Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


THREE PHASES OF EVE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Eve Arden. 1985; St. Martin's Press.

One could argue that there are two kinds of actors: those who live primarily for their careers, and those who find more joy and fulfillment in family. Arden is definitely of the latter type. The trouble is that those hoping for an insider's look at radio, TV, movies and theater -- Arden appeared in all of those mediums -- are going to be disappointed. Arden made dozens of movies but you won't find many on-set anecdotes or even a list of films, let alone her comments on most of them. Although her second sitcom, The Eve Arden Show, may have only lasted one season, it did have 26 episodes, but not only won't you find the names of any of the guest-stars, Arden doesn't even list the supporting cast -- the show rates only half a page. Her more successful sitcom, Our Miss Brooks, only gets a few pages -- not even a full chapter, although it was both on radio and television for several years -- and The Mothers-in-Law doesn't fare much better. Arden prints full-length rave reviews for her stint as Auntie Mame on stage, but most of the book is a travelogue detailing the many months she and her husband [actor Brooks West] and their children spent in Italy and other European locations. These chapters are not without interest, and Arden always writes very well, but who cares? You could have more fun looking at photos of your own European travels. The pages looking at a disastrous near-production of Applause in Australia are much more entertaining, as are the early sections where Brooks writes of working with such legends as Fanny Brice and the Marx Brothers, among others. Still, Arden's wit and warmth are on every page, and her obvious adoration for her family is admirable [even if one suspects there's no full disclosure on her marriage], especially when you consider some of the self-absorbed celebrities who barely mention their relatives on the dedication page let alone anywhere else in the manuscript. That being said, you can expect the usual kind of name-dropping in the book, but it never becomes obnoxious.

Verdict: Not what one would hope for, but very well-written. **1/2.

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