Lucille Ball

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Lucille Désirée Ball was the first of the great comedy actresses on television. She was born on 6 August 1911 in Jamestown, New York, and died on 26 April 1989 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.

Biography

Lucille started her career as a model at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, where in 1933 she became one of the Goldwyn Girls in the movie Roman Scandals, with Eddie Cantor as the leading actor. She also played in some B movies and later in a few comedies with Bob Hope, and in Stage Door, where her comic talent became apparent for the first time.

By the end of the 1940s Lucille Ball performed in a popular radio series for CBS. At the time she was married to Desi Arnaz, the Cuban band leader. Together they developed the plan for a similar comedy series for television—a medium that was still in its infancy and was not yet taken seriously by most movie and radio stars. CBS was afraid of the financial risk and reluctantly agreed to broadcast the comedy. The company thought that the average American viewer might not like a series, in which an all-American woman is married to some exotic foreigner. The Arnaz couple borrowed 5000 dollars from a bank and became co-owners of their shows. Within a couple of years they had made enough money to buy the RKO studios for 6 million dollars and change the name into Desilu Productions.

I Love Lucy was an instant success: the entire nation loved the slapstick comedy with the fumbling red-haired housewife with the expressive face. The sitcom contained a couple of television "firsts": the first inter-ethnic couple on television [1] and the first pregnant woman on television [2] Ball was also the first female head of a movie studio. The show continued until 1957 and was followed by the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Comedy Hour, a production that was aborted in 1960 when the couple’s marriage ended. A year later Lucy married producer Gary Morton, who produced The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. Both series ran for six years.

In 1974 Lucille Ball quit her television work. She played the lead in the unsuccessful movie version of the musical Mame. During her thirty successful television years she played in five movies, including The facts of Life and Critics Choice (both with Bob Hope) and Yours, Mine and Ours (with Henry Fonda).

Ball formed many lifelong friendships among her coworkers in the industry, among these were Ginger Rogers, Gale Gordon, Vivian Vance and Mary Wickes. She also remained good friends with Arnaz.

In 1985 she played a bag lady in the TV movie Stone Pillows, which received mixed reviews. A new series of shows, Life with Lucy, was not successful and was taken off the air in 1986. Many of the 479 installments of her shows are still being repeated in many countries around the world. For millions of people the introduction of television coincided with the energetic and loudmouthed appearance of Lucille Ball.

In July 1989 Lucille Ball posthumously received the Medal of Freedom.

Notes

  1. This categorization is disputed, as Arnaz is generally thought of as a "white Cuban" or a Caucasian Latino. Nevertheless, in a TV Guide interview Ball spoke of being uncertain about how middle America would receive the ethnic mix.
  2. In a 1980s interview for TV Guide Ball said that they had to write the pregnancy storylines, as she was pregnant at the time. The couple consulted several clergy as to whether it would be appropriate to allow a pregnant woman to appear on TV. The decision was controversial in the 1950s but proved to be golden, with the nation anxiously awaiting the birth of "Little Ricky"; the birth made the cover of TV Guide.