Happy Birthday Lucille Ball!
On August 6th of 1911 the hilariously talented Lucille Ball entered the world. Lucille was born in Jamestown, New York to a small struggling family. Her father, Henry, worked as an electrician having to move around the country to find work. Only three years after Lucille’s birth her father fell sick with typhoid fever and passed shortly after in 1915.
They relocated back to New York where Ball’s mother, Desiree, remarried. Lucille’s new stepfather, Ed, was not a fan of kids however, convincing Desiree to move to Detroit without Lucille and her new brother Fred. Fred moved in with Desiree’s parents and Lucille was forced to live with Ed’s parents. Lucille would not see her mother again until she was 11.
At age 15 Lucille was eager to become involved in the New York City drama school. Once arriving though she was anxious to participate. The school told Lucille’s mother that, “Lucy’s wasting her time and ours. She’s too shy and reticent to put her best foot forward.”
Remaining in New York City she started modeling until she decided to move to Hollywood for more opportunities. She found small roles to play eventually landing a part in the1937 Stage Door that starred Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. She would continue to star in an amazing 72 movies.
During the filming of Dance, Girl, Dance, Lucille met Desi Arnaz, the man who would later become her husband of the next twenty years.
For the careful, career-minded Ball, who had periodically been romantically linked to a series of older men, Arnaz was something completely different: fiery, young (he was just 23 when they met) and with a bit of a reputation as a ladies’ man. Friends and colleagues guessed the romance between the apparently mismatched entertainers wouldn’t last a year.
During the 1940’s her movie career was slowing. Thanks to Desi’s pushing Lucille decided to try broadcasting. She got the part in a radio comedy called My Favorite Husband. Catching the attention of CBS executives the program was hit. CBS wanted Lucille to recreate it for television. Lucille was adamant about Desi being a part of the show and they refused.
Lucille and Desi created an act together that became very popular, which got CBS’s attention. Lucille and Desi took complete control of the project. They formed their own production company, Desilu Productions to run the program under.
Finally on October 15, 1951, I Love Lucy premiered. The show proved to be a groundbreaking phenomenon that quickly grew in popularity. Many aspects of the show were truly revolutionary. For example the fact that Lucille had to fight to include her real life husband on the screen due to their multiethnic relationship. CBS told Lucille that, “the American public would not accept Desi as the husband of a red-blooded American girl.” Well they were quite wrong.
Another example is the pregnancy episode. It so popular that drew more viewers than President Eisenhower’s inauguration. The word pregnancy was deemed to vulgar to actually say on air even though this was a huge part of the story line. It is said that executives had to have a minister, priest and rabbi to approve the scripts before airing the episode.
On the show Lucy’s best friend was Ethel, played by Vivian Vance. Their friendship was pioneering for the future of female friendships on-screen. As Rookie Magazine said,
But even though it was sometimes Lucy and Ethel versus the world (or just Ricky and Fred), they always cooperated with each other. They were around the same age, from similar economic backgrounds, and were both happily married. Their relationship existed on an essentially even playing field; so stereotypical female competitiveness plots – over men or status – never entered the picture. Whether they were snooping, spying, scheming, or going on wild adventures, their relationship was a source of constant mutual support. (In that respect, Lucy and Ethel’s escapades often passed the Bechdel Test before it even existed.)
Not only was the show revolutionary on screen but behind the scenes as well. Lucille co-owned the production company Desilu Productions. The company played an integral part in the invention of syndication and for moving American television production from New York to Los Angeles. Years later when I Love Lucy was over and Lucille and Des divorced Lucille bought out the company, being the first woman to own a major production company. The company produced major hits such as “Star Trek” and “Mission Impossible” with Lucille in charge.
Lucille once said, “I’m not funny. What I am is brave.” The shows boundary pushing topics is what made I Love Lucy hysterically amazing.
After the end of I Love Lucy Lucille went on to star in The Lucy Show (1962-68) and Here’s Lucy (1968-73). The latter also starred her two real life children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. She continued to be involved in television for the rest of her years. In 1971 Lucille received the International Radio and Television Society’s Gold Medal, becoming the first woman to do so. She also won four Emmys and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
Lucille passed away in April of 1989 suffered from a ruptured aorta. Her impact on television will never be forgotten. Her wisdom and bravery will continue to maker her a role model for us all. Years later the show still plays. When I was younger I would watch it all day if I was home sick, and now that I’m older and more mature….I do the exact same thing. Except now thanks to my mom I have the first few seasons on DVD to treasure forever.
I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world
If anyone needs me I’ll be watching I Love Lucy reruns.
Happy Birthday Lucille Ball!