Arlene Golonka, ‘Mayberry RFD’ Actress, Dies at 85

by Emily Morgan

Arlene Golonka, best remembered for her time on “Mayberry RFD,” has died on Monday. She was 85.

Born on January 23, 1936, in Chicago, Golonka had the perfect amount of sass and impeccable comedic timing to get her start on the theater scene. She later moved to NYC, where she studied alongside legends such as Sanford Meisner, Uta Hagen, and Lee Strasberg.

She made her Broadway debut in 1958 when she landed a role on The Night Circus. Golonka would appear in Take Me Along, Come Blow Your Horn, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest opposite Kirk Douglas.

In 1965, she landed a part on the smash comedy album You Don’t Have to Be Jewish. By 1967, she decided to move to L.A. to embark on a T.V. and movie career.

Fans know her best for her role as Millie Hutchins on “The Andy Griffith Show.” She played a role in two episodes in 1967. Later, she starred as Millie Swanson on 49 episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” spin-off, “Mayberry R.F.D.”

In addition, she kept acting in films. She played in films such as Clint Eastwood’s Hang ’em High in  1968, Airport ’77 in  1977, The In-Laws in 1979, Love at First Bite in 1980, and My Tutor in 1983. 

Arlene Golonka Best Remembered for Passion, Pride in Craft

She also appeared in a plethora of sitcoms including “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), “Maude” (1974 & 1975), “Alice” (1977), “One Day at a Time” (1978), “Growing Pains” (1988 & 1990), and, in her final T.V. role, “The King of Queens” (2005).

Additionally, she was also a popular voice actor. She played the role of Debbie on “Speed Buggy” (1973).

Golonka became an acting coach in the latter part of her career, coaching stars like Halle Berry. 

She once said this in 1997 of the life of an actor: “It’s 97 percent work and it’s 3 percent 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].”

Despite the hard work, she went on to add, “I breathe, eat, and live acting.”