Lucille Désirée Ball was an American comedienne, actress, model, and film and television executive. She appeared on stage, screen and radio, but is primarily known as one of the most popular and influential television stars of all time.
Born August 6, 1911, she spent most of her childhood in or near Jamestown, New York. She became involved in show business by performing as a chorus girl in a Shriners
show at age 12. After attending drama school she found work as a fashion model and actress in New York City. In the 1930s she moved to Hollywood and began appearing in small movie roles. Eventually she moved up to starring in B-movies
, so many in fact that she came to be known as "Queen of the B's." Among her better known films are Stage Door
and Five Came Back
. She also worked in the theater and in radio.
In 1940 she met and eloped with bandleader Desi Arnaz. 1948 saw her cast in a successful radio program called My Favorite Husband
soon decided to develop for television. She insisted that Arnaz be cast as her husband on the show and, after a vaudeville
tour to prove that the pairing worked, CBS agreed. I Love Lucy
ensued. It was followed by two more successful sitcoms which extended her television career through 1974. During this time she continued to appear occasionally in movies and on Broadway. She also co-founded Desilu Studios
Attempts at a television come-back in the 1980s
failed. She died on April 26, 1989 at the age of 77.
Her career provides examples of:
- Dye Hard: Born brunette, turned blonde and finally dyed her hair her signature red after a request from MGM.
- Elopement: How she married Desi Arnaz.
- Hide Your Pregnancy: While filming the I Love Lucy pilot.
- Hollywood Tone-Deaf: She worked a lot in theater, so her singing voice was tolerable, if not stellar, but she could at least carry a tune, totally unlike Lucy Ricardo's wailing screech. Take a listen.
- Improv: Very much averted. Ball rehearsed each scene until it was perfect and stuck to the script. One of the few instances where a scene went sideways and stayed in the final cut was when her fake nose caught on fire and was extinguished by dunking it in a glass of water.
- Love at First Sight: Essentially a real life example with Arnaz, though Ball herself quipped, "It wasn't love at first sight. It took a full five minutes."
- Raised by Grandparents: After her father died, the family moved in with her grandparents. Later, after her mother remarried, Ball lived for a time with her step-grandparents.
- Really Seventeen Years Old: Claimed to be three years younger than she really was while Arnaz added three years to his age, possibly to defray any social stigma around an older woman marrying a younger man.
- She's Got Legs: Hell yes.
- Slapstick Knows No Gender
- Stage Names: For a time she called herself Diane Belmont.
- Written-In Infirmity: Her second pregnancy.