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Who is Lucille Ball?

Lucille Ball was a trailblazing comedienne and actress, best known for her iconic role in "I Love Lucy." Her pioneering spirit reshaped television, and her comedic genius continues to inspire. With her production company, Desilu, she broke barriers as a powerful woman in a male-dominated industry. Curious about how Lucille's legacy lives on in today's entertainment world? Let's delve deeper.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Lucille Ball, born 6 August 1911, in Jamestown, New York, is known and loved worldwide as "Lucy". Lucille Ball did it all in the entertainment industry -- from feature films to radio to television and even some modeling and vaudeville. Her situation comedy "I Love Lucy" remained at number one in the television ratings for four out of the six years it aired.

Ball was struck by the acting bug as a teen and quit high school at age 15 to pursue her dream. She did not find much acting work in her early years, but instead became successful as a model. By the time she was 18 years old, however, she would begin a career that would include over 70 feature films. At first, Ball had unbilled bit parts, then she was billed as Diane Belmont before she was known as Lucille Ball. She was under contract first with Columbia in 1934 and then Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in 1943. She quickly became an accomplished film actress, but not yet the break-out star she would later become.

"I Love Lucy" is still watched in syndication reruns by many people worldwide today.
"I Love Lucy" is still watched in syndication reruns by many people worldwide today.

Three years before "I Love Lucy" debuted on 15 October 1951, Lucille Ball played a housewife on the radio show "My Favorite Husband." The radio work showcased her talents, such as her distinctive, entertaining voice. Lucille Ball made her radio housewife role funny and interesting, but it was television that made the most of her talents.

Before Lucille Ball, the world had never seen such a beautiful woman act quite so silly on television. Physical comedy was a man's domain, with the likes of Dick Van Dyke and the Three Stooges. But the sight of Lucille Ball's Lucy Ricardo character stomping grapes in a vat up to her knees, trying to imitate the Italian women crushing grapes, was hilarious. The way Lucy tried to keep up with the conveyor belt in a chocolate factory by stuffing candy in her hat, her mouth, both cheeks, with her eyes bulging was definitely one of the funniest and most remembered scenes in the history of television.

Lucille Ball, as Lucy Ricardo, had the endearing quality of being larger than life and yet very much down to earth. For instance, Lucy's laughter, cries, and physical movements were often exaggerated and her personality was way over the top. Lucy was always scheming how to get into show business or thinking that her husband was trying to deceive her. Yet, even with the comic-strip bright red hair, Lucille Ball never made the character into a flat cartoon, but rather as a well rounded, believable, and lovable character.

Lucille Ball's Lucy Ricardo was real to her audience like a much welcome old friend. She gave an emotional sincerity to Lucy that the audience felt. For example, the almost infant-like wailing and sobbing that was the character's common reaction when her plans went awry, which they always did, was certainly over the top, yet hilarious and believable all at the same time.

Ball won five Emmy Awards and in 1984 she was the first female to enter The Television Academy Hall of Fame. She and Desi Arnaz, who played Lucy's husband Ricky on the show, were married for 20 years and had two children, Lucie and Desi Jr.

Lucille Ball received Desilu Productions ownership after her and Desi's divorce in 1970 and went on to produce three more "Lucy" series: "The Lucy Show," "Here's Lucy," and "Life with Lucy." The latter was a flop and was pulled after eight weeks on the air, but her fans loved and continue to love Lucille Ball. "I Love Lucy" is still watched in syndication reruns by many people worldwide today. Lucille Ball died 26 April 1989 of acute aorta aneurysm.

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Discussion Comments

KoiwiGal

@browncoat - I'll never understand why they had such an issue with something that happens to most women in the world several times in their lifetime. And if I remember correctly, the episode where she has the baby was one of the most watched episodes in history, so obviously people wanted to know what happened.

browncoat

@bythewell - They had all kinds of firsts on that show. Lucy was pregnant on the show, for example, because Lucille was pregnant in real life and showing a woman in that condition was never done before on television. It was so taboo they weren't even allowed to say "pregnant" on the show.

bythewell

Something I only realized after reading about it online was that I Love Lucy was probably the first instance of a mixed race couple on television and it was done without any emphasis that it was unusual.

That's something that rarely gets accomplished today, let alone back then and they did it without it even being an issue, in an age where they weren't even allowed to imply that a married couple was sleeping in the same bed. That is one of the reasons that Lucille Ball will always be a hero to me.

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    • "I Love Lucy" is still watched in syndication reruns by many people worldwide today.
      By: Africa Studio
      "I Love Lucy" is still watched in syndication reruns by many people worldwide today.