This post is dedicated to the undisputed queen of comedy on what would have been her birthday. Lucille Ball was a woman of extraordinary talent and power – first onscreen as the star of what remains the most popular situation comedy show in television history, and later as a media mogul. Whether in front of the camera or in a boardroom, she changed the world as a woman and for women. A television pioneer and a comedy genius. This is Lucy.
“I am a real ham. I love an audience. I work better with an audience. I am dead, in fact, without one.”
By the time Lucy conquered the medium of television, and conquer it she did, she’d made 65 motion pictures and was known as the “Queen of B pictures.” She’d also had great success on radio as one of the stars of “My Favorite Husband,” by all accounts the pre-cursor to “I Love Lucy.” Although television was in its infancy in the late forties, ever on the pulse of media and certainly the American audience, Lucy was one of the few stars willing to appear in the new medium. Here she is, as a radio star, in an appearance of “The Ed Wynn Show” with husband, bandleader, Desi Arnaz, their first appearance together:
“If somewhere there is a book of days in which is written our future possibilities then you can be sure at the very top of Lucille Ball’s page are the words, “Lucy Ricardo.”" - American Masters, PBS, Finding Lucy
It was “I Love Lucy” that catapulted Lucille Ball into the stratosphere of fame and what this tribute will focus on – the character and the medium that gave the woman and the talent the forum on which she let it all hang out, where she could fully realize her astounding talent. A talent, I might add, strictly reserved for guys at the time. Lucy showed she could not only do physical comedy, but do it better than anybody, yet always remained glamorous and feminine. Really something!
After the heads of CBS were convinced a Cuban with a heavy accent could portray Lucy’s husband in a show, a Cuban with a heavy accent, Lucy and Desi made a pilot episode that incorporated sketches they used in their Vaudeville act. Unfortunately, the pilot episode didn’t air for audience consumption in the 1950s. I really wanted to include a clip of the pilot here but CBS wouldn’t allow it due to copyright issues.
I must mention another obvious, as all I mention in this post is beloved entertainment history – aside from Lucille Ball’s talent and appeal, “I Love Lucy” would not have been what it was without the other talents associated with the show. Desi Arnaz showed his talent as a great straight man and his accent, which gave CBS so much worry at the onset of the show, turned out to add many great, funny moments in the show’s history. Mr. Arnaz also proved to be a television pioneer in his own right, ultimately and irrevocably changing the television industry forever. Lucy also had the greatest of foils in Vivian Vance‘s Ethel Mertz. A wonderful actress and comedienne in her own right, Vance made Lucille Ball even better. They were a comedy dream team. Finally, by all accounts playing himself, there is William Frawley’s lovable curmudgeon, Fred Mertz. His bad temper and stinginess we could not do without! ”I Love Lucy” would not have been as great without any of these people. We love them all. But Lucy…was Lucy.
In the decades since the “I Love Lucy” debut the show and its stars gave us so much to laugh at, remember and LOVE. Following are just a few of the many memorable moments of “I Love Lucy.” All of these are familiar to most people. It is for my indulgence that I post them here – I hope that if you happen by you enjoy revisiting them again as well.
Ricky sings the “I Love Lucy” theme song:
That makes me so misty – am I the only one?
Lucy and Ethel:
Lucy and Ricky:
A magical foursome:
This is a sketch from 1956, “The Bob Hope Show” featuring the “I Love Lucy” cast. Great fun!
Just Lucy – what no one else could do
Perhaps the greatest testament to the power and popularity of “I Love Lucy” and proof of the admiration everyone had for Lucille Ball is the impressive array of huge Hollywood stars that appeared on the show. Again, many of which would never have considered doing television otherwise. Here are just a few:
The wonderful “mirror sketch” with Harpo Marx:
TV Guide: “The face of Lucille Ball has been seen more than the face of any other human being who ever lived.”
“Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead.”
It’s not just every man, we all fell in love with Lucy. This is a birthday remembrance to a true, American original. The greatest of them all.
Like everyone else…