Classic Movie Travels: Arlene Golonka

Classic Movie Travels: Arlene Golonka

Arlene Golonka
Arlene Golonka

Arline Leanore Golonka was born on January 23, 1936, in Chicago, Illinois, to Elinor Wroblewski Golonka and Frank Golonka. Her father passed away when she was two years old and her mother later married Edward Rejba. Elinor and Edward then had two children named Zorine and Jimmy.

Golonka was of Polish descent, living in a Chicago neighborhood and attending Wicker Park School. A social worker encouraged her to follow her dream of becoming an actress.

Over the years, she worked as a waitress while also pursuing her interest in acting by appearing in summer stock productions as Arlene Golonka. She took singing and acting classes in her pre-teen years.

Eventually, she studied at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and the Second City, later becoming a member of The Actors Studio. She also performed at the Chicago Playboy Club and in the Hinsdale Summer Theatre’s production of Burlesque alongside Burt Lahr. Her roommate in New York City was Valerie Harper, who would also go on to realize a successful career in entertainment.

Arlene Golonka early
Arlene Golonka as Millie on Mayberry R.F.D.

Following her first major production, The Night Circus, she performed at the Shubert Theater in Connecticut and on Broadway in 1958. Though the play closed after seven performances, her stage career continued with other Broadway productions, including Take Me Along; Come Blow Your Horn; and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. She recorded a comedy album called You Don’t Have to Be Jewish in 1965.

By 1967, Golonka relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a career in television. During this period, she made numerous appearances in small roles on The Flying Nun, Barnaby Jones, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D., and many more. She also occasionally provided voices in animated serials, including Yogi’s Treasure Hunt and The New Scooby-Doo Movies. Her career also continued with supporting roles in over thirty films, along with Golonka teaching acting.

Allan Melvin, Jack Dodson and Arlene Golonk in The Andy Griffith Show (1967)
Allan Melvin, Jack Dodson and Arlene Golonk in The Andy Griffith Show (1967)

Golonka passed away on May 31, 2021, due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She was 85 years old.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Golonka resided at 2053 Evergreen Ave., Chicago, Illinois, which remains today.

Arlene Golonka 2053 Evergreen Ave., Chicago, Illinois home
2053 Evergreen Ave., Chicago, Illinois home

The Goodman Theatre operates at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago’s Second City is located at 230 W. North Ave., Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Second City
Chicago Second City

The apartment she shared with Valerie Harper stands at 290 Riverside Dr., New York, New York.

Arlene Golonka - apartment she shared with Valerie Harper stands at 290 Riverside Dr., New York City
290 Riverside Dr., New York City, apartment

The Shubert Theatre is located at 225 W. 44th St., New York, New York.

–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.

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2 Responses to Classic Movie Travels: Arlene Golonka

  1. Kenneth Henderson says:

    If Mr Lahr is the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz(1939) Burt is BERT.

  2. Betty says:

    Ms. Golonka was always delightful to watch in movies and tv shows. She’s in the first few minutes of one of my favourite movies Love With The Proper Stranger. She’s in a brief scene with Steve McQueen and ive always thought that it was too bad that we don’t see her again.

    Thank you for the post on this actress.

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