre was encoded in such character names as Kit Campbell, Gabby Trent, Buzz Baker, Cornelia "Stonewall" Jackson, and Peerless Pauline, the acrobat heroine of "At the Circus" (1939), which teamed Arden with the Marx Brothers. As the actress matured into her mid-thirties, she excelled as a reliable second female lead, relying on her trademark wisecracks to support Hedy Lamarr in "Comrade X" (1940), Rita Hayworth in "Cover Girl" (1944), and Ann Sheridan, Alexis Smith and Jane Wyman in "The Doughgirls" (1944), a fluffy comedy that cast Arden as a rifle-toting Soviet sergeant taking Washington, D.C. by storm. Another choice role was as Joan Crawford's acerbic gal pal in "Mildred Pierce" (1945), which netted Arden an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Throughout the Forties, Arden divided her time between features and radio, where she was a regular player on Danny Kaye's short-lived variety series. In 1948, she was chosen to star in the CBS radio comedy "Our Miss Brooks," playing the softly autocratic Connie Brooks, English teacher at the fictive Madison High School. The series remained on the air until 1957 and during its long run, was spun off for television by Desilu Productions, copiloted by Arden's "Stage Door" co-star Lucille Ball. An instant hit on the small screen, "Our Miss Brooks" (1952-56) ran to 130 episodes before its cancellation and inspired a 1956 feature film of the same name. Arden also headed "The Eve Arden Show" (CBS, 1956-57), playing a widowed writer struggling to raise her children alone, and earned an Emmy nomination. She returned to features to play attorney James Stewart's secretary in Otto Preminger's "Anatomy of a Murder" (1959). Nearing 50, Arden stood poised to enter the next phase of her long and diverse career, softening her onscreen persona to reveal the vulnerabilities and indignities of older women.

Through the next decade, Arden worked more on the small screen than in features, contributing vivid guest appearances to such popular weekly series as "Bewitched" (ABC, 1964-1972), "Laredo" (NBC, 1965-67) and "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (NBC, 1964-68), for whom she hammed it up as a brilliant chemist who threatens to sell to enemy agents a twin formulae capable of elevating human intelligence or reducing men to brainless morons. She had another stab at a regular series of her own with Desilu's "The Mothers in Law" (1967-69), partnering with comedienne Kay Ballard as a pair of world class meddlers who make life difficult for their married children. Arden seemed to enjoy her cameo as a breakfast cereal magnate in Disney's "The Strongest Man in the World" (1974), but she enjoyed something like a full-blown comeback when she was cast as the Principal McGee of Rydell High School in the smash hit musical "Grease" (1978), starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. Arden returned in character for the film's downgraded but still successful sequel, "Grease 2" (1982).

Arden returned to Broadway for the original comedy "Moose Murders" in 1983 but her inability to remember her lines necessitated her replacement by Holland Taylor. Savaged by critics, the production closed after opening night. Following the death of her second husband, actor Brooks West, in 1984, she made only a scattering of television appearances, as the Stepmother in the 1985 Cinderella episode of Shelly Duval's "Faerie Tale Theater" (Showtime, 1982-87) and appearing in a 1987 episode of the primetime soap opera "Falcon Crest" (CBS, 1981-1990) alongside fellow Golden Age star, Jane Wyman. Plagued by colorectal cancer in her final years, Eve Arden died on Nov. 12, 1990, at the age of 83.

by Richard Harland Smith

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Wisecracks (1991)
Herself
Grease 2 (1982)
Pandemonium (1982)
Under The Rainbow (1981)
Grease (1978)
Principal Mcgee
A Guide for the Married Woman (1978)
Employment Lady
The Strongest Man in the World (1975)
All My Darling Daughters (1972)
Miss Freeling
A Very Missing Person (1972)
In Name Only (1969)
Sergeant Deadhead (1965)
Lieutenant Kinsey
The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960)
Lottie
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Maida Rutledge
Our Miss Brooks (1956)
Miss [Constance "Connie"] Brooks
The Lady Wants Mink (1953)
Gladys Jones
We're Not Married! (1952)
Kathleen Woodruff
Goodbye, My Fancy (1951)
Woody
Three Husbands (1950)
Lucille McCabe
Paid in Full (1950)
Tommy Thompson
Tea for Two (1950)
Pauline Hastings
Curtain Call at Cactus Creek (1950)
Lily Martin
The Lady Takes a Sailor (1949)
Susan Wayne
My Dream Is Yours (1949)
Vivian Martin
One for the Book (1948)
Olive Lashbrooke
One Touch of Venus (1948)
Molly Stewart
Whiplash (1948)
Chris [Sherwood]
The Unfaithful (1947)
Paula
Song of Scheherazade (1947)
Madame Conchita de Talavera
The Arnelo Affair (1947)
Vivian Delwyn
Night and Day (1946)
Gabrielle
My Reputation (1946)
Ginna Abbott
The Kid from Brooklyn (1946)
Ann Westley
Earl Carroll Vanities (1945)
Tex Donnelly
Pan-Americana (1945)
Helen "Hoppy" Hopkins
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Ida Corwin
Patrick the Great (1945)
Jean Mathews
The Doughgirls (1944)
Natalia Moskoroff
Cover Girl (1944)
Cornelia Jackson
Let's Face It (1943)
Maggie Watson
Hit Parade of 1943 (1943)
Belinda Wright
Obliging Young Lady (1942)
"Space" O'Shea
Ziegfeld Girl (1941)
Patsy Dixon
Whistling in the Dark (1941)
"Buzz" Baker
San Antonio Rose (1941)
Gabby Trent
That Uncertain Feeling (1941)
Sally [Aikens]
Manpower (1941)
Dolly
Last of the Duanes (1941)
Kate
She Knew All the Answers (1941)
Sally Long
Bedtime Story (1941)
Virginia Cole
Sing for Your Supper (1941)
Barbara Stevens
A Child Is Born (1940)
Miss Pinty
No, No Nanette (1940)
Kitty
Comrade X (1940)
Jane Wilson
She Couldn't Say No (1940)
Alice Hinsdale
Slightly Honorable (1939)
Miss Ater
Eternally Yours (1939)
Gloria
Women in the Wind (1939)
Kit Campbell
At the Circus (1939)
Peerless Pauline
The Forgotten Woman (1939)
Carrie Ashburn
Big Town Czar (1939)
Susan Warren
Letter of Introduction (1938)
Cora Phelps
Having Wonderful Time (1938)
Henrietta
Cocoanut Grove (1938)
Sophie DeLemma
Oh, Doctor (1937)
Shirley Truman
Stage Door (1937)
Eve
Dancing Lady (1933)
Chorus girl with phony accent

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Wisecracks (1991)
Other

Cast (Special)

The American Film Institute Salute to Barbara Stanwyck (1987)
Performer
The 38th Annual Emmy Awards (1986)
Performer
Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes All-Star 50th Anniversary (1986)
Nuts and Bolts (1981)
Martha Fenton
CBS: On the Air (1978)
Harry and Maggie (1975)
Meet Cyd Charisse (1959)
Guest

Misc. Crew (Short)

The Costume Designer (1950)
Archival Footage

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

The Dream Merchants (1980)

Life Events

1928

Joined Henry Duffy stock company performing in San Francisco and Los Angeles; made stage debut in company's "Alias The Deacon"

1929

Film acting debut (as Eunice Quedens) in "The Song of Love"

1934

Broadway debut in "Ziegfeld Follies"

1934

First credited as Eve Arden

1935

First Broadway accolade as Eve Arden in "Parade" opposite Jimmy Savo

1936

Understudied and went on for Fanny Brice in "Ziegfeld Follies"

1937

Breakthrough film role in "Stage Door"

1939

Returned to Broadway in Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical, "Very Warm For May"

1945

Received Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for one of her best-remembered role, Ida in "Mildred Pierce"

1948

Starred on CBS radio as "Our Miss Brooks"

1982

Last film, "Grease 2"

1991

Appeared in archival footage used in the documentary on female comediennes, "Wisecracks"

Photo Collections

Tea for Two - Movie Poster
Tea for Two - Movie Poster

Videos

Movie Clip

Stage Door (1937) - Nice Big Whale Caviar Eve (Arden) and Judy (Lucille Ball) waiting to see producer Powell (Adolphe Menjou), Kay (Andrea Leeds) getting stood-up, Terry (Katharine Hepburn) arriving to settle the score, in Stage Door, 1937, from the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman.
Mildred Pierce (1945) - He'll Bleed You Dry Partner Wally (Jack Carson) complains to title character (Joan Crawford) about her husband Monte (Zachary Scott) who, after Ida (Eve Arden) interrupts, arrives with daughter Veda (Ann Blyth), in Mildred Pierce, 1945, directed by Michael Curtiz.
Anatomy Of A Murder (1959) - I've Seen Him In Action Hot-shot prosecutor Dancer (George C. Scott) entering the courthouse as the judge (Joseph N. Welch) briefs the jury, the local DA (Brooks West) and his defense attorney opponent Biegler (James Stewart) taking his measure, in Otto Preminger's Anatomy Of A Murder, 1959.
One For The Book -- (1948) - This War Has Made Men So Unpredictable Eve Arden as actress Olive, in wartime New York, visiting fellow actress Sally (Eleanor Parker), just jilted by her married lover, discovers her preferred paramour is available, leaving the problem of the other boyfriend coming to meet her, in One For The Book (a.ka. Voice Of The Turtle), 1948.
Doughgirls, The (1944) - I Like To Eat A Fish Pentagon employee Julian (John Ridgely) brings his new colleague, Soviet war hero Natalia (Eve Arden) to the suddenly-crowded Washington hotel bridal suite where his wife Edna (Ann Sheridan) has received her two newlywed ex-showgirl pals Vivian and Nan (Jane Wyman, Alexis Smith), early in The Doughgirls, 1944.
Doughgirls, The (1944) - You Can Make Anything Out Of Soybeans Kooky newlywed ex-showgirl Vivian (Jane Wyman) is waiting for the previous occupant to vacate the bridal suite in crowded wartime Washington, D.C., until she discovers it’s her old pal Edna (Ann Sheridan), who quickly decides she and her husband won’t have to leave, in The Doughgirls, 1944.
Comrade X (1940) - On The Reactionary Side Moscow streetcar conductor "Theodore" (Hedy Lamarr) does the dramatic communist-to-capitalist wardrobe change for her temporary husband, American reporter Johnson (Clark Gable), whose colleague Jane (Eve Arden) then arrives, in Comrade X, 1940.
My Reputation (1946) - Women On The Loose First scene for Eve Arden as pal "Ginna," hailing newly widowed Jessica (Barbara Stanwyck), who's just seen her two sons off to boarding school, reflecting together when unduly interested George (Jerome Cowan) appears again, in My Reputation, 1946, directed by Curtis Bernhardt.
Stage Door (1937) - The Well-Dressed Roommate Jean (Ginger Rogers) with Terry (Katharine Hepburn), boarding-house rival Linda (Gail Patrick) and pals (Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Ann Miller), then dumping Bill (William Corson), en route to a date with a producer in Stage Door, 1937.
That Uncertain Feeling - Masters Of The World From Ernst Lubitsch's prologue, to the ladies lounge to meet Jill (Merle Oberon) and friends (Eve Arden, Olive Blakeney), then to the shrink, Dr. Vengard (Alan Mowbray), opening That Uncertain Feeling, 1941, also staring Melvyn Douglas and Burgess Meredith.
Tea For Two (1950) - Title Song Jimmy (Gordon MacRae) and Tommy (Gene Nelson) have just introduced heiress Nanette (Doris Day) to the big tune (by Vincent Youmans) from their new show, producer Larry (Billy DeWolfe) drooling, secretary Pauline (Eve Arden) skeptical, in Tea For Two, 1950.
Mildred Pierce (1945) - -- We Don't Need You Title character (Joan Crawford) at the police station after her husband's murder by an unknown subject, where she meets pal Ida (Eve Arden), business rival Wally (Jack Carson), her ex Bert (Bruce Bennett) and cop Peterson (Moroni Olsen), early in Mildred Pierce, 1945.

Trailer

Tea For Two - (Original Trailer) Doris Day and Gordon MacRae star in the film version of the Broadway hit musical No, No Nanette, Tea For Two (1950).
Lady Takes a Sailor - (Original Trailer) A woman (Jane Wyman) is saved from drowning by a mysterious submarine, but nobody believes her in Lady Takes A Sailor (1949).
Night and Day - (Original Trailer) Fanciful biography of songwriter Cole Porter (Cary Grant), who rose from high society to find success on Tin Pan Alley.
Arnelo Affair, The - (Original Trailer) A neglected wife (Frances Gifford) gets mixed up with an hypnotic charmer and murder (John Hodiak) in The Arnelo Affair (1947).
Anatomy Of A Murder - (Original Trailer) Small-town lawyer James Stewart gets the case of a lifetime when a military man avenges an attack on his wife in Otto Preminger's Anatomy Of A Murder (1959).
Mildred Pierce -- (Original Trailer) A woman turns herself into a business tycoon to win her selfish daughter a place in society in Mildred Pierce (1945) starring Joan Crawford in an Oscar-winning role.
Grease - (Original Trailer) A prim Australian exchange student (Olivia Newton-John) falls for a high school gang leader (John Travolta) in the hit musical, Grease (1978).
Whistling in the Dark (1941) - (Original Trailer) Red Skelton, in his first starring role, is a radio detective forced to plan the perfect murder in Whistling in the Dark (1941).
She Couldn't Say No (1940) - (Original Trailer) Eve Arden stars in She Couldn't Say No (1940), a movie with a plot suspiciously like the later classic Adam's Rib (1949).
Dancing Lady - (Re-issue Trailer) Joan Crawford loves Clark Gable but sings and dances with Fred Astaire in Dancing Lady (1933) with a guest appearance by the Three Stooges.
Stage Door - (Re-issue Trailer) Women at a theatrical boarding house vie for choice roles on Broadway in Stage Door (1937), with Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, & Lucille Ball.
Goodbye, My Fancy - (Original Trailer) When she returns to her alma mater to pick up an honorary degree, a congresswoman (Joan Crawford) re-ignites an old flame in Goodbye, My Fancy (1951).

Family

Charles Peter Quedens
Father
Lucille Quedens
Mother
Liza West
Daughter
Adopted by Arden and Edward Bergan.
Constance West
Daughter
Adopted by Arden and Edward Bergan.
Douglas West
Son
Adopted by Arden and Brooks West.
Duncan West
Son
Adopted by Arden and Brooks West.

Companions

Edward G Bergan
Husband
Literary agent. Married 1939, divorced 1947; adopted two children.
Brooks West
Husband
Actor, artist. Married 1951 until his death in 1984; adopted two children.

Bibliography

"Three Phases of Eve"
Eve Arden, St. Martin's Press (1985)

Notes

Arden claimed that when she was told by producer Lee Shubert to shed her real name Eunice Quedens to play a showgirl in his "Ziegfeld Follies" of 1934, she studied labels of cosmetic jars on her dressing table and "stole my first name from Evening in Paris and the second from Elizabeth Arden."