EVE ARDEN, the high school dropout who played everybody's favorite English teacher "Our Miss Brooks," died yesterday of heart failure at her home in Beverly Hills. The actress, whose age was variously reported as 83, 82 and 78, had been ill for some time with cancer and heart problems.
Celebrated on Broadway for her showgirl looks, Arden conquered film and television by projecting a winning combination of sharp tongue and soft heart. Her humor and humanity were an inspiration not only for "The Golden Girls" but for girls everywhere.
Born Eunice Quedens in Mill Valley, Calif., Eve Arden was an only child raised by her divorced mother and Aunt Elsie. Her suffragist guardians propelled her into a dramatic career by entering Arden in a Women's Christian Temperance Union contest, which the 7-year-old won for her pushcart-Italian reading of "No Kicka My Dog."
The future Miss Brooks dropped out of school and took an acting apprenticeship with a vagabond troupe called the Bandbox Repertory Theater.
In 1933 Arden earned a part in "Lo and Behold," a Pasadena Playhouse revue co-starring heartthrob Tyrone Power and comic and "Eloise" author) Kay Thompson, from whom Arden might have learned her withering deadpan.
Arden's stunning looks -- 5 feet 8 inches, strawberry blond hair, emerald eyes -- were her own, however, and doubtless helped her land a part in Broadway's "Ziegfeld Follies" in 1934. Still Eunice Quedens when she was hired to go to New York, the actress re-christened herself after a consultation with her cosmetics case. She claimed that her new name was a combination of Evening in Paris perfume and Elizabeth Arden lipstick.
In addition to her numerous movie roles, Arden played Connie Brooks in "Our Miss Brooks" on radio beginning in 1947. In 1952, she auditioned for the TV role as the warmhearted teacher, and was an instant success.
She corrected a generation of eccentric, ungrammatical teens.