Childhood & Early Life
Arlene Golonka was born as Arline Golonka on January 23, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois to Polish parents. Right from her birth, Arline seemed to be destined for acting so much so that her name was kept after the popular actress Arline Judge.
Young Golonka’s childhood was dominated by singing and acting lessons. As a child, she focussed all her energy into becoming an established star. Not only did she work on her acting skills but she also polished her singing and dancing talent.
She began her acting career while she was in her early teens. In some years, she worked at a summer stock troupe and became professional. she then enrolled at the prestigious Goodman Theatre in Chicago for a course in acting.
Having aced her artistic skills, Golonka then moved to New York City, where she studied with Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner and Uta Hagen. It was at the age of 19 that Golonka started a full-fledged career in acting.
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Arlene Golonka’s first major role was for the production, ‘The Night Circus’ with Ben Gazzara. The play was staged at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven Connecticut. The first screening of the play was done on November 17, 1958. Almost after a week-long trial run, the play moved to Broadway on December 2, 1958. However, ‘The Night Circus’ with Ben Gazzara did not have many screening in Broadway and was closed merely after seven performances.
The shutting down of ‘The Night Circus’ came in as a big blow to Golonka who was hoping for its long run. However, not the one to bow down, she did not give up her spirits and instead continued to work in other plays.
From late 1959s to late 1960s, she worked for the play ‘Take Me Along’ with Jackie Gleason, Walter Pidgeon and Robert Morse. In a year, they gave almost 448 performances.
From February 1961 until October 1962, she was featured in Neil Simon's first Broadway play, ‘Come Blow Your Horn’. In this period, the show ran for 677 performances.
From November 1963 to January 1964, she was featured in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest’, co-starring Kirk Douglas.
From 1965 to 1966, Golonka appeared in two other Broadway plays. Meanwhile, she also made her foray in films and was seen playing supporting roles of bubble-headed or eccentric blondes, often prostitutes.
In 1965, Golonka recorded for the well-received comedy album ‘You Don't Have to Be Jewish’. The album was a major hit. Its success story encouraged the production of its sequel ‘When You're in Love the Whole World Is Jewish’.
Having gained experience as a theatre artist and polished her skills to perfection, she wanted to take her career to the next level, i.e. television. For achieving the same, she then moved to Los Angeles in 1967 to try her luck at the small screen.
Over the next three decades, she ruled the small screen with her more than a dozen appearances, as lead actress, in supporting roles and even guest roles. She reprised her roles often and was seen playing multiple characters.
She gave memorable performances in popular television series, such as ‘Car 54’, ‘Where Are You?’, ‘Get Smart’, ‘The Flying Nun’, ‘I Spy’, ‘That Girl’, ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’, ‘M*A*S*H’, ‘All in the Family’, ‘Cannon’ and ‘Maude’.
Some of the other popular television shows in which she made her mark are ‘The Andy Griffith Show’, ‘Alice’, ‘The Rockford Files’, ‘One Day at a Time’, ‘The San Pedro Beach Bums’, ‘Taxi’, ‘Murder’, ‘She Wrote’, ‘The King of Queens’, ‘Valerie’, ‘Sunset Beat’, and ‘Matlock’, among many others.
In 1992, Arlene Golonka appeared as Sally Nash in the 13th episode ‘Fool for Love’ in season 5 of the television series ‘In the Heat of the Night’ with Carroll O'Connor. In it, she played the role of ‘other’ woman to a philanderer Dr. Vance Talbot. Talbot tries to frame her for the murder of his wife and other murders her as well.
She gave her voice to the character of Debbie on the animated cartoon ‘Speed Buggy’. Other animated shows that she did voiceover for was ‘The New Yogi Bear Show’, ‘Capitol Critters’, ‘Yogi's Treasure Hunt’ and ‘The New Scooby-Doo Movies’. She even had a recurring role on the short-lived TV series ‘Joe & Valerie’.
Apart from television, Golonka played supporting actress in more than 30 films including ‘Harvey Middleman, Fireman’, ‘Penelope’, ‘The Busy Body’, ‘Welcome to Hard Times’, ‘Hang 'Em High’, ‘The Elevator’, ‘Airport '77’, ‘The In-Laws’, ‘Love At First Bite’, ‘The Last Married Couple in America’, ‘My Tutor’, ‘The End of Innocence’ and ‘A Family Affair’.
Though Arlene has retired from television, she occasionally takes up film roles. She also serves as a teacher, teaching acting to her students.