Arlene Golonka, a veteran character actor best known for playing Millie Swanson on “Mayberry R.F.D.,” died Monday in West Hollywood, Calif. She was 85.
Her niece Stephanie Morton, said she had been suffering from Alzheimer’s.
“She lived and breathed being an artist, being an actress was who she was born to be,” said her niece, “She was a very wise woman who I was lucky to call my aunt.”
“She loved to teach,” said Morton, who said her acting students over the years included Halle Berry.
With a career spanning over 45 years, Golonka played recurring roles on “The Doctors,” “Joe & Valerie” and “1st & 10” and appeared in episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “M*A*S*H” and “The King of Queens.” On “The Andy Griffith Show,” Golonka played Millie Hutchins, the girlfriend of Sam Jones (Ken Berry) on two episodes, and she reprised the role as Millie Swanson on “Mayberry R.F.D.” across 34 episodes.
Born on January 23, 1936, Golonka spent her childhood in Chicago, hopping between singing and acting classes and studying at the prestigious Goodman Theatre. At age 19, she moved to New York and began a career on Broadway and in films made in New York City, studying under Lee Strasberg, Sanford Meisner and Uta Hagen.
As a member of The Actors Studio, Golonka’s first major production was “The Night Circus” with Ben Gazzara, which started in Connecticut and then moved to Broadway for seven performances.
In the late 1960s, Golonka relocated to Los Angeles, where she continued playing small roles on the big screen while also venturing into television. Golonka soon established herself as one of the hardest-working character actors in Hollywood, appearing in dozens of series over the next three decades. In shows like “That Girl,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Fantasy Island” and “Murder, She Wrote,” Golonka even reappeared as different characters.
Her film roles included “Airport 77,” “Hang ‘Em High” with Clint Eastwood and “The In-Laws.”
Golonka’s voice appeared on the 1965 comedy album “You Don’t Have to Be Jewish” and in animated TV programs such as “Speed Buggy,” “The New Yogi Bear Show,” “Capitol Critters,” “Yogi’s Treasure Hunt” and “The New Scooby-Doo Movies.”
She is survived by a sister and nieces and nephews.