Lucille Ball

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Lucille Ball (1911~1989)

Lucille Ball (August 6, 1911April 26, 1989) was an American actress, comedian and star of I Love Lucy. A 'B-grade' movie star of the 1940s, she became one of the best and most popular stars in American history.

She was born in Celoron, New York and after her father died, was raised by her working mother and grandparents. In 1925, after a romance with a local bad boy (Johnny), 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. Lucille later went home in a few weeks when drama coaches said she "had no future at all as a performer". Two years later, she witnessed , Warner, a friend of her brother's get shot, severing the spinal cord, due to a .22 caliber rifle firing with Warner in the rifle's path. Her grandfather who she considered her father was sued once for money, then again for prison sentence. Right then, Ball decided that she needed to escape the traumas of her life.

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 (He sustained a knee injury and performed in U.S.O. shows instead). They initially divorced in 1945, but remarried the same year, deciding to patch things up.

In 1948, Lucille was cast as a wacky wife in My Favorite Husband, a radio program. 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 production 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

Lucille Ball as Lucy,  as Ethel on an episode of I Love Lucy
Lucille Ball as Lucy, Vivian Vance as Ethel on an episode of I Love Lucy
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Lucy and Ethel try to "Speed it up a little."

I Love Lucy 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 the 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, Lucille gave birth to her first child, Lucie Desiree Arnaz. Three years later, coinciding with the controversial birth of her show's "Little Ricky", Ball gave birth to her second child, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV. The birth made the first cover of TV Guide the same year. However, these blessings could not stop the pressures of the marriage.

On May 4, 1960, a few weeks after taping 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 dying day in 1986, Arnaz and Ball would remain the best of friends.

The following year, Ball married comedian Gary Morton.

After buying out her ex-husband's share of the studio, Ball functioned as studio head but apparently had little direct involvement in production. For instance, she apparently completely misunderstood the premise of one of the company's most (belatedly) famous productions, Star Trek thinking it was a contemporary drama about actresses.

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. In 1986 she appeared in her final show, Life With Lucy, which was a critical and commercial flop.

Lucille Ball died on April 26, 1989 and was interred in the Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California, but was later moved by her children, Desi Arnaz, Jr. and Lucie Arnaz to the Lake View Cemetery, in Jamestown, New York.

Lucille McGillicuddy

Considered by professional clowns to be one of their own, Lucile Ball's 'clown character' was "Lucy Ricardo", (nee "Lucille McGillicuddy" — an instantly recognizable clown moniker) "Lucy Ricardo" was a friendly, ambitious and somewhat naļ¶„ housewife who was 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, ever, 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 Ricky, Lucy, Fred, and Ethel—as well as Cousin Ernie—have a songfest to cover the sounds they are making, cutting the bars on Lucy's jail cell... in a scene that takes place in the tiny Bent Fork, Tennessee jail. The 'blowoff' of the scene is a square dance called by Cousin Ernie in the course of which the sheriff and his two Rubenesque daughters are tied up with a handy piece of rope. When the sheriff comes up, Lucy grabs his shoulder and knees him in the groin. Then, she stepped back and threw a feminine kick to the groin which incapacitated the sheriff.


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Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz founded Desilu Productions.

There are Lucille Ball museums located in the Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Florida theme parks.

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