Famous Like Me > Actress > B > Lucille Ball
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Profile of Lucille Ball
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||6th August 1911
|Place of Birth:
||Jamestown, New York, USA
Lucille Désirée Ball (August 6, 1911 - April 26, 1989) is an American actress, comedian and star of I Love Lucy. A 'B-grade' movie star of the 1930s and 1940s, she has become one of the best and most popular stars in American history.
She was born in Jamestown, New York to Henry Durrell Ball and Desiree Evelyn Hunt. After her father died, Ball was raised by her working mother and grandparents. In 1925, after a romance with a local bad boy (Johnny DeVita), Ball decided to enroll in the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts. There, the shy girl was outshined by another pupil — Bette Davis. Ball went home a few weeks later when drama coaches told her that she "had no future at all as a performer." Two years later, she witnessed the accidental shooting of a friend of her brother's, Warner Erikson, who had gotten in the way of a .22 caliber rifle's path. Erikson's spinal cord was severed. Her grandfather was sued and prosecuted. Right then, Ball decided that she needed to escape her home environment.
She moved back to New York City in 1930 to become an actress and had some success as a fashion model for designer Hattie Carnegie and as the Chesterfield cigarettes girl. She moved to Hollywood in 1933 to appear in films. She appeared in many small movie roles in the 1930s as a contract player for RKO. She switched to MGM (after little success at RKO) in the 1940s, but never achieved great success in films. She was known in many Hollywood circles as "the B-Movie queen," sharing the "royalty" honor with Macdonald Carey, who was designated as her "king."
In 1940, Ball met Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz while filming the film version of the Rodgers and Hart stage hit Too Many Girls (Arnaz had starred in the stage version). The two hit it off immediately and eloped the same year to much press attention. However, Arnaz's philandering and drinking caused problems right from the start. When he was drafted to the Army in 1942, Ball was crushed. Arnaz ended up being classified for limited service due to a knee injury. As a result, Arnaz stayed in Los Angeles, organizing and performing USO shows for wounded GIs being brought back from the Pacific. Ball, disgusted at Desi's "screwing everyone in Birmingham Hospital," filed for a divorce in 1944. However, shortly after Ball obtained an interlocutory decree, she got together with Desi again. In the days before no-fault divorce, if the parties reconciled and consummated relations between the period of the interlocutory and final decrees, the petition was automatically nullified.
In 1948, Lucille was cast as Liz Cugat (later "Cooper"), a wacky wife, in My Favorite Husband, a radio program for CBS. The program was successful, and CBS asked her to develop it as a television program. She agreed, but insisted on working with Arnaz. This show eventually became I Love Lucy. CBS was initially not impressed with the pilot episode produced by the couple's Desilu Productions company, so the Arnazes toured the road in a vaudeville act with Lucille as the zany housewife wanting to get in Arnaz's show. The tour was a smash, and CBS put the show on their lineup.
In 1953, she was subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, due to her having registered to vote in the Communist party in 1936 at her grandfather's insistence (per FBI FOIA-released documents).
I Love Lucy
The I Love Lucy show was not only a star vehicle for Lucille Ball, but a way for her to try to salvage her marriage to Desi Arnaz, which had become badly strained, in part by the fact that each had a hectic performing schedule which often kept them apart.
Along the way, she created a very early television sitcom (although the format had existed for decades in radio, and in fact other TV sitcoms predated her show), and was among the first stars to film before a live audience.
From a production aspect, the use of actual film, as opposed to the inferior-quality kinescope of other TV shows of the time, made the show far more visually appealing. The initial decision to use film was driven by the performers' desire to stay in Los Angeles. Sponsor Philip Morris didn't want to show kinescopes to the major markets on the east coast, so Lucy and Desi agreed to take a pay cut to finance filming. In return, CBS relinquished the show rights back to Desilu after broadcast, not realizing they were giving away a valuable and durable asset. Desilu made millions on ILL rebroadcast through syndication.
Lucy and Desi also hired legendary Czech cameraman Karl Freund as their director of photography. Freund had worked for F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang, shot part of Metropolis, had directed a number of Hollywood films himself, and knew his business. For Lucy, Freund developed the three-camera setup, which became the standard way of shooting situation comedies. Shooting long shots, medium shots, and close-ups on a comedy in front of a live audience demanded discipline, technique, and close choreography. Among other non-standard techniques used in filming the show, cans of paint (in shades ranging from white to medium gray) were kept on set to 'paint out' innappropriate shadows and disguise lighting flaws.
On July 17, 1951, after several miscarriages, Ball gave birth to her first child, Lucie Desiree Arnaz. A year and a half later, Ball gave birth to her second child, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV. I Love Lucy was in full swing by this time, and neither Ball nor Arnaz wanted to take a hiatus for the pregnancy. They planned to write the pregnancy into the show's story line, so that Lucy Ricardo would have her baby around the same time the Arnazes' own child was born. However, the network balked, declaring, "You cannot show a pregnant woman on television." They also declared that the word "pregnant" could not be uttered over the airwaves. Ball and Arnaz consulted a priest, a rabbi and a minister about the appropriateness of their plans, and all three said that none of it was in any way offensive. Finally, the network compromised: The pregnancy could be worked into the scripts, but the word "pregnant" was still taboo. Instead, the euphemism "expecting" was substituted, which made for additional laughs as Arnaz deliberately mispronounced it as "'spectin'." The birth made the first cover of TV Guide the same year.
However, these blessings could not alleviate the pressures on the marriage. By the end of the 1950s, the Desilu company had gotten much bigger, and Desi was beginning to drink more heavily. On May 4, 1960, a few weeks after filming the final episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, the couple divorced. One of television's greatest marriages had come to an end. Until his death in 1986, Arnaz would remain friends with Ball.
The following year, Ball married comedian Gary Morton.
After buying out her ex-husband's share of the studio, Ball functioned as studio head.
Following I Love Lucy, Ball appeared in the Broadway musical Wildcat, a few more movies (including Yours, Mine and Ours, and Mame), and two more sitcoms: The Lucy Show, and later Here's Lucy both with Gale Gordon. In 1986 she appeared with Gordon in her final show, Life With Lucy, which was a critical and commercial flop.
Lucille Ball died on April 26, 1989, of a ruptured aorta at the age of 77 and was cremated. Her remains were initially interred in the Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California, but were later moved by her children, Desi Arnaz, Jr. and Lucie Arnaz to the Lake View Cemetery, in Jamestown, New York.
Considered by professional clowns to be one of their own, Lucille Ball's 'clown character' was "Lucy Ricardo." (nee "Lucille McGillicuddy" — an instantly recognizable clown moniker). Lucy Ricardo was a friendly, ambitious and somewhat naïve housewife, constantly getting into trouble of one kind or another.
"Lucy! You got some 's-plainin' to do!" became a famous cry of Ricky Ricardo. The setup of the show provided ample opportunities for Ball to display her skills at clowning and physical comedy. She is regarded as one of the best in the history of film and television at physical 'schtick'.
In the course of the television series, Lucy shared the screen with numerous famous clowns, prominent among these were Red Skelton and Harpo Marx.
Clown 'shtick' on I Love Lucy
Lucy tries to Get into the Act - a recurring and almost omnipresent theme on the show, was that "talentless" plain old Lucy the Housewife dearly desired a chance to perform, as anything: a dancer, showgirl, clown, singing cowboy — or in any role. The real joke here is that Lucille Ball, aside from being regarded as beautiful, was also quite talented in a variety of performance arts, as well as being a ground-breaking television director.
Perhaps the best example of this gag is when Lucy shows up unannounced at Ricky's club, toting a clown-modified cello and pretending to be a musician, asking to speak with "Risky Riskerdoo" (Ricky Ricardo) this classic includes Lucy winding the cello's tuning peg as if it were a watch (to the accompaniment of ratcheting sounds) and shooting the cello's bow at Ricky's backside.
Lucy in the Candy Factory - ("Speeeeeeed it Up a little!!") Lucy and Ethel attempt to get jobs — for which they are demonstrably unprepared — the classic candy-gobbling scene in this episode is an American cultural icon.
The Mirror Gag - now a classic improvisational acting exercise (with Harpo Marx), in which Lucy, dressed as Harpo Marx encounters the real Harpo while hiding in the kitchen doorway. Perplexed at what he sees he confronts his reflection and Lucy is forced to mimick his every move.
The Stranger with a Kind Face (aka 'Slowly I turned' or 'Niagara Falls!') in which a veteran clown introduces Lucy Ricardo to some basics of the clown art, and is schooled in this classic (and at that time quite familiar) vaudevillian routine ... complete with 'seltzer bottles' (a familiar clown prop) and slapstick.
Vita-meata-vege-min - "Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular? Well, the answer to all your troubles is in this little bottle!", "And, it's so tasty too!" Mrs. Ricardo as a slick television 'huckster' pitching a foul-tasting and alcoholic concoction (amusingly, Lucille the actress quite enjoyed the taste)... the 'gag' being that, aside from tasting bad and having a name which only a clown would embrace, the product contained alcohol in large quantities, and in numerous repeated rehearsals prior to the live spot, Lucy gradually and inexorably becomes half-crocked... with the inevitable hilarious result, made only the more funny by the alliterative, tongue twisting product name and pitch. "Do you pop out at parties? Are you unpoopular? Well, the answer to all your troubles is in this bittle lottle!"
Lucy Tries to Meet the Famous Star - another recurring theme, many popular stars were eager to appear on the show, and hilarity ensues in countless episodes as a result of the character, Lucy's obsession with fame and the famous.
The Cousin Ernie story arc. Lucy receives a letter informing her that her "Best Friend's Roommate's Cousin's Middle Boy" — of whom she has never heard — is coming to visit from "Bent Fork, Tennessee". 'Cousin Ernie' (immaculately played by "Tennessee" Ernie Ford) is a stereotypical Country Boy in the Big City, in awe of the sophistication (as he perceives it) of his new hosts. Cousin Ernie and the citizens of Bent Fork and its environs are encountered several times during the course of the show's life.
The Singing Jailbreak This episode is part of the Hollywood story arc. Ricky, Lucy, Fred, and Ethel participate in a square dance called by Cousin Ernie to escape a Bent Fork, Tennessee jail in the course of which the sheriff and his two Rubenesque daughters are tied up with a handy piece of rope. Lucy gives a feminine kick into the officer's groin. Then Ricky, Lucy, Fred and Ethel make their escape to continue their cross country venture.
- The Bowery (1933)
- Broadway Through a Keyhole (1933)
- Blood Money (1933)
- Roman Scandals (1933)
- Moulin Rouge (1934)
- Nana (1934)
- Hold That Girl (1934)
- Bottoms Up (1934)
- The Affairs of Cellini (1934)
- Murder at the Vanities (1934)
- Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (1934)
- Pefectly Mismated (1934) (short subject)
- Kid Millions (1934)
- Men of the Night (1934)
- Broadway Bill (1934)
- Jealousy (1934)
- Three Little Pigskins (1934) (short subject)
- Fugitive Lady (1934)
- Behind the Evidence (1935)
- His Old Flame (1935) (short subject)
- Carnival (1935)
- The Whole Town's Talking (1935)
- Roberta (1935)
- I'll Love You Always (1935)
- A Night at the Biltmore Bowl (1935) (short subject)
- Old Man Rhythm (1935)
- Top Hat (1935)
- The Three Musketeers (1935)
- I Dream Too Much (1935)
- Chatterbox (1936)
- Muss 'em Up (1936)
- Follow the Fleet (1936)
- The Farmer in the Dell (1936)
- Bunker Bean (1936)
- Dummy Ache (1936) (short subject)
- Swing It (1936) (short subject)
- So and Sew (1936) (short subject)
- One Live Ghost (1936) (short subject)
- Winterset (1936)
- That Girl from Paris (1936)
- Don't Tell the Wife (1937)
- There Goes My Girl (1937) (scenes deleted)
- Stage Door (1937)
- Joy of Living (1938)
- Go Chase Yourself (1938)
- Having Wonderful Time (1938)
- The Affairs of Annabel (1938)
- Room Service (1938)
- Annabel Takes a Tour (1938)
- Next Time I Marry (1938)
- Beauty for the Asking (1939)
- Twelve Crowded Hours (1939)
- Panama Lady (1939)
- Five Came Back (1939)
- That's Right - You're Wrong (1939)
- The Marines Fly High (1940)
- You Can't Fool Your Wife (1940)
- Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
- Too Many Girls (1940)
- A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941)
- Look Who's Laughing (1941)
- Valley of the Sun (1942)
- The Big Street (1942)
- Seven Days' Leave (1942)
- Best Foot Forward (1943)
- Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
- Thousands Cheer (1943)
- Meet the People (1944)
- Without Love (1945)
- Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (1945) (Cameo)
- Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
- The Dark Corner (1946)
- Two Smart People (1946)
- Lover Come Back (1946)
- Easy to Wed (1946)
- Lured (1947)
- Her Husband's Affairs (1947)
- Sorrowful Jones (1949)
- Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949)
- Easy Living (1949)
- A Woman of Distinction (1950) (Cameo)
- Fancy Pants (1950)
- The Fuller Brush Girl (1950)
- The Magic Carpet (1951)
- I Love Lucy (1953) (unreleased) (A movie, which includes a handful of ILL episodes with actors playing audience members. It has rare footage of Desi Arnaz warming up the audience and introducing the cast. The film was finally shown at the 2002 Lucy-Desi Convention.)
- The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
- Forever, Darling (1956)
- The Facts of Life (1960)
- Critic's Choice (1963)
- All About People (1967)(short subject) (narrator)
- A Guide for the Married Man (1967)
- Yours, Mine and Ours (1968)
- Mame (1974)
- I Love Lucy (1951-1957)
- The I Love Lucy Christmas Show (1956)
- The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957-1960)
- The Lucy Show (1962-1968) (also executive producer)
- The Lucille Ball Comedy Hour (1964)
- Lucy in London (1966)
- Here's Lucy (1968-1974)
- Happy Anniversary and Goodbye (1974)
- A Lucille Ball Special: Lucy Gets Lucky (1975)
- The Lucille Ball/Jackie Gleason Special: Three for Two (1975)
- What Now, Catherine Curtis? (1976)
- Lucy Calls the President (1977)
- Stone Pillow (1985) (made-for-TV movie; Lucy's last movie.)
- Life with Lucy (1986) (canceled after 13 episodes were filmed; only eight ever aired)
- My Favorite Husband (1948-1951)
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz founded Desilu Productions.
There is a Lucy-Desi Museum honoring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in Jamestown, New York. There are also Lucille Ball museums located in the Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Florida theme parks.
In the summer of 2005, Lucille Ball was voted America's most beloved deceased star.
- Love, Lucy (1997) ISBN 0425177319
- Lucille Ball at Classic Actresses
- The Lucy Lounge
- The Lucy Shows
- Lucille Ball Online
- Find A Grave - Lucille Desiree Ball
- Lucille Ball at the Internet Movie Database
- Lucille Ball at the Notable Names Database
- Everything Lucy
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