‘The Andy Griffith Show’ Star Lived with Valerie Harper, Put ‘Rhoda’ Actor on Fast Track to Success

by Megan Molseed
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When Arlene Golonka arrived in the fictional town of Mayberry in 1966, she portrayed Millie Hutchins. Golokan’s Milli was a delightfully peppy woman; one who was happy to be working in the Mayberry bakery, loving her small-town life on The Andy Griffith Show.

Eventually, Golonka went on to portray a different Millie, Millie Swanson, on Mayberry RFD in 1968.

However, despite the different surnames, these Millie’s were pretty much the same character.

Many will regularly recognize Arlene Golonka from the hit sitcoms. However, the actress also had a successful stage career as both an actor and a comedian.

In fact, it was Arlene Golonka’s connections in this part of the business that gave another popular actress of the time her big break. This actress? Former Mary Tyler Moore Show player, and Rhoda star, Valerie Harper.

Golonka’s Early Stage Career

Arlene Golonka first found fame working on serious stage dramas while studying under some pretty major names within the industry.

While studying theater, the former Andy Griffith Show star performed under some major stage legends. Golokan’s stage experience came from productions with Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagen, and Sanford Meisner, among others.

During her stage career, the sitcom star shared the stage with Kirk Douglas on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Jackie Gleason in Take Me Along.

Arlene also had a spot in Neil Simon’s very first play, Come Blow Your Horn.

Former ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Star Finds Her Talent For Comedy

While the serious stage drama was driving her early career, The Andy Griffith Show player also knew comedy was one of her talents.

In 1965, the actress appeared on the popular comedy album You Don’t Have to Be Jewish. Golonka was featured on the album as one of the ensemble performers.

The comedy release became a smash hit and quickly claimed a spot at number nine on the Billboard charts.

Some of the biggest hits to come from this wildly popular comedy album were selections on which Golonka was one of the prominent performers. These hits were A Call From Long Island” and “The Luncheon.”

This release sold so well that a follow-up sequel album titled When You’re in Love the Whole World is Jewish, was scheduled. And Golonka was tapped to be a part of this one as well.

However, Arlene was unavailable for the project. But, all was not lost when Golonka turned to her roommate, Valerie Harper.

It’s All In Who You Know

At Arlene’s recommendation, Valerie Harper got the job. Arlene Golonka also introduced her roommate to the Second City improvisation theater. This introduction led to Harper’s years touring with the company.

One would think connecting Harper with a hit comedy LP release, and a major theater improvisation group tour to be more than enough. However, the former Andy Griffith Show player also had a hand in introducing her former roommate to her husband.

While touring with the Second City improvisation theater, Harper met another improv actor, Dick Schaal…it was a love story for the two who were married in 1964.

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