Arlene Golonka of The Andy Griffith Show had a celebrity roommate — and helped make her famous

Hint: It was like a real-life Mary and Rhoda situation.

The 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie told the tale of a small-town girl living in New York City and hoping to marry for money. That same year, another Millie was working in a Mayberry bakery, and she was content to stay in her small town and settle for the humble Howard Sprague, thank you very much.

Arlene Golonka played Millie Hutchins in two episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. Her role evolved into Millie Swanson on Mayberry R.F.D., which was essentially the same character. Remember, Mayberry names, from "Goober Beasley" to Barney's middle initial, were known to be rather, well, malleable. In the spin-off, the bubbly blonde was still working the counter in the bakery, only she was now dating Sam Jones. Alas, poor Howard.

Golonka began her career in serious stage dramas. She studied under titans of theater such as Lee Strasberg, Uta Hagen and Sanford Meisner, some of the pioneers of "method acting." A member of The Actors Studio, Golonka acted in productions alongside Kirk Douglas (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and Jackie Gleason (Take Me Along). She starred in Neil Simon's first play, Come Blow Your Horn.

The Chicago native also excelled at comedy. In 1965, Golonka appeared as an ensemble performer on the hit comedy album You Don't Have to Be Jewish. The title was a nod to a marketing slogan for Levy's Rye Bread — "You Don't Have to be Jewish to love Levy's!" The record was a follow-up for some of the comedians behind The First Family, the smash 1962 spoof of the Kennedys that at one point was "largest and fastest-selling record in the history of the record industry."

You Don't Have to Be Jewish climbed the Billboard charts all the way to No. 9, thanks to skits like "A Call From Long Island" and "The Luncheon." Both prominently featured Golonka. 

The record performed so well — Walter Winchell joked it was "the No. 1 seller in Suburbia" — that a sequel was scheduled. However, Golonka was unavailable.

Fortunately, Golonka happened to be living with a talented aspiring actress. She suggested her roommate take her place on When You're in Love the Whole World is Jewish, the 1966 sequel LP.

Roommates Golonka and Harper on the covers of hit comedy albums

Her roomie got the job. Her roomie was none other than Valerie Harper.

That was not the only favor Golonka graciously gave her roommate. Golonka also introduced Harper to the Second City improvisation theater. Harper toured with Second City. Her troupe included improv actor Dick Schaal. Harper and Schaal married in 1964.

Gee, in some ways, Golonka and Harper were like a real-life Mary and Rhoda.

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JDnHuntsvilleAL 57 months ago
I've always liked Arlene Golonka. Wish they had posted more photos of her.
JDnHuntsvilleAL 57 months ago
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cperrynaples 57 months ago
It should be noted that while Rhoda was Jewish, Valerie was not! And yes, Howard Stern did go to psychics and none of them knew her secret word!
BrittReid 57 months ago
She also appeared in Hang Em High with Clint Eastwood.
cperrynaples BrittReid 57 months ago
Are you sure you're not confusing her with Inger Stevens? I really can't picture Golonka in that film!
IMDb confirms it. She was "Jennifer". I'm not a fan of the movie, so I'm assuming it was a small roll.
Here you go:
BrittReid cperrynaples 57 months ago
Her character was named Jennifer and she was a saloon girl.
JDnHuntsvilleAL 57 months ago
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Wiseguy JDnHuntsvilleAL 57 months ago
a cinnamon roll?
cperrynaples 57 months ago
Why doesn't MeTV show Mayberry RFD? After all, you can watch TAGS on Amazon or Netflix, but you can't even find most of MRFD on DVD!!
Pacificsun cperrynaples 57 months ago
MeTV ran it a couple of years ago for a very short time. As you've figured out, it's not streaming anywhere. But can be purchased. The show definitely has a great cast. Maybe the syndication rights were too expensive for MeTV to carry it forward.
cperrynaples Pacificsun 57 months ago
Only the first season, and I'm not paying $20 to buy it! Maybe one of the new streamers will put it on!
cperrynaples 57 months ago
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Well there a LOTS of "crap shows" being aired and streamed right now. No reason this one should be streamed, too.
JDnHuntsvilleAL 57 months ago
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KathyMcKinny Pacificsun 19 months ago
it's currently playing on MeTV right now
Pacificsun KathyMcKinny 19 months ago
Not RFD, unless you might have MeTV Plus. I don't have their schedule.
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