(Wikimedia Commons/CBS Radio)
Born 105 years ago today, Eve Arden may have been our all-time favorite teacher. Arden wasn’t really a teacher, of course, but she played one on TV. And though Arden took on a wide variety of roles in her five-decade acting career, we remember her best for portraying a pair of educators – one so iconic and beloved that Arden received real-life teaching job offers.
Debuting as a radio program in 1948, Our Miss Brooks brought listeners into the world of a funny and well-loved high school teacher. Arden's Miss Brooks was sarcastic, confident, chronically underpaid but highly valued by students and friends. Like many real-life teachers, she feuded with the principal, inspired love from her good students, and was both smart and clever. She was the teacher that many fans wished they could have had. In 1952 the popular show made the jump to television – but it remained on radio too, giving fans twice as much Miss Brooks to enjoy.
After four years on TV, nine on radio, and a feature film, it’s no wonder that Arden was cemented in our minds as the perfect teacher. Indeed, she was made an honorary member of the National Education Association and received an award from the Teachers College of Connecticut's Alumni Association "for humanizing the American teacher." According to her 1990 obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Arden even received offers to teach in real schools. Arden “did not accept, but she did begin speaking at PTA meetings.” Years after Our Miss Brooks, Arden was the obvious choice to play another iconic educator.
Though her role was smaller in Grease and Grease 2, Arden's Principal McGee got off a few zingers in the tradition of beloved Miss Brooks. And her casting in a plot set in the 1950s was no accident. The students of Rydell High probably would have gone home each afternoon to catch Our Miss Brooks on their radios and TV sets… after enduring a talking-to from Principal McGee.
Eve Arden’s long career included many much-loved performances … but there was only one Miss Brooks. And she's how we'll always remember Eve Arden.
Written by Linnea Crowther