Lucille Ball, 1911-1989

  • Lucille-Ball-WWP

Woman Category: Media and Theater & CinemaWoman Tags: Actress, Comedienne, Model, and Producer

  • HerStory

    Actress, comedian, model, producer, and entertainment studio executive. The first woman to head a TV production company. Best known for creating and starring in the iconic TV show ‘I Love Lucy.’

    Lucille Désirée Ball was born in Jamestown, New York. When she was 3 years old, her father had died, and she moved with her mother and little brother to her grandparents’ house in Celoron, New York. At the age of 12, while auditioning for the chorus line of her stepfathers’ Shriner’s organization, Ball discovered her passion for performing, realizing that this was a great way to earn praise and recognition.
    At 17, Balls came to NYC, auditioning for various productions while working as a house model for Hattie Carnegie. At 21, after two years of hiatus due to rheumatoid arthritis, she landed some chorus work on Broadway, using the name Diane Belmont. Afterward, she moved to Hollywood and acted in various minor movie roles. In 1937, at the age of 26, Ball was cast in her first credited part, starring alongside Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn in the film The Three Musketeers. During the 1940s, Ball became known as the current “Queen of the B’s” for starring in numerous B-movies. One of them was the musical Too Many Girls, where she and Desi Arnaz, who already played together in her previous movie, became a couple. They got married that same year.
    Between one acting job to another, Ball gained exposure working in radio shows, including The Phil Baker Show and CBS’s My Favorite Husband. Balls’ portray of the wacky wife caught the attention of the producers, who asked her to develop a TV show. Insisting on working with her real-life husband, the network rejected the pilot, claiming that the audience will not believe that a Cuban and a red-haired Caucasian is a couple. Instead, Ball and Arnaz created a vaudeville act, in which she played a housewife who wants to get into her husband’s show. In light of the act’s successes, I Love Lucy got into the CBS lineup. The show was produced by Desilu – the production company that Ball and Arnaz had founded, for which Ball became the first woman to head a TV production company. In I Love Lucy, Ball played a witty housewife who finds creative ways to leave the house. Ball charmed the audience with her range, physical comedy, and timing. Premiered on October 15, 1951, the show immediately became the #1 watched sitcom, with a record of an overall of 67.3 on Nielsen ratings over its six years course. The show was innovative in television broadcasting, being the first production to film before a live studio audience and to use three cameras.
    While I Love Lucy was on the air, Ball was also teaching a comedy workshop at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute. During the show’s time off, she and Arnaz starred together in two films and produced various movies and TV shows, including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible, and Star Trek.
    In 1957, after the show ended, 46 years old Ball returned to Broadway and the radio, hosting a radio talk show called Let’s Talk to Lucy. She continued to star in two more successful sitcoms – The Lucy Show (1962-1968) and Here’s Lucy (1968-1974). In 1960, she and Arnaz got divorced, and in the following year, she married her second husband, Gary Morton, who was 13 years younger than her. During the 1980s, Ball performed in various television specials and had a TV comeback with the sitcom Life with Lucy. Ball died at the age of 78 from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, leaving behind her a legacy of joy and laughter, inspiring many comediennes and actresses to follow her path.

    “I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”

    “I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She was kicked out from John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Art in NYC for being “too shy.”
    • She used to work as a Chesterfield cigarette girl.
    • In 1936 vote registration, she listed her party affiliation as Communist; afterward, the Communist Party of California appointed her to the State Central Committee.
    • She auditioned for the role of Scarlett O’Hara for Gone with the Wind.
    • On her wedding day, Arnaz gave her a ring from a drugstore because the jewelry stores were closed when they eloped. She wore it for the rest of their marriage.
    • She wrote her second pregnancy into the show when a pregnant woman could not be shown on television, and the word “pregnant” was not allowed to be spoken on-air. She had her planned real-life cesarean section on the same day that her character gave birth. 44 million people watched this episode.
    • In 1979, at the age of 69, she became an assistant professor at California State University, Northridge.
    • She and her newly born son, Desi Arnaz Jr., appeared together on the first cover of “TV Guide.”
    • She had two children.
    • Throughout her career, she appeared 39 times on the magazine’s cover – a record that hasn’t been broken to this date.
    • On her 100th birthday, celebrated on August 6, 2011, Google’s homepage displayed a doodle of six classic moments from I Love Lucy.
    • Two statues of her stand-in Celoron, New York. The “Scary Lucy” and the “Pretty Lucy.”
    • The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy in Ball’s in Jamestown, New York, is dedicated to her and Arnaz’s life and career.
    • The street she was born on in Jamestown, New York, was renamed “Lucy Street.”
    • She was the mentor of Ruth Buzzi, Carole Cook, and Carol Burnett.
    • Her Autobiography: “Love, Lucy,” was published posthumously based on a memoir she wrote during the 1960s.
    • The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy in Ball’s in Jamestown, New York, is dedicated to her and Arnaz’s life and career.
    • The street she was born on in Jamestown, New York, was renamed “Lucy Street.”
  • More About Her Legacy

    * 5 Emmy awards
    * Two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
    * The Cecil B. DeMille Award (1979)
    * Kennedy Center Honors recipient (1986)
    * Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy (1987)
    * The Presidential Medal of Freedom (1989)
    * The Women's International Center's 'Living Legacy Award (1989)
    * Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame (2001)
    * The first woman to receive the International Radio and Television Society's Gold Medal (1971)

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Actress, Comedienne, Model, Producer

    The passing of Lucille Ball, April 26, 1989.

  • Photo credit - Wikipedia

  • Citations and Additional References:
    IMDB page.
    National Women's History Museum website.