In comedy or drama one of the most famous wise cracking sidekicks in support of the leading man or woman was the wonderful Eve Arden. (Yes, we’re big fans despite that chapeau worthy of Hedda Hopper.)
She was tall for her time (nearly five-foot-eight), level-headed and an accomplished mistress of the deflating remark masterfully delivered, laced with sarcasm and wisdom. She was also a looker, sexy in a controlled way that never threatened the leading lady she was supporting.
Hailing from northern California, Arden started in show business early — she made her stage debut at age 16 — and began making movies by the early 1930’s. She appeared in some 60 pictures before shifting to television where she racked up her most popular triumph. In all her career extended more than half a century covering nearly 100 movie and tv titles.
Her prowess in delivering the perfectly timed wisecrack is amply on display in 1945’s Mildred Pierce starring Joan Crawford.
No one who has seen this classic will forget her. Arden plays “Ida Korwin,” bookeeper/secretary to the title character, a divorced mother saddled with a spoiled daughter and who is immersed in building a successful restaurant business. Ida is alternately the voice of reason, a skeptical observer of her boss’ romantic and business misadventures, who fends off several passes directed her way by the lecherous “Wally Fay” (Jack Carson).
Arden’s performance combines warmth, racy humor, good sense and utter credibility. Little wonder that she was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar thanks to her portrayal in Mildred Pierce. (Alas, Anne Revere won the Academy Award in 1946 for her supporting role in National Velvet. Arden was robbed.)
Frank first discovered Arden when she played the lead — high school English teacher “Connie Brooks” — in the early tv sitcom, Our Miss Brooks.
It started out on radio in 1948, and then shifted to the tube in 1952 where it ran for four years on CBS and years more in syndication. Our Miss Brooks was a huge hit, and made Arden a star as the wise teacher at Madison High with a crush on shy biology teacher “Philip Boynton” (Bob Rockwell). In her cameo in 1978’s Grease, Arden was elevated to playing a high school principal.
Eve Arden, who died in 1990 at age 82, was supporting performer with few peers in classic film, and a star on tv.