According to close friends, longtime stage, film, and TV actress Arlene Golonka, best remembered for her time on two series set in the idyllic, fictional town of Mayberry, died Monday. She was 85.
Born January 23, 1936, in Chicago, the bubbly blonde with impeccable comedic timing got her start on the theater scene in her hometown ahead of a move to NYC, where she studied with greats like Sanford Meisner, Uta Hagen and Lee Strasberg.
The Actors Studio lifer made her Broadway debut in 1958's The Night Circus, and went on to appear in such shows as Take Me Along (1959), Neil Simon's debut Come Blow Your Horn (1961), and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1963) opposite Kirk Douglas, later adapted into the Oscar-winning film by his son Michael Douglas.
In 1965, she was a part of the smash comedy album You Don't Have to Be Jewish, and in 1967 moved to L.A., where she embarked upon a long — and busy — TV and movie career.
She was perhaps best known for two episodes as Millie Hutchins on the iconic series The Andy Griffith Show (1967) and as Millie Swanson on 49 episodes of its spin-off Mayberry R.F.D (1968-1971).
Along with films including the Clint Eastwood vehicle Hang 'em High (1968), Airport '77 (1977), The In-Laws (1979), Love at First Bite (1980), and My Tutor (1983), she guested on a wealth of TV series, specializing in such sitcoms as Car 54, Where Are You? (1963), The Flying Nun (1967), Get Smart (1968), That Girl (1967 & 1968), All in the Family (1973), Love, American Style (1971, 1972 & 1974), Mary Tyler Moore (1971 & 1974 — with her '60s roommate Valerie Harper), Maude (1974 & 1975), Alice (1977), One Day at a Time (1978), Growing Pains (1988 & 1990), and, in her final TV role, The King of Queens (2005).
She was also a popular voice actor, including as Debbie on Speed Buggy (1973).
In the latter part of her career, Golonka turned to coaching, counting stars like Halle Berry among her clients.
She told a charmed audience in 1997 of the life of an actor, "It's 97% work and it's 3% glamour. I call it the most unglamorous glamorous business in the world. I mean, you've gotta go on diets, you've gotta keep your body wonderful, you've gotta try to stay looking young, you've gotta bleach your hair — I do! — you've gotta have a huge wardrobe [for auditions]."
In spite of the hard work, she said, "I breathe, eat, and live acting."