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Friday, 6 January 2012

Eve Arden & Me

Although I'm a relative novice when it comes to Eve Arden's films (I've only seen five to date), I've recently encountered her in two small roles that utilised the best of her caustic wit and damning facial expressions. Ziegfield Girl (1941) and Stage Door (1937) are pretty good films, even if you take away Arden's contributions, but she's the actress who makes them as far as I'm concerned. Not bad for a woman who invariably played the side-kick in Hollywood movies.

Why do I love Eve? Well, I have a great affection for sarcastic women in films. Think of the wonderful Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) or Virginia O'Brien's underrated role in The Harvey Girls (1946). Bea Arthur stole my heart in the television series The Golden Girls (1985-92) for the simple reason that her outlook matched my own - even at a very young age. Sometimes the world is just so stupid that you need characters played by these wonderful actresses to point it out. But there's something else these roles (and those portrayed by Eve) have in common: the characters have a underbelly of emotion that they release to those that matter when it matters. I'm talking about Dorothy Shaw's (Russell) affection for her friend in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, whom she would defend to the hilt in spite of her flaws. I'm referring to Dorothy Zbornak's mask slipping as she confronts the potential loss of her mother in series one of The Golden Girls. And in The Harvey Girls, Alma helps out her new friend the blacksmith, giving rise to one of my favourite songs (see clip below). As for Eve Arden, her role as Eve in Stage Door was full of sarcasm until she felt compelled to comfort her friend, played by Andrea Leeds, who had just lost out on a part. These characters are fully-functioning human beings but they like to cover it up with a barrage of sarcasm. That's me all over.

Like many people, my first exposure to Eve Arden was in her role as Principal McGee in Grease (1978). But since then I've seen Cover Girl (1944) and Tea for Two (1950). It was the latter with Doris Day that beguiled me. What's not to like about a smart-talking, strong-willed female?


Anonymous said...

Lovely post and thanks for highlighting this wonderful actress - but you've included a photo of Joan Crawford at the top there - not sure if mistake?

CharmedLassie said...

Zoinks, I'm so ashamed. Eve would have a cutting remark for me, I'm sure. That'll teach me to have a pictures folder overflowing with beautiful women, won't it?