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Also Known As: Diane Belmont, Lucille Desiree Ball Died: April 26, 1989
Born: August 6, 1911 Cause of Death: cardiac arrest after open heart surgery
Birth Place: Jamestown, New York, USA Profession: actor, comedian, producer, executive, singer, dancer, model, secretary, waitress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

As one of America's most beloved comediennes and one of Hollywood's more astute businesswomen, the legendary Lucille Ball rose from being a B-movie film actress to one of television's most iconic figures, boasting more than 50 years of continuous employment in Hollywood. Because of her eternally syndicated sitcom, "I Love Lucy" (CBS, 1951-57), which broke new ground in too many areas to count, Ball remained a constant presence on the small screen and, consequently, remained well-known to subsequent generations of fans. Prior to "I Love Lucy," Ball took over the mantle of "Queen of the Bs" from Fay Wray after appearing in a number of B-movies, with the occasional A-list project like the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicles "Top Hat" (1935) and "Follow the Fleet" (1936) classing up her résumé. She delivered a fine turn in "Stage Door" (1937) and served as the Marx Brothers' foil in "Room Service" (1938). After meeting and marrying Cuban-born actor-bandleader Desi Arnaz in 1940, Ball propelled her career as the star of the radio show "My Favorite Husband" (CBS, 1948-1951), which served as a precursor to "I Love Lucy." Though CBS was initially resistant to pairing the Caucasian Ball with the Cuban Arnaz...

As one of America's most beloved comediennes and one of Hollywood's more astute businesswomen, the legendary Lucille Ball rose from being a B-movie film actress to one of television's most iconic figures, boasting more than 50 years of continuous employment in Hollywood. Because of her eternally syndicated sitcom, "I Love Lucy" (CBS, 1951-57), which broke new ground in too many areas to count, Ball remained a constant presence on the small screen and, consequently, remained well-known to subsequent generations of fans. Prior to "I Love Lucy," Ball took over the mantle of "Queen of the Bs" from Fay Wray after appearing in a number of B-movies, with the occasional A-list project like the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicles "Top Hat" (1935) and "Follow the Fleet" (1936) classing up her résumé. She delivered a fine turn in "Stage Door" (1937) and served as the Marx Brothers' foil in "Room Service" (1938). After meeting and marrying Cuban-born actor-bandleader Desi Arnaz in 1940, Ball propelled her career as the star of the radio show "My Favorite Husband" (CBS, 1948-1951), which served as a precursor to "I Love Lucy." Though CBS was initially resistant to pairing the Caucasian Ball with the Cuban Arnaz as a believable husband and wife, the network had a change of heart after the couple launched a smash-hit vaudeville show, which green lit one of the most popular and enduring sitcoms of all time. Following Ball's painful split with Arnaz in 1960, she executed a number of savvy business moves as head of her own studio, Desilu, while launching two more successful sitcoms, "The Lucy Show" (CBS, 1962-68) and "Here's Lucy" (CBS, 1968-74). Though her popularity waned in the 1970s and 1980s, as evidenced by the rapid failure of "Life with Lucy" (ABC, 1986), Ball was forever cemented as a comic legend whose influence spanned generations.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Bungle Abbey (1981) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 That's Entertainment! III (1994) Song Performer
2.
 Wisecracks (1991) Herself (Archival Footage)
3.
 Entertaining the Troops (1989) Herself
4.
 Stone Pillow (1985) Florabelle
5.
 Mame (1974) Mame
6.
 Yours, Mine, and Ours (1968) Helen North
8.
 Critic's Choice (1963) Angela Ballantine
9.
 The Facts of Life (1960) Kitty Weaver
10.
 Forever, Darling (1956) Susan Vega
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Celoron, NY
1927:
Hired to dance in touring company of "Rio Rita" but fired because she couldn't handle choreography; later fired from chorus jobs in three shows (date approximate)
:
Changed professional name to Diane Belmont in the late 1920s
1929:
Feature film debut in "Bulldog Drummond"
1931:
Worked briefly as a Hattie Carnegie model before being paralyzed from waist down with rheumatoid arthritis; cured two years later (date approximate)
1933:
Selected as a Goldwyn Girl to appear in "Roman Scandals," starring Eddie Cantor
1935:
Joined Columbia appearing in bit parts, walk-ons and as a foil for the Three Stooges; first film billing in "Carnival"; fired by Columbia in an economy move
1935:
Signed by RKO
1937:
Breakthrough film, "Stage Door"
1938:
Acted in "Room Service," supporting the Marx Brothers
:
Played leading roles in a number of B films for RKO including "The Affairs of Annabel" (1938) and "Five Came Back" (1939)
1940:
First acted onscreen with Desi Arnaz in "Too Many Girls"
1942:
Starred opposite Henry Fonda in "The Big Street," playing the uncharacteristically dramatic role of a crippled nightclub singer
1942:
Signed by MGM to be groomed as musical star; learned comic use of props on backlot from Buster Keaton
1943:
Teamed with Red Skelton in the film version of the Broadway musical "Du Barry Was a Lady"
1946:
Worked freelance after MGM contract expired
:
Starred on radio in "My Favorite Husband" playing a scatter-brained wife opposite actor Richard Denning
1949:
First screen teaming with Bob Hope in "Sorrowful Jones"
1949:
Returned to Columbia with a three-picture deal
1950:
Again appeared opposite Hope in "Fancy Pants"
1951:
Formed Desilu Productions Arnaz
1951:
Starred in the TV sitcom, "I Love Lucy" (CBS); she and Arnaz had undertaken a stage tour in part to prove to CBS executives that audiences would accept them as a married couple and that they could work together as a team
1954:
Co-starred with Arnaz in "The Long, Long Trailer"
1956:
Reteamed with Arnaz for the feature "Forever Darling"
1957:
Desilu Productions bought old RKO Studio lot (date approximate)
:
Appeared in a series of one-hour specials under the umbrella title of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour/The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show"; episodes aired as part of "Desilu Playhouse"
1960:
Reteamed with Bob Hope for the feature "The Facts of Life"
1960:
Starred in Broadway musical "Wildcat"; run cut short reportedly due to Ball's health
:
As president of Desilu, became first woman ever to head a major Hollywood film production company
1962:
Bought out Desi Arnaz's share of Desilu
1962:
Starred in the popular TV sitcom "The Lucy Show" (CBS); show reteamed her with sidekick Vivian Vance and also featured Gale Gordon
1963:
Starred opposite Bob Hope in "Critics Choice"
1967:
Sold Desilu to Gulf + Western
1967:
Formed Lucille Ball Productions
1968:
Co-starred with Henry Fonda in the feature comedy about a blended family "Yours, Mine and Ours"
1968:
Starred on the popular CBS sitcom "Here's Lucy"; show featured her real-life children playing her screen character's kids
1974:
Made final feature film, the critically-derided adaptation of the Broadway musical "Mame"
1980:
Signed production deal with NBC, made one special and a pilot for a proposed series that was not picked up
1985:
TV-movie debut playing the dramatic role of a homeless woman in "The Stone Pillow" (CBS)
1986:
Starred on the short-lived ABC sitcom "Life with Lucy"
1989:
Last public appearance on the annual Academy Awards telecast
1991:
Portrayed by Frances Fisher in the CBS biopic "Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter"
1993:
Daughter Lucie compiled personal home movies to create the award-winning special "Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie" for NBC
1996:
Long-lost autobiography <i>Love, Lucy</i> published
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Chautauqua Musical Institute: Chatauqua , New York -
John Murray Anderson-Robert Milton Drama School: New York , New York - 1927

Notes

Inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame (1984), the founding year of the honor. A statue of Ball sits atop a fountain outside the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences headquarters in North Hollywood.

Ball was Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club's Woman of the Year in 1988

She was posthumously awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989

On August 7, 2001, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp honoring the comedienne.

Ball's greatest career threat came in the 1950s when she was investigated by the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities for being a former member of the communist party. Arnaz told the press, "The only thing red about Lucy is her hair, and that's not even real." It was revealed that Ball's beloved grandfather, who had been more like a father in her life, was a left-winger. Communist party meetings may have been held at her home (when she was not there) by her grandfather. And, as she later told HUAC when confronted with a party membership card with her signature, she may have done that "just to keep grandfather happy in his old age." In fact, Ball was almost entirely apolitical and in the 1950s had not even bothered to vote for many years. Although the investigation caused CBS a scare--she was after all their biggest star--Ball was cleared of all suspicions and only the most fanatic anti-Communist held her past against her.

In an attempt to recreate the talent development program at RKO in which she had thrived, Ball started the Desilu Playhouse in the 1960s, gathering almost two dozen young performers to train by acting in plays. She maintained the program for about two years, when it was abandoned due to the time constraints of her career. Although no performer in the program became a "star", the list included Carole Cook, a frequently-working character player, and Robert Osborne, who later became a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter and the on-camera host for Turner Classic Movies. Osborne had acted in what was to be a regular series role in the pilot of "The Beverly Hillbillies", but dropped out of that sitcom in order to participate in the Desilu talent program.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Desi Arnaz. Actor, director, producer, bandleader. Married on November 30, 1940; filed for divorce in 1944; reconciled; reaffirmed marriage vows in a Catholic wedding ceremony on June 14, 1949; divorced in March 1960; died on December 2, 1986.
husband:
Gary Morton. Comedian, producer. Married from November 1961 until her death; died of lung cancer on March 30, 1999 at age 74.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Henry Ball. Telephone lineman. Died c. 1915.
mother:
Desiree Ball. Concert pianist. Married second husband Edward Peterson; divorced after one year.
daughter:
Lucie Arnaz. Actor. Born on July 17, 1951; married actor Laurence Luckinbill.
son:
Desi Arnaz Jr. Actor, singer. Born on January 19, 1953.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Lucy: The Bittersweet Life of Lucille Ball"
"The Lucille Ball Story"
"Loving Lucy" St. Martin's Press
"Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball" Hyperion
"Laughs, Luck ... and Lucy" Syracuse University Press
"Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz" William Morrow
"Lucy & Desi" Simon & Schuster
"Lucy: The Real Life of Lucille Ball" St. Martin's Press
"I Love Lucy" Warner Books
"Love, Lucy" G.P. Putnam's Sons
"I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball" St. Martin's Press
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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