Tuesday, January 15, 2019

I Love Eve

Someone asked who my favorite TV comedienne was, fully expecting me to say Lucy. He was shocked when I told him Lucy was number three. Number two is Audrey Meadows who played Alice on THE HONEYMOONERS, and number one is someone you might never have heard of.

Eve Arden.

Who?

Eve Arden. 

Yes, you have to be a certain age to remember Eve Arden, but mid-century she was a comic star of stage, screen (big and little), and radio.   No one could deliver a line with better deadpan delivery than Eve Arden. Her voice, her attitude, her timing – she was impeccable. Bea Arthur and Betty White are close, and Carol Burnett is hysterical but in a different broader way – yet for sheer delivery of a pithy line, no one could touch Eve Arden.

She’s been on my mind lately because there’s a character in my new play that I thought, “Ohmygod, Eve Arden would have KILLED in this part.”

In movies she often played the droll wise-cracking best friend, but she was probably most famous for starring in a radio show and then TV series called OUR MISS BROOKS. It was produced by Desilu which also produced I LOVE LUCY. Like I LOVE LUCY, it was done in the multi-camera format in front of a live studio audience that Desi Arnaz originated. In fact, both shows shared the same crew. As a result, OUR MISS BROOKS was recorded on film and copies of all the episodes still exist (as opposed to all the shows done on Kinescope that are either gone or not of broadcast quality).

I remember liking OUR MISS BROOKS when I was a kid and saw the show in syndication. But it was more of a distant memory.  She played a High School teacher in a small midwestern town. 

Now, with Eve Arden in my head I looked on YouTube and sure enough, there were some episodes available. They were from 1953. That’s even before my time in front of the tube. I figured the show would be really musty, but there might be some nostalgia value to it so I clicked on one at random.

I was stunned at how good it was. I even laughed out loud a few times. I haven’t laughed out loud at a current network sitcom in years. And this was an episode produced over 60 years ago.  The story was clever, the character actors were all pitch perfect, and there was a plethora of sharp funny lines. Oh, and Eve Arden was awesome.

Some amazing things about how good that show was: They made 39 episodes a year. And the same man co-wrote and directed them – Al Lewis (not the actor Al Lewis who played Grandpa Munster). Where did he find the time? I then watched a couple more and those stories were all clever and well-constructed – way better storytelling than any episode of THE BIG BANG THEORY ever. Lewis wrote the episodes with Joe Quillian, and a lot of what they did still holds up.

And then I thought to myself, this must be what it’s like when a Millennial discovers CHEERS for the first time. He or she is probably amazed that an ancient show written by old guys could actually still be funny.  Who knew?  /And guess what -- there are lots of gems out there that are still great and just waiting to be discovered (or rediscovered). What an enormous treat is in store for anyone willing to seek them out.

If you’re 20 I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t respond to OUR MISS BROOKS. It’s just too far back and is in black-and-white. You may or may not appreciate Eve Arden’s brilliance. But classic sitcoms from the 70s and 80’s (some of which I never wrote for) are out there and available. Believe me, it’s a gift. Take advantage. Your own Eve Arden may be out there waiting.

67 comments :

Gary Campbell said...

Eve Arden and Our Miss Brooks were my favorites too. Gale Gordon was great as Mr. Conklin, too, and a young Richard Crenna as Walter Denton!

Pat Reeder said...

So glad to see you tossing some love to Eve Arden, one of my wife's and my favorite performers. If you watch TCM a lot, as we do, she pops up all the time and is always great, elevating even mediocre movies into the must-see category. I've also seen and enjoyed "Our Miss Brooks" on TV, and every Christmas, I download a bunch of holiday-themed classic radio shows to play in the car, and there are always some "OMB" episodes. She was great on radio, too; all she needed was that voice and delivery. Amazon has a collection of 180 radio episodes, free for listening on Audible. Talk about workhorses: while doing 39 TV shows a year, they were also doing the radio show, which ran from 1948 to 1957, a year after the TV show ended.

I wish someone would write a good biography of her. She wrote a memoir, "Three Phases of Eve," but she seemed to prefer talking about her family life to giving much inside info on her amazing career.

Arlen Peters said...

Ken, I also loved Eve Arden ... superb comedienne ... and I believe Richard Crenna (another fine actor) was in the show as well. Since we are going back in time, I also loved Joan Davis! Fine comedian who, I believe, died too young in a fire many years ago.
Bottom line: today we have a lot of comedic mediocrity that passes for genius. Save the accolades and the standing ovations and the term "genius" for people who really deserve it. Like Eve Arden.

Curt Alliaume said...

I wonder how many of the television scripts were adapted from those used for the radio series - Our Miss Brooks started as a radio show in 1948 with many of the same cast members.

I watched a few minutes just now - the only sour note was Richard Crenna as Walter Denton. By the time the TV series started, Crenna was 25 years old, far past when he should have been playing a high school student.

There are some snippets of The Mothers-in-Law on YouTube as well.

norm said...

Yes I agree with you on this one Ken.
Eve was a gem with the fantastic Gail Gordon and Richard Crenna (an old teenager by the way).

Rock Golf said...

As a child born in the 60's, I remember Eve Arden from the considerably less funny series The Mothers-In-Law with Kaye Ballard.

Most people under 40 may only know her as Principal McGee in the film version of Grease. Perfectly deadpan delivery of lines like "if you can't be an athlete, at least be an athletic supporter!"

And when a nervous female student confided in her that she was late for her period, she calmly replied "That's all right, dear, I write you a slip."

kent said...

Somewhat younger viewers will remember her as the principal in Grease. "If you can't be an athlete, be an athletic supporter".

Jon H said...

Eve Arden, along with Kaye Ballard, also helped make Desi Arnaz' sitcom, THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW, funny, at least as far as the material would go. I had vague memories of this sitcom, aired on NBC 1967-69, so I decided to get the DVD of the series. It's probably not as good as OUR MISS BROOKS, but it's still pretty funny in its own right. Me-TV was running OUR MISS BROOKS in early AM hours a few years ago, and I thought the episodes that I saw still held up ok.

kent said...

Also check out Ms Arden's serio-comic performance in the Otto Preminger classic "Anatomy of a Murder". She could do it all.

Timothy A Baughman said...

She was terrific in Anatomy of a Murder (as was everyone).

Anthony Strand said...

The Mothers-in-Law, while uneven, was pretty great too. And that whole series is on Amazon Prime.

Dave Kovarik said...

Ken what did you think of Eve in The Mother Inlaws?

Joseph Scarbrough Puppet Productions said...

My only exposure to Eve Arden, so far, has been an episode of BEWITCHED, in which she plays a hospital nurse when Tabitha was born . . . and, of course, THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW, alongside Kaye Ballard.

Personally, I thought THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW was kind of ahead of its time, in being a multi-cam/live audience sitcom in the late 60s, when those really didn't start coming back into vogue in the early 70s, but also at the same time, I felt it also got very formulaic very quickly. With it being a Desi Arnaz production, and having the same writers and other crew from I LOVE LUCY, the best way I can describe this show to those who haven't seen is: imagine if Fred and Ethel had a grown daughter who was married to a grown Little Ricky, and Lucy and Ethel couldn't stop meddling in their lives, much to Ricky and Fred's annoyance . . . that pretty much sums up THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW, I think. It was an interesting show that certainly had potential, but again, rather formulaic, and the LUCY fingerprints all over it would have been a detective's dream.

Brian said...

I'm 30, and I've been a fan of Eve and Our Miss Brooks since I was 14. I'm partial to the radio version, though admittedly I haven't seen many of the TV episodes. I also love Eve's work on The Mothers-in-Law, another Desi Arnaz production.

Thank you for writing this post, Ken. I hope it encourages people to discover or rediscover her; she deserves to be remembered.

Howard Hoffman said...

Thirding (or maybe fourthing by now) THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW. (Free on Amazon Prime.) I surprisingly got re-hooked. Eve was great, and Kaye Ballard was a fun throwback of the loudmouth antagonist (married to an upper-crust TV writer). Check it out.

Terry said...

Several have mentioned the radio version on here, which is where I first discovered the show. They play it regularly on the Radio Classics channel (148) on Sirius XM. There's a lot of other gems on that channel as well. I highly recommend checking it out.

Kosmo13 said...

...and Eve Arden was excellent in 'Mildred Pierce,' too.

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm older than you, so I certainly watched, and enjoyed OUR MISS BROOKS!

Carson said...

The Radio Classics channel on Sirius XM plays the radio version frequently and its always great. In the last year I have really discovered a lot of great classic radio programs that still hold up. Fibber McGee and Molly is also a great one. Also, the Jack Benny Radio program. I can't hear, "Anaheim, Azusa and Cuc-amonga" without cracking up.

Tom said...

As a 11-year-old unaccountably watching the Mothers In Law, I thought it was funny. Desi Arnaz was in an episode...I believe the bit was that Eve Arden's character calls a wrong number and he picks up.

blinky said...

Let me guess, is your number 4 comedian Spring Byington? December Bride killed it in the 50's and who was her tv husband? Harry Morgan.

Mike Doran said...

The Curse Of DEMOGRAPHICS - A Continuing Series (whether you realize it or not):

I'm a Fifties Kid, born in 1950.
Everything was in transition: B-movies to filmed TV, A-movies to widescreen, B/W to Technicolor, Hi-Fi to Stereo, and any number of others you can name.

Thanks largely to television (with an assist from radio and LP records), we Fifties Kids got to see all of this stuff - with no "demographics" experts to tell us that if we were younger, we weren't supposed to be interested in any of this.

Anything and everything that had been committed to film and record was available to us; we were allowed to pick and choose ourselves, with no "focus groups" nonsense in the way.

The conventional 'wisdumb' of today is that "Millennials" aren't interested in anything that dates to before they were born: no monochrome, no pre-2000 shows or movies, nothing "old".

It's not that they aren't interested - it's that they've never been allowed to see any of it!

The "Old Stuff" doesn't get a chance to hold up, because (with a handful of exceptions) it doesn't get shown!

Our Miss Brooks was already "old" when I first saw it on daily TV reruns.
It was funny five years after it was first made.
A lifetime later, it's still funny.

As a '50s Kid, I got a kick out of seeing Dick Crenna's super-adenoidal Walter Denton in the day - and then seeing his deeper-voiced Luke McCoy at night.
And a few more years on, when Richard Crenna started doing serious drama, so much the better -
- and I wasn't confused at all.

I'm losing my thread here; suffice to say, I hold the whole junk science of DEMOGRAPHICS responsible for this awful situation.

End of rant.

Buttermilk Sky said...

It's great to find so many fans of fabulous Eve. Of all her films (and I've seen most of them) I think my favorite is STAGE DOOR, where she's part of a magnificent ensemble of actresses including Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Ann Miller and Lucille Ball. Also COVER GIRL, where she gets to wear some stylish outfits suitable to the editor of a fashion magazine. Nobody could deliver a line like Arden (from MILDRED PIERCE: "Here's to the men we've loved -- the stinkers.") There was an OUR MISS BROOKS movie, but I don't think it's as good as the series.

VP81955 said...

Eve was a terrific character actress in films, too, and has a charming bit part in 1940's "Comrade X" (aka the poor man's "Ninotchka") with Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr. She's also great fun a few years later in "The Doughgirls," where she plays a sharpshooting Soviet army official stationed in wartime Washington. Eve steals the film from Ann Sheridan, Alexis Smith and Jane Wyman -- not an easy task.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I used to watch "The Mothers-in-Law" when I was a kid. It was O.K., but it was an example of a sitcom that benefited from the fact that there were only three networks at that time.

I've seen "Our Miss Brooks" in reruns over the years. In fact, both "Mothers" and "Brooks" recently turned up on one of the oldies channels. (Cozy or maybe Antenna TV) And yes, "Brooks" was a good show, although I don't like it as much as you do.

Many critics say that today's comedies are better, especially on cable, because they don't have to produce as many episodes. "Our Miss Brooks" blows that theory right out of the water. As you stated it had "...39 episodes a year." That demonstrates to me that it doesn't matter how many episodes there are in any given season. If you don't have any good ideas, six episodes is too many. As I've said many times before, coming up with an idea is the hardest part.

I think Holland Taylor is a modern day Eve Arden. She may be best known for "Two And a Half Men," but she's been good in everything I've seen her in. And she can really deliver a line.
M.B.

Peter said...

I didn't recognize the name, but when I googled her, I realized I know her from Grease.

Similar to when I first heard about Tab Hunter, I didn't recognize the name but I knew him as the teacher who sang Reproduction in Grease 2.

TimWarp said...

Born at the tail-end of 1955, so I watched "Our Miss Brooks." I remember liking it, but don't remember any details (except for squeeky-voiced Richard Crenna), so thanks for the youtube suggestion! I also watched "The Mothers-In-Law" but suspect it doesn't stand the test of time nearly as well. But I have always ADORED Eve Arden; she's always such a treat when she pops up unexpectedly in smaller roles that steal the show (as in Stage Door or Bewitched or Grease). I love how in her autobiography she writes that she didn't realize there was such a thing as "an Eve Arden type" until she started researching the book and watched her old movies and finally saw what everyone else meant when they said that.

Unknown said...

Loved Our Miss Brooks. Loved Eve stealing scenes from Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce. And as a bonus, I saw her live doing dinner theater in Seattle in 1977... playing the mother in Barefoot in the Park. Thanks for the reminder, Ken.

Cap'n Bob said...

Sorry, blinky, but Harry Morgan was not married to Spring Byington in December Bride. He was a neighbor and his wife was the never-seen Gladys (until they had a spinoff called Pete and Gladys with Cara Williams).

I'm ancient enough to have seen Our Miss Brooks in its original airings and even though I was a kid I appreciated the humor. Did you know Eve was once a Ziegfeld Girl?

There's a YouTube video of Eve and Crenna on one of those afternoon talk shows way back when, maybe Mike Douglas. Unfortunately, Crenna hogged the conversation and Eve barely got in 50 words. I have never forgiven him for that.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I always liked Eve Arden, too. Not sure what I first saw her in, but I definitely know her from THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW and STAGE DOOR. I believe until he cast Christina Hendricks, Matthew Weiner was thinking of Joan as an "Eve Arden type" (like she's replicable).

wg

Donald Benson said...

Eve goes all the way back to "Stage Door", where as a young babe she's already the Eve we know and love.

My one disappointment was "A Very Missing Person", a TV movie pilot. Casting Eve Arden as the schoolteacher/sleuth Hildegarde Withers was an inspiration; writing it and having her play it as "lovably wacky" instead of droll and no-BS was a huge mistake. Perhaps she herself didn't want to recycle Miss Brooks or tread on Edna Mae Oliver's classic turn. In any case, it was casting made in heaven and unmade in execution, despite her musical voice throughout.

Tudor Queen said...

I, too, remember Eve Arden and "Our Miss Brooks" fondly. It was and remains funny, partly because of the writing, which adheres to the idea that funny is funny - and often rooted in character. The character of Connie Brooks had a consistent and wry point of view and an equally consistent goal - to get handsome fellow teacher Mr. Boynton to marry her. They also had a great supporting cast. Who knew that Richard Crenna - who played gawky student Walter Denton so well - would grow up into a handsome leading man? Gale Gordon, the master of the slow burn, worked as well with Arden as he would with Lucille Ball.

I'm glad you found some episodes on YouTube. I'm going to look for some now.

Mike Doran said...

On December Bride, Spring Byington was a widow.

Harry Morgan's 'Pete Porter' was married to the unseen 'Gladys' (anyway, she was then - and that's another story …).

By the way, should you happen to see The Doughgirls next time TCM shows it, see if you can spot the schlubby little guy who can't get a room so he can get some sleep (until the end of the picture, anyway).

Andrew Krigel said...

I too adored Eve Arden. Brilliant. I used to make snarky remarks in her voice but few recognized it.

Breadbaker said...

I first saw her in The Mothers-in-Law, which wasn't a great series but worth it just to see her comic timing and perfect expressions. I saw some old Our Miss Brooks episodes in syndication as a kid and was amazed, and in all her movie roles she is simply perfect.

Anonymous said...

Eve Arden- right up there with Lucy, Carol Burnett, and MTM.
She did it without physical comedy, which makes it even better. Delivering lines, she was funnier than they were.
When we talk about great TV comediennes of the earlier era, must mention Imogene Coca (perhaps the best with sketch comedy), Nanette Fabray, and someone who never got a chance to show how good she could be - Charlotte Rae. For a brief time, Her Sylvia Schnauzer was perhaps the funniest female character in TV history. Had Nat Hiken not died, she might have had a series with the other Al Lewis. Her later shows did not take advantage of her comedic ability

Pizzagod said...

Ah Ken, you never disappoint. Eve Arden may not have been the physical clown that Ball was, but her delivery? Flawless. Anybody who listens to Our Miss Brooks (with the great Richard Crenna, Gale Gordon, Jeff Chandler and even an occasional dose of Gerald Mohr) and then listens to My Favorite Husband (Ball, Richard Denning and Gale Gordon again) can appreciate that. The writing in Brooks was a lot more situational, and to my mind believable, and therefore easier to identify with.

Yeah, Eve Arden was great.

thirteen said...

I remember when CBS tried to "save" Our Miss Brooks by jettisoning most of the cast (including My. Boynton) and transferring Miss Brooks and Principal Conklin to a private girls' school. This flopped out of the gate and Mr. Boynton was brought back, but to no avail.

IIRC the film Our Miss Brooks, which concludes with Mr. Boynton and Miss Brooks finally getting together, is an "origin" movie that was made after the TV series had concluded. Very odd.

Al in PDX said...

One of the "lesser" cable networks (Decades, if memory serves) had a marathon of "Our Miss Brooks" a few months back. It was the first I'd seen of the show since it was in reruns back when I was very young. I, too, was taken at how good Eve Arden was. Maybe I'm alone in this, but I see a bit of Rosalind Russell in her style.

Rod said...

Hey Ken--Don't know if you've seen this..an episode of the show "Trackdown" with Robert Culp from 1957. A con man named Trump cons a Texas town into putting up a wall to keep the end of the world from destroying the town.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1D2ynASqe4

Anonymous said...

The only other person that I remeber who could get off a totally dead pan shot like Ms. Arden was Rose marie from the Dick Van Dyke show.
Remember here from Our Miss Brooks and Anatomy of a Murder.
No matter the scene she was worth watching.

Wes said...

OUR MISS BROOKS was on MeTV for awhile, not long back, at some ungodly hour like 4 a.m. Long enough for them to cycle through the episodes a couple of times. Thank god for DVRs. OUR MISS BROOKS didn't eschew visual comedy, though it might not have been Eve Arden's forte. In one episode, for example, a plan to paint Mr. Conklin's office goes awry when a powerful glue gets accidentally mixed into the paint, resulting in the cast getting stuck to the walls, the furniture and to each other. In another, Miss Brooks tries to prove her business acumen to Mr. Conklin by surprising him with heating oil for his home furnace, purchased at a bargain rate. Unfortunately, Miss Brooks doesn't know that Mr. Conklin has had his furnace converted into a forced air blower, leading to some messy slapstick when the oil erupts through the air vents in Mr. Conklin's living room.

Arden said in her autobiography that CBS was willing to renew OUR MISS BROOKS for a fifth season, but she was so disgusted with the way CBS had screwed up season four of the show with unnecessary changes (see thirteen's comment above) that she turned them down. Ironically, the radio show wound up running a season longer than the TV version. (The radio show didn't adopt the changes to cast and storyline that CBS had imposed on the TV show.)

Derek McCaw said...

When I was about 3, my babysitter got me hooked on her series with Kaye Ballard, "The Mother-in-Laws." I remember nothing about the show except that it gave me a life-long appreciation for both actresses and their timing.

Chris Gumprich said...

I don't think I've ever seen the TV series, but OUR MISS BROOKS is one of my all-time favorite radio shows, and absolutely my favorite sitcom that doesn't star Jack Benny -- and I was born two decades after it went off the air.

I remember sitting through a viewing of GREASE with an old girlfriend, just so I could hear Eve playing the (vice?) principal.

Easily my favorite comedienne. Glad to hear I'm not alone.

Lemuel said...

@ al in PDX: That Decades channel was an antenna station and I was miffed when they converted to a home shopping network!

Astroboy said...

Love Eve Arden. Mentioning Lucy, coincidentally, I just happened to see this video on Youtube today about the great cinematographer Karl Freund and his groundbreaking work on 3-camera sit-coms, specifically, on "I Love Lucy." Have you seen it? It's pretty cool.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQvjD2-p98U

Douglas McEwan said...

I worship Eve Arden. Always have. By 1954 or '55, when I was 4 or 5, watching Our Miss Brooks. ALWAYS preferred her to Lucy. She is everything you said she was, yet somehow you managed not to mention one of the most sublime moments in her career, when she and Groucho Marx play a scene upside down, flirting while they walk on the ceiling in The Marx Brothers At The Circus. It gives Groucho one of the best lines in what is one of their weaker films, "I have an agreement with the flies. They don't practice law and I don't walk on the ceiling."

I studied her delivery and her timing and her takes. (She was a master of takes.) She was the best. Most people, when they think of Gale Gordon, think of him as Mr. Mooney with Lucy. To me he is always and forever Chester Conklin. I studied him too, as Gale Gordon roles were roles I was good for.

Three years ago AntennaTV reran Our Miss Brooks, albeit at like 5 am, but the DVR recorded them. Over the course of that year, I watched every episode It does indeed hold up. Those shows are funny. Ricky Ricardo spanking Lucy, refusing to allow her a career, and her fear of her bullying, these are dated and almost horrifying. But a man-hungry-underpaid high school teacher trying to cope with teaching her students, dealing with a buyllying school administration that, to put it mildly, does not put the kids first, and in love with a man with the sex drive of a stuffed toy, these can't date.

There is a movie Our Miss Brooks. It's not very good, and lacks the sharpness of the TV show's writing. Avoid it.

Once, about 20 years ago, I was watching an old Password on which Eve was a guest. Allen Ludden mentioned that two of her sons were in the audience. They turned the cameras on her boys and she introduced them as Douglas and Duncan.

I immediately called my younger brother Duncan, and asked him, "Did you know Eve Arden was our mother?" (And Duncan did not have to ask, who is Eve Arden.)

Nancy said...

Douglas McEwan said,

"Ricky Ricardo spanking Lucy, refusing to allow her a career, and her fear of [his] bullying, these are dated and almost horrifying."

To be fair, that hardly describes every episode of I Love Lucy. It was made abundantly clear on many occasions that Ricky would NEVER truly harm Lucy. I agree that the spanking scenes are not the finest moments, but it was never played as abuse, rather like scolding a naughty child. There was no genuine malice behind it.

Many episodes had the two of them working together as a team, showing the genuine care and love the characters Lucy & Ricky (and Lucy & Desi) had for each other. The moments of Ricky disciplining Lucy were scattered throughout, but don't forget that some shows had the tables turned, and then it was Ricky's turn to 'splain things to Lucy. (Lucille Ball actually encouraged her writers to come up with scenes where her husband was firm with her - she LIKED playing that kind of material.)

I'd hate for people to think the legacy of I Love Lucy was solely that of a Cuban beating his wife and denying her a career. If that's the only way a person views the series, I fear they're missing the point, especially with all the love that filled so many episodes. It's not fair to judge the show, or any show of this era, strictly by the moral standards of the present.

Don K. said...

I'd just like to add to the chorus of people who have praised Radio Classics, Channel 148 on SiriusXM. It has become my go-to station in the car, the utterly annoying "host" notwithstanding. Arden is great on Our Miss Brooks, as is Gale Gordon.

There's an I Love Lucy with them in Hollywood and Lucy at the Brown Derby where Lucy spots Eve Arden eating. Lucy of course goes bothers her.

Radio Classics is a godsend for anyone who is starving for great writing and escapism through the "theater of the mind", again if you can learn to ignore the host. Gunsmoke is just fantastic when the imagery is anything you think Marshall Dillon SHOULD look like in your own head as opposed to knowing it's really William Conrad or Howard McNear is Doc and you try and put Floyd The Barber aside.

Speaking of underrated radio performers, John Dehner was EVERYWHERE on radio back in the Golden Age and he was great at it, too. His voice, along with Conrad's, was made for radio.

Anonymous said...

Nothing better than watching an episode of Have Gun Will Travel with Richard Boone and John Dehner in it.
(For those younger readers, HGWT is one of the best shows ever on television)

Andy Rose said...

@Don K.: Most old-time radio classic comedies really hold up, and I've been amazed that so few of them have been strip-mined for comedy in the way that other bits of pop culture from the same period have. You can watch a Marx Brothers movie and see how every single gag has been reused dozen of times in the decades since. But you can listen to an episode Jack Benny and hear a dozen clever gags and retorts you haven't heard anywhere else.

D McEwan said...

I wrote, "To me he is always and forever Chester Conklin."

Aaarrgh!

OSGOOD! OSGOOD! Osgood Conkin. How on earth did I turn Miss Brooks' pompous principal into a beloved silent screen comic?

Greg Ehrbar said...

A few thoughts:

• Mike Doran is correct. Demographics and narrowcasting have been separating all of us -- even within the same household -- since the seventies. It's not really the fault of millenials because there are studies that show that millenials actually accept a larger variety of entertainment than previous generations, regardless of its origin date or whether it is black and white or color. The problem is getting them exposed to good stuff when they are distracted by so much other stuff in a crowded media landscape. As parents, my wife and I made it our business to do that for our kids, and I know many adults who have done the same for young people, whether they were parents or not.

• I Love Lucy endures because first and foremost, it is funny and extremely well done, but also because Lucy strives for something more in life. Ricky tries to prevent her but rarely succeeds and we never root for him. However, Desi Arnaz was a cultural breakthrough in portraying a Cuban American on TV (in "Lucy Tells the Truth" he refused to show Ricky cheating on his taxes because of the bad image it would portray and had the retreaded "My Favorite Husband" script revised). Lucy insisted on casting her husband when CBS was scared to allow him to co star. Meanwhile he ended up being the one who built the Desilu empire.

Not condoning, not excusing, but theorizing: The I Love Lucy spanking scene may very well have been a pop culture reference in its time that, as in today's sitcoms, became terribly dated. The Cole Porter musical Kiss Me Kate was a huge Broadway hit and was a MGM 3-D movie musical in 1953. If you google the Kiss Me Kate MGM poster, the signature image was the spanking scene from Taming of the Shrew, which was the Shakespeare play which was the show within that show. In possibly making a current pop culture reference to Kiss Me Kate, I Love Lucy might have sent the wrong message all these years later. Just a theory.

• Kaye Ballard is finally being recognized for her extraordinary career in a feature length documentary just premiered at the Palm Springs Film Festival, where it won the best of show.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ksDgBjTCk8

Curt Alliaume said...

Mike Bloodworth said:

>>I think Holland Taylor is a modern day Eve Arden.<<

Irony alert! Eve Arden was cast in the 1983 famous Broadway flop Moose Murders as a matron. She dropped out after two previews due to artistic differences (or because she couldn't remember her lines - in fairness, she was nearly 75 by that point), and was replaced by... Holland Taylor (who was almost 35 years younger than Arden).

June Gable (who later recurred in Friends as Joey's agent Estelle) wrote a great article for Esquire about the play. Hope you enjoy squinting.

https://classic.esquire.com/article/1983/9/1/broadway-bomb#!&pid=94

Side note: there are 188 episodes of the radio version of Our Miss Brooks on the OTR (Old Time Radio) Streamer app.

Chris Riesbeck said...

You can find copies of two versions of the pilot episode of the radio "Our Miss Brooks" -- one with Shirley Booth and one with Eve Arden. Same script, no comparison. With Booth, it was "eh". With Arden, it was hilarious.

Paul Duca said...

No, Davis died of cancer. Her mother, daughter, and two grandchildren subsequently died in a house fire.

Paul Duca said...

Byington's character was a widow living with her daughter and son-in-law. Morgan was the neighbor Pete Porter, always talking about his never seen wife Gladys (who became seen in the form of Cara Williams when the characters were spun off into their own show)

Paul Duca said...

That was the role played on Broadway by...Arlene Francis

Paul Duca said...

May God bless Holland Taylor for taking that bullet...

Paul Duca said...

It was the delay in recasting Booth with Arden that got MY FAVORITE HUSBAND on the radio...it's all connected.

Paul Duca said...

At least Eve didn't get a tray of food dumped on her head...

Paul Duca said...

OTR also has episodes of Danny Kaye's radio show, where she and Lionel Stander were his foils.

TimWarp said...

@Curt Alliaume There's a book written about Moose Murders by the play's author Arthur Bicknell, called "Moose Murdered: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Broadway Bomb" - quite funny and dishes the dirt about the entire production (Eve Arden and Holland Taylor included).

mike said...

She was excellent in Stage Door and Mildred Pierce, but I thought her cameo in the Hollywood Lucy episode was funnier than anything in Our Miss Brooks. Watched a whole bunch of them wanting very much to dig it, but...meh. Always thought Lucy much funnier. And Jebus, was Richard Crenna annoying.

pumpkinhead said...

I always see Millenials writing about older shows they've discovered and how funny they are... but they used a different word instead of funny... um... "problematic."

Unknown said...

Eve's co-star in the Mother-in-laws Kaye Ballard passed away today at the age of 93

Scott Mumford said...

I'll second the comment about Joan Davis. As a child (I'm about your age, Ken), I used to love "I Married Joan", and would watch it every time it was on. It made me feel that much better if I was home sick from school...