Our Miss Brooks


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tabs

About

The successful 1950s sitcom Our Miss Brooks was, heart and soul, actor Eve Arden. A Hollywood film and New York stage veteran, Arden specialized in playing the wisecracking friend to the heroine. She often did it better than anyone else, achieving her greatest success with an Oscar nomination for 1945's Mildred Pierce. But Arden's skill with the wicked one-liner and acid aside was beginning to lead to typecasting. To find a new image, Arden signed on for the radio comedy role of Connie Brooks, English teacher at fictional Madison High School, a smart and sharp-witted--but ever-likable--character. And unlike most of her film roles, radio offered her the lead.

Beginning on radio in 1948, Our Miss Brooks was successfully transferred to television beginning in 1952 (it ran on both media, with largely the same cast, for several months in 1952). Between gentle wisecracks, Miss Brooks doted on nerdish student Walter Denton, and frequently locked horns with crusty, cranky principal Mr. Conklin. Many of the program's episodes, however, revolved around Miss Brook's unrequited desire for Philip Boynton, the school's biology teacher. In this way Miss Brooks was the beginning of a long list of TV spinsters, to be followed by Sally Rogers (Rose Marie) on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp) on The Beverly Hillbillies.

The program had enjoyed good ratings on radio and only enlarged its audience when it moved to TV. And while some professional educators criticized the series, others celebrated Miss Brooks and Arden's work: she got teaching job offers, fan letters from educators, was made an honorary member of the National Education Association and, in 1952, was given an award from the Alumni Association of the Teachers College of Connecticut for "humanizing the American Teacher." Said Arden of her on-screen alter ego: "I tried to play Miss Brooks as a loving person who cared about the kids and kept trying to keep them out of trouble, but kept getting herself in trouble."

Obviously, Miss Brooks encountered enough trouble to sustain the series for over 150 episodes, but, unlike many other female comics on TV at that time, Miss Brooks' forte was not the wild antics that were the norm of Lucy or the lopsided logic that was the domain of Gracie Allen. Instead, Miss Brooks humor was achieved by her own sharp, observing wit and by her centered presence in the midst of a group of eccentric supporting players--dimwitted, squeaky-voiced student Walter, pompous Conklin, and the others. Miss Brooks was always the source of the jokes, not the butt of them.

In 1955, ratings were beginning to wane, and the series was overhauled. Miss Brooks and Mr. Conklin were moved out of Madison High to Mrs. Nestor's Private Elementary School. For a time there was no Mr. Boynton for whom Miss Brooks would pine, but there was a muscle-bound PE teacher, Mr. Talbot, who longed for Miss Brooks. This was an important turnabout in the overall premise of the show: now Miss Brooks was the pursued rather than the pursuer. (Mr. Boynton did turn up again in early 1956 just in time for the series to be canceled; in a film version of the series released by Warner Brothers in 1956, Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton finally did tie the knot and presumably lived happily ever after.)

Connie Brooks was one of TV's noblest working women: the center of a highly successful show, toiling in a realistically portrayed, and unglamorized career (Miss Brooks often made mention of how low her wages were), and rewarded and honored by real workers whom she represented. While she was not quite as "no nonsense"--nor so tough--as film's prominent working women (Rosiland Russell, Joan Crawford), Connie Brooks, with her tart tongue, brisk manner, her sharply cut jackets and slim skirts, was just about as savvy as women were allowed to be on TV in the 1950s. And despite Miss Brooks desire to become "Mrs." Something--and despite the fact that she was never promoted to school principal--Our Miss Brooks' legacy in TV history is that it dared to depict a woman, funny, attractive, wise, competent and working--outside the home, marriage, and children.

-Cary O'Dell

CAST 

Connie Brooks...........................................Eve Arden  

Osgood Conklin.....................................Gale Gordon  

Philip Boynton..................................Robert Rockwell

Walter Denton (1952-55).....................Richard Crenna

Mrs. Margaret Davis...............................Jane Morgan  

Harriet Conklin (1952-55)....................Gloria McMillan

Stretch Snodgrass (1952-55)................Leonard Smith

Miss Daisy Enright(1952-55)...............Mary Jane Croft  

Mrs. Martha Conklin (1952-53).............Virginia Gordon

Mrs. Martha Conklin (1953-56)............Paula Winslowe  

Superintendant Stone (1953-55)...........Joseph Kearns

Angela (1954-56).....................................Jesslyn Fax

Ricky Velasco (1954-55)...........................Ricky Vera

Mr. Oliver Munsey (1955-56)....................Bob Sweeny

Mrs. Nestor (1955)..................................Nana Bryant

Mrs. Nestor (1955-56)........................Isabel Randolph

Gene Talbot (1955-56)..............................Gene Barry

Clint Albright (1955-56)..........................William Ching

Benny Romero (1955-56)...........................Ricky Vera

Mr. Romero (1956).................................Hy Averback

PRODUCER

Larry Burns

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

154 episodes

CBS

October 1962 - June 1953   Friday 9:30-10:00

October 1953-June 1955   Friday 9:30-10:00

October 1955-September   1956 Friday 8:30-9:00

FURTHER READING 

Arden, Eve. The Three Phases of Eve. New York: St. Martin's, 1985.

Castleman, Harry and Walter Podrazik. Harry and Walter's Favorite Shows: A Fact-Filled Opinionated Guide to the Best and Worst on TV. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1989.

Mitz, Rick. The Great TV Sitcom Book. New York: Perigee, 1983.

Highlights
John Rich on directing Our Miss Brooks
02:59
Doris Singleton on working on Our Miss Brooks
02:02
Irma Kusely on being hairstylist for Our Miss Brooks
02:02
Film editor Dann Cahn on editing Desilu's Our Miss Brooks
00:55
John Rich on format changes on Our Miss Brooks
01:37
Who talked about this show

Bruce Bilson

View Interview
Bruce Bilson on various early shows he worked on as assistant director
03:36

Dann Cahn

View Interview
Film editor Dann Cahn on editing Desilu's Our Miss Brooks
00:55
Film editor Dann Cahn on Desilu's commitment to Our Miss Brooks
00:50

Richard Crenna

View Interview
Richard Crenna on playing "Walter Denton" on Our Miss Brooks starring Eve Arden, and on appearing on I Love Lucy
06:29
Richard Crenna on working with, and learning from Eve Arden on Our Miss Brooks
02:39
Richard Crenna on Desilu producing Our Miss Brooks
03:05
Richard Crenna on specific episodes of Our Miss Brooks, and on what the show was about
04:38
Richard Crenna on leaving Our Miss Brooks, and on the end of the series
02:16

Irma Kusely

View Interview
Irma Kusely on being hairstylist for Our Miss Brooks
02:02

Laraine Newman

View Interview
Laraine Newman on television she watched growing up
02:02

John Rich

View Interview
John Rich on directing Our Miss Brooks
02:59
John Rich on format changes on Our Miss Brooks
01:37

Doris Singleton

View Interview
Doris Singleton on working on Our Miss Brooks
02:02

All Shows

A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
J
L
M
P
R
S
T
W