Eve Arden passed away last week, a second-string star from the golden age of movies when character players were as important to movies as the stars.

If Arden was listed in the cast, you could expect her singular brand of tart cynicism in the form of pithy one-liners throughout the picture. She made some great movies - "Stage Door," "Cover Girl," "Anatomy of a Murder" - but even the lesser films in which she appeared were brightened by her presence.Arden gained her own level of stardom on television, however, with the classic sitcom "Our Miss Brooks" (which co-starred youthful, squeaky-voiced Richard Crenna) and the later, underrated "Mothers-in-Law."

But for me, her wisecrack exchanges with the Marx Brothers in "At the Circus," with Danny Kaye in "The Kid From Brooklyn," with Ronald Reagan in "Voice of the Turtle," with Red Skelton in "Whistling in the Dark" and many more, are what I have always enjoyed most.

Arden was a singular presence in movies, usually the best friend who provided the voice of wisdom through funny asides. And no one has ever done it better.

- "GHOST" IS NOW officially the No. 1 movie of 1990. In addition it has climbed to No. 12 on the all-time list of top-grossing movies

"Pretty Woman" is now in the No. 2 spot for 1990, but maintains a hold on international earnings, with several markets - France and Japan among them - yet to open.

Domestically, however, "Pretty Woman" earned $178 million compared to $182 million for "Ghost" - and "Ghost" has yet to run out of steam in theaters nationally.

- BOOK REVIEWS: Here are some new movie-related books you might want to consider for the film freak in your family this Christmas:

HOLLYWOOD AT HOME: A FAMILY ALBUM 1950-1965; photographs by Sid Avery, text by Richard Schickel; Crown Publishers; 144 pages; $30.

This is a photo book, and as such the clear-eyed, gorgeous black-and-white stills by Sid Avery, who snapped these pictures for such magazines as the Saturday Evening Post, Look and Colliers during their heyday, are the reason to buy it. Richard Schickel, the respected film critic (Time magazine) and author ("The Disney Version," "Schickel on Film"), contributes a nice text, actually more of a longer-than-usual introduction, but it's really just trimming. There are shots of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Rock Hudson, Eve Arden, Elizabeth Taylor, Ed Wynn, Danny Kaye, Marlon Brando and too many more to name. Some are candid shots on movie sets, many are domestic poses at the stars' homes - but all are beautifully photographed. This one is enough to thrill any movie buff worth his salt.

FILM FLUBS: MEMORABLE MOVIE MISTAKES; by Bill Givens; Citadel Press; paperback, 157 pages (with index); $7.95.

Here's the humor book for nitpickers - or, as they might prefer to be called, sharp-eyed moviegoers. With America's penchant for finding enjoyment in bloopers of all kinds, from badly written newspaper headlines to movie and TV outtakes of actors flubbing lines, this would seem to be a book whose time has come. Entertainment journalist Bill Givens has gathered a wide array of inconsistencies that often pop up in movies - even the best movies. The most famous recent example is the scene in "Die Hard 2" where Bruce Willis is supposedly on the East Coast making a call from a pay phone at Dulles International Airport, while on the side of the phone is clearly printed "Pacific Bell." Some mistakes are well known, as is the Cinerama movie titled "Krakatoa, East of Java" - Krakatoa is west of Java. Others are less familiar, such as the number assigned to prisoner Elvis Presley in "Jailhouse Rock," which is 6239 in some scenes and 6240 in others (there's even photographic evidence of this one). Sometimes these mistakes are so obscure it hardly seems worth carping over, but others are quite amusing.

ROGER EBERT'S MOVIE HOME COMPANION: 1991 EDITION; by Roger Ebert; Andrews and McMeel; paperback, 745 pages (with index); $12.95.

This annual tome by Roger Ebert (half of TV's "Siskel & Ebert"), compiling his Chicago Sun-Times reviews, is a quick read, and Ebert's writing style is quite conversational, as if you're discussing movies with a well-informed buddy at the local tavern. These reviews are not all new - some have appeared in previous editions - but Ebert adds enough new film appraisals, along with a bevy of extras, so it never seems the book is overpriced. There's Ebert's always amusing "Glossary of Movie Terms" (some credited to other critics), essays on the 20th anniversary of "Woodstock" and blacks in the movies, an already out-of-date argument in favor of replacing the X rating with something else and several new interview pieces. This edition features Ebert's meetings with Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Spike Lee, John Waters, Morgan Freeman, Matt Dillon and others.

MAKING IT IN SHOW BUSINESS: THE STARS TELL HOW YOU CAN DO IT TOO!; by George Goldberg; Contemporary Books; paperback, 147 pages (with index); $8.95.

Basically, this is little more than a collection of anecdotes gleaned from celebrity interviews, compiled to meet the subject at hand. George Goldberg publishes a talent-marketing magazine called Faces International, and this book is advice from the stars on how to make it in show biz. Written in question-answer format, some stars' comments are amusing, others mundane. There are sometimes contradictions, as on the importance of studying acting: Carol Burnett says, "It's very important." Melissa Sue Anderson, "You either have it or you don't." Shirley Jones, "I think it's terribly important." Cynthia Rhodes, "I don't think you have to train." Advice comes from Bob Hope, Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas, Joan Collins, Bill Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Danza and many others. The chapters are broken into such subjects as "Advice to Newcomers" and "How Do You Handle Rejection?" and there is a certain emphasis on child and youthful actors. Youngsters who think they want to become performers will probably enjoy this one.