Lucille Ball - more than just a Funny Face

by Ponderings Radio

Lucille Ball -More Than Just A Funny Face

Words by Cassidy Krygger

Who doesn’t love Lucy?

One of the most recognized and beloved female comedians of all time, with her famous red hair and hilarious antics that captivated audiences and changed the face of television forever. Lucy was a trailblazer in smashing the glass ceilings of her time.

Lucille Desiree Ball was born on August 6, 1911, in New York.

She had a childhood of tragedy and hardship with her father passing away when she was just three years old; her mother went on to marry a man who was not fond of children and left her and her brother Fred to be raised by her new husband’s parents. In her teenage years, Lucy discovered a passion for performing, and in her early twenties, she moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in the movies.

After years of steady film work but failing to advance her movie career past minor roles, in the late 1940s Lucy began to work freelance and star in radio programs.

Catching the eye (or ear) of television executives, they offered her a chance to bring one of her more successful radio shows, My Favourite Husband to the small screen. She saw this as an excellent opportunity to work with her new husband, Cuban musician and actor Desi Arnaz. And I Love Lucy was born. From the beginning, Lucy and Desi were in control. They insisted that the show was filmed in Hollywood and recorded on film instead of the cheaper and usual option for television, kinescope. Taking a pay cut to ensure they would receive full rights to the show, Lucy and Desi began their production studio, Desilu Productions.

I Love Lucy debuted in 1951 and was a runaway smash hit.

Engaging in storylines and changing the perception of women on screen, Lucy was a woman in her 40s when she had her most significant success at a time when most successes in Hollywood didn’t happen to women past their 20s. She was also the first openly pregnant woman to show her pregnancy on screen. And when she gave birth to her son Desi Arnaz Jr in January 1953, her TV character also gave birth to Little Ricky on the same night with more than 40 million people tuning in. It went on to become one of the most publicized childbirths in American history.

After an unbeaten six-year run, the show ended and with that so did the twenty-year marriage of Lucy and Desi. Following the divorce, Lucy bought out Desi’s share in Desilu Productions, making her the first woman to run a major TV production studio in Hollywood.

Throughout the 1960s, the production company continued to churn out hit TV shows such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mission: Impossible and Star Trek.

She succeeded in making Desilu Productions  once again profitable after a slight decline and sold the company in 1967 to Paramount Pictures for $17 million ($128 million in 2018).

Lucy received thirteen Emmy nominations and four Emmy awards throughout her career,

a Kennedy Center Honor and in 1989 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Fearlessly brave, funny and a woman who wasn’t afraid to break the constraints of the 1950s gender prejudice, Lucy triumphed. Many of today’s comedians and actors still count Lucy as an influence on their work. Lucille passed away on April 26, 1989, leaving behind her two children and a body of work that still connects to us and makes us laugh today.

“I love Lucy was never just a title.” – Desi Arnaz