Lucille Ball

One of the most powerful personalities in the world of television, Lucille Ball virtually defined an era of entertainment.  Along the way, she established herself as a brilliant comedienne, built a small Hollywood empire, and even shot down a few antiquated notions about women.  Of course, we hardly noticed any of that because we were too busy laughing.  Maybe that's why, fifty years later,
       we still love Lucy.

Don't let the clowning fool you--

Lucy was also one of the smartest women in

the entertainment industry.  She and her

husband, Desi Arnaz, built their own

entertainment empire (Desilu Productions)

during a time when most entertainers were

chained to the studio or network systems.

Lucy's brand of comedy could sometimes get a little rough.  In the famous "candy factory" episode, the "fake" slapping fight she had with a fellow candywrapper actually involved a couple of pretty good whacks.
     And in an Italian grape-stomping scene in which a similar tussle was staged, Lucy later said that she was afraid she was going to drown in the vat of grape juice when the other actress became a bit too enthusiastic
.

A FEMININE FACE ON COMEDY

  One of the most important things that Lucy showed us was that women could be funny and attractive all at once--a groundbreaking concept for the day. This was  particularly admirable given that Lucy was beautiful enough to be a conventional film star, and, in fact had become a Hollywood movie sensation as "Queen of the B-Movies." But she shrugged off the persona of a cool beauty, instead revelling in the chance to get a laugh. She was never afraid to look foolish, silly, or even ugly for the sake of a good gag and her public loved her for it. By proving this formula, she paved the way for generations of funny women to come. Think of Carol Burnett, Roseanne, Gilda Radner, and Candice Bergen--they all owe at least a part of their success to the amazing Lucy.

T h e   L u c y   P h e n o m e n o n

When I Love Lucy aired on Monday nights, the country came to a virtual standstill to watch it.   More than ten million T.V. sets were tuned in to the show on those nights (there were only fifteen million in the U.S. at the time). In 1952, when presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson interrupted the show for a campaign pitch, he was deluged by angry viewers.  (One woman wrote "I love Lucy. I like Ike. Drop dead.") The department store Marshall Field's moved its evening shopping hours from Monday to Thursday, because business was so bad on that night. (They put up a sign saying "We love Lucy, too.") More people watched the show that announced Little Ricky's birth in 1953 than watched the swearing in of Eisenhower as the new president.  In fact, the "Lucy Goes to the Hospital" episode drew a 92 percent share and a 71.1 Nielsen rating--a record which stood for decades.
Lucy WAS BORN IN JAMESTOWN, NEW YORK, ON AUGUST 6, 1911. She was born to be
an entertainer, and would often herd her neighborhood friends into impromptu plays and
productions. She was amazingly ambitious from an early age, and took off for New York City to
find stardom when she was only fifteen years old. HARD KNOCKS AND HARD WORK best
define Lucy's road to success. Her early experience in show business would have turned back all
but the most stubborn of personalities. Her first acting school coach recommended that she find
a different career, and she was fired from her first four chorus-line jobs. Lucy's first break came

when she landed a chorus girl role in a movie called Roman Scandals. She headed to Hollywood,

where she began to get other small movie roles,
and eventually worked her way up the ladder to
success. BUT EVEN AS THE STAR OF HER 
OWN SHOW, she is remembered as being the
hardest working person on the set. Lucy's brand
of comedy was highly energetic, and demanded
a great deal of physical stamina. During her
pregnancy, her fellow actors remember Lucy
leaving the set for a few minutes to throw up,
then coming right back to start again. No
complaints. THAT KIND OF ENERGY DEFINED HER ENTIRE LIFE.  She ran production companies
(Lucille Ball Productions came after Desilu), created more classic television (including The Lucy Show
and Here's Lucy), raised two children (Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, IV), starred on Broadway, and 
acted in a total of eighty movies. She won four Emmy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Citation from
the Kennedy Center, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.  When she died in 1989, she left behind a
public that revered her as an American icon.  Her most important legacy, of course, is the classic T.V.
and movie moments that she created. Our Lucy might appreciate being missed, but--let's face it--she
would most like the fact she can still make us laugh.