Lucille Ball


Actor, Comedian
Lucille Ball

About

Also Known As
Diane Belmont, Lucille Desiree Ball
Birth Place
Jamestown, New York, USA
Born
August 06, 1911
Died
April 26, 1989
Cause of Death
Cardiac Arrest After Open Heart Surgery

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 ...

Photos & Videos

Dance, Girl, Dance - Movie Poster
Lured - Movie Poster
Follow the Fleet - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Family & Companions

Desi Arnaz
Husband
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.
Gary Morton
Husband
Comedian, producer. Married from November 1961 until her death; died of lung cancer on March 30, 1999 at age 74.

Bibliography

"I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball"
Lee Tannen, St. Martin's Press (2001)
"Laughs, Luck ... and Lucy"
Jess Oppenheimer, Syracuse University Press (1996)
"Love, Lucy"
Lucille Ball, G.P. Putnam's Sons (1996)
"Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball"
Kathleen Brady, Hyperion (1995)

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

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 resume. 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.

Born on Aug. 6, 1911 in Jamestown, NY, Ball was raised by her father, Henry, a telephone lineman who died of typhoid fever in 1915, and her mother, Desiree, a concert pianist. While her father was still alive, Ball moved around because of his job, taking up residence in Montana and Michigan. When her mother remarried four years after her father's death, however, Ball found herself placed in the care of her strict Puritan step-grandparents, who inflicted emotional and psychological strain. Meanwhile, her maternal grandfather loved the theater and frequently took the family to see vaudeville shows, even encouraging the young Ball to participate in school plays. When she was 12, Ball was further encouraged into show business by her stepfather to entertain his cohorts at the Shriners club. A few years later, she attended the John Murray Anderson-Robert Milton Drama School in New York, where she was a classmate of an 18-year-old Bette Davis. After adopting the stage name Diane Belmont and being fired from several chorus jobs, she retreated to her home in Celoron, NY, where she spent two years battling the crippling effects of rheumatoid arthritis.

Returning to New York in the early 1930s, Ball returned to working as a model for Hattie Carnegie while also doing time as a Chesterfield cigarette girl. She soon embarked on a Hollywood career, which at first consisted mostly of walk-ons and bit roles before she was turned into a glamorous Goldwyn showgirl in Eddie Cantor musicals like "Roman Scandals" (1933). Put under contract by Columbia, the then-blonde, statuesque actress continued to appear in small roles - most notably as a foil for the Three Stooges - before her option was dropped. RKO hired Ball at the urging of producer Pandro S. Berman, who featured her in supporting roles in the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers films "Roberta" (1935), "Top Hat" (1935) and "Follow the Fleet" (1936). Playing alongside Ginger Rogers - whose mother also mentored Ball - and Katharine Hepburn, she won strong notices for her turn as a tough, aspiring actress in "Stage Door" (1937). But the comedic side of Ball began to emerge when she supported the Marx Brothers in "Room Service" (1938), and essayed a wacky actress in "The Affairs of Annabel" (1938) and its sequels. Not surprisingly, the actress idolized her fellow RKO contract player, screwball comedy queen Carole Lombard, then one of the biggest stars in town. She would go on to credit the actress as her comic inspiration who often gave her career advice, even after Lombard's tragic airplane death in 1942, with Ball telling friends Carole frequently came to her in her dreams for decades after the accident.

Ball further proved adept at playing jaded sophisticates in the college musicals "Too Many Girls" (1940), where she first laid eyes on Cuban bandleader and Conga King Desi Arnaz, who had a bit part as a bellhop in the musical. After a brief and passionate courtship, the two later eloped that same year, only to see Ball file for divorce in 1944 due to wartime separations and rumors of his serial infidelity on the road. But after receiving an interlocutory decree, she reconciled with Arnaz who was not ready to let her go. Meanwhile, both agreed that Ball being six years older than Arnaz was verboten, leading to both claiming to have been born in 1914. Meanwhile, she continued making movies with "Best Foot Forward" (1943) and excelled as a hard-hearted nightclub star in the Damon Runyon melodrama "The Big Street" (1942), co-starring Henry Fonda. After signing with MGM, Ball - nicknamed by the PR department as "Technicolor Tessie" due to her now fiery hennaed hair and brilliant blue eyes - starred in the film version of the hit Broadway musical "Du Barry Was a Lady" (1943) opposite Red Skelton, but the majority of her subsequent vehicles favored her male co-stars. Failing to break-out as a film star, she launched a successful radio career in the late 1940s, starring as a dizzy housewife in the comedy "My Favorite Husband" (CBS, 1947-51). That success led to slightly improved studio vehicles like "The Fuller Brush Girl" (1950), and two fine comedies opposite Bob Hope, "Fancy Pants" (1949) and "Sorrowful Jones" (1950).

Perhaps sensing that her film career was stalled and she was not getting any younger, Ball turned to the fledgling medium of television to reinvent herself. Asked to recreate her radio persona in a comedy series, she insisted that Cuban-born husband Arnaz be her co-star. CBS executives balked at the idea, claiming that audiences would not accept them as a married couple, despite the laughable fact that they already were. To assuage those concerns, Ball and Arnaz formed Desilu Productions in 1950 and embarked on a successful vaudeville tour that proved not only that audiences would embrace them as a couple, but also that they could work together and not seriously compromise their marriage. Though CBS was initially unimpressed with the pilot for "I Love Lucy" (CBS, 1951-57), the strength of their vaudeville tour was enough for the network to put it on their schedule. It became an almost instant hit while rapidly transforming the way television was made. Due in large part to Arnaz's genius, the show forfeited the then popular Kinescope process and instead filmed with the then-pioneering three-camera technique in front of a studio audience, which would go on to define a sitcom taping. The show - which Arnaz wisely insisted the couple own - defined the prototype for the situation comedy, focusing on the antics of a married couple mirroring their own selves and their landlords, the Mertzes (Vivian Vance and William Frawley).

From the series' debut in October 1951, Ball emerged a full-fledged star, with viewers tuning in weekly to laugh at her zany antics and well-meaning schemes, which utilized every aspect of her comedic talents. As an inept homemaker who yearns to break into show business despite her band leader husband's constant refusals, Ball's Lucy Ricardo went to great lengths to prove herself, only to cause unmitigated disaster as a result. Whether she was stuffing chocolates in her mouth off a conveyor built, becoming increasingly drunk while pitching a vitamin tonic, or mimicking Harpo Marx during a trip to Hollywood, Ball engaged in dexterous physical comedy or absurd disguises, but still emerged with her dignity and lady-like persona in tact. Meanwhile, many real-life situations that cropped up in Ball and Arnaz's lives made it into the show, most notably when she became pregnant with their second child, Desi Arnaz, Jr. Ball and Arnaz had the pregnancy written into the show, though the network refused them to use the word "pregnant" on air, making them opt for "expecting" instead. Though not the first onscreen pregnancy - the sitcom "Mary Kay and Johnny" (CBS/NBC, 1947-1950) held that honor - "I Love Lucy" certainly was the most famous early example, with the on-screen birth of Little Ricky coinciding with the birth of their actual son in real life and becoming a bigger news event than the inauguration of President Dwight Eisenhower.

In 1953, Ball - then at the peak of her popularity - was dragged into the Red Scare when she gave sealed testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee, in which she answered questions about her registering to vote as a Communist in 1936. Ball told the committee that she had done so only at the insistence of her socialist grandfather. The public believed her and she was one of the few accused to emerge unscathed. Meanwhile, after nearly six years - during which their marriage was rocked by Arnaz's increasing alcoholism and womanizing - Ball and Arnaz ended the series in favor of a series of one-hour comedy specials. Featuring the characters of "I Love Lucy" that aired originally as part of "Desilu Playhouse," the show was packaged as "The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show/The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" (CBS, 1957-1960). Having wisely retained all the rights to "I Love Lucy" after its initial broadcast, the couple racked up enormous profits from the sale of its syndication rights, an unheard of event in the early 1950s. Eventually, Arnaz and Ball sold the filmed episodes back to CBS for a tidy profit and the show continued to air somewhere in the world well into the new millennium. They also purchased RKO, the studio they had worked at when they had first met, christening it Desilu, which Arnaz skillfully ran, almost to the detriment of his marriage. In 1960, Arnaz and Ball shocked fans when they divorced just two months after filming the final episode of "Comedy Hour," though the two remained close friends until Arnaz's death in 1986, even though both would go on to remarry. In fact, both made it clear in books and interviews that each was the love of the other's life. Meanwhile, she attempted to re-establish herself in other venues, headlining the musical "Wildcat" (1960), which proved too grueling and forced her withdrawal for health reasons. Ball fared slightly better in a big screen reteaming with Bob Hope in "The Facts of Life" (1960), though ultimately television once again proved to be her most viable medium. She simply could not exist without the instant feedback of a cheering television audience.

After assuming the position as head of Desilu Productions in the wake of Arnaz's departure, Ball was in the enviable position as one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, heading a major production company. But soon she bought out Arnaz's share in 1962 and five years later sold the company to Gulf + Western for a substantial profit, making her an even wealthier woman. Before the sale of Desilu, however, Ball embarked on another successful sitcom, "The Lucy Show" (CBS, 1962-68) which featured old friend Vivian Vance and new stock players, Gale Gordon and Mary Jane Croft. She starred as a widow with two children who, along with divorcee friend (Vance), concoct harebrained, get-rich-quick schemes while seeking to meet eligible men. A top-rated show even in its final year, Ball decided to pull the plug after the sale of Desilu in favor of "Here's Lucy" (CBS, 1968-74), which became the first show under her new banner, Lucille Ball Productions. The sitcom featured Ball as an employee at an unemployment agency who battles her cantankerous boss (Gordon) while raising her two increasingly independent teenage children (real-life kids Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr.). Another sitcom success, "Here's Lucy" lost its ratings edge in the final season and was canceled in 1974, marking an end to Ball's long run as a regularly seen television star. She spent a few years enjoying a more settled married life with comic Gary Morton, whom she had wed in 1961 in the wake of her painful split with Arnaz.

Disgruntled with CBS and with the kinds of issue-oriented sitcoms proliferating during the 1970s, Ball signed a deal with rival network NBC and in 1980 made a 90-minute special that included a pilot in which Donald O'Connor starred alongside a banjo-playing teenager. Although Ball proclaimed at the end of the special "That's what I call entertainment!," the network and sponsors felt it was far from it, showing that Ball's influence in TV had considerably waned. But she did not remain entirely idle. Ball undertook a dramatic role as a homeless woman in the TV movie "The Stone Pillow" (CBS, 1985). Her fans reacted with horror and the critics were divided over her performance. Many could not get past her larger-than-life TV personality and could only see the comic "Lucy" rather than an actress. Deciding to give series television another whirl, Ball portrayed a free-spirited grandmother on "Life with Lucy" (ABC, 1986), which was produced with Aaron Spelling and had a 22-episode guaranteed order from the network. But the show flopped almost immediately and was off the air within weeks with some filmed episodes never shown. Reportedly depressed from this outcome, the aging Ball confined her remaining TV appearances to awards specials and talk shows. After making her final appearance alongside Bob Hope at the 61st Academy Awards, Ball underwent heart surgery and received an aorta replacement. Though appearing to recover, she suffered a rupture and died on April 26, 1989, as the world held its collective breath. Ball was just 77 years old. Years after her death, the manuscript for a long-lost autobiography was found in a filing cabinet. Covering her life into the 1960s, Love, Lucy became an instant bestseller when it was published in 1996, while "I Love Lucy" continued to air in syndication, most likely into perpetuity.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

That's Entertainment! III (1994)
Wisecracks (1991)
Herself
Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Herself
Stone Pillow (1985)
Mame (1974)
Yours, Mine, and Ours (1968)
Helen North
A Guide for the Married Man (1967)
Critic's Choice (1963)
Angela Ballantine
The Facts of Life (1960)
Kitty Weaver
Forever, Darling (1956)
Susan Vega
The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
Tacy Collini
The Magic Carpet (1951)
Narah
The Fuller Brush Girl (1950)
Sally Elliott
Fancy Pants (1950)
Agatha Floud
Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949)
Ellen Grant
Sorrowful Jones (1949)
Gladys O'Neill
Easy Living (1949)
Anne
Her Husband's Affairs (1947)
Margaret Weldon
Lured (1947)
Sandra Carpenter
Hollywood Bound (1946)
Easy to Wed (1946)
Gladys Benton
The Dark Corner (1946)
Kathleen Stuart
Two Smart People (1946)
Ricki Woodner
Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
Dancer in "Here's to the Girls"
Lover Come Back (1946)
Kay Williams
Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hollywood (1945)
Herself
Without Love (1945)
Kitty Trimble
Thousands Cheer (1944)
Meet the People (1944)
Julie Hampton
Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
May Daly/Mme. Du Barry
Best Foot Forward (1943)
Herself
Valley of the Sun (1942)
Christine Larson
The Big Street (1942)
Gloria Lyons
Seven Days' Leave (1942)
Terry Havelock-Allen
Look Who's Laughing (1941)
Julie Patterson
A Girl, a Guy and a Gob (1941)
Dot Duncan
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
Bubbles [also known as Tiger Lily]
Too Many Girls (1940)
Connie Casey
You Can't Fool Your Wife (1940)
Clara Hinklin/Mercedes Vasquez
Marines Fly High (1940)
Joan Grant
That's Right--You're Wrong (1939)
Sandra Sand
Panama Lady (1939)
Lucy
Beauty for the Asking (1939)
Jean Russell
Five Came Back (1939)
Peggy [Nolan]
Twelve Crowded Hours (1939)
Paula Sanders
Having Wonderful Time (1938)
Miriam
Room Service (1938)
Christine [Marlowe]
Next Time I Marry (1938)
Nancy Crocker Fleming
Go Chase Yourself (1938)
Carol Meeley
The Affairs of Annabel (1938)
Annabel [Allison, also known as Mary Mason]
Annabel Takes a Tour (1938)
Annabel [Allison]
Joy of Living (1938)
Salina [Pine]
That Girl from Paris (1937)
Clair Williams
Stage Door (1937)
Judith [Canfield]
Don't Tell the Wife (1937)
Ann Howell
Bunker Bean (1936)
Miss Kelly
Chatterbox (1936)
Lillian Temple
The Farmer in the Dell (1936)
Gloria Wilson
Follow the Fleet (1936)
Kitty
The Three Musketeers (1935)
Lady in waiting
Old Man Rhythm (1935)
College girl
I'll Love You Always (1935)
Lucille
Carnival (1935)
Nurse
Roberta (1935)
Model
Behind the Evidence (1935)
Secretary
The Whole Town's Talking (1935)
I Dream Too Much (1935)
Gwendolyn Dilley
Top Hat (1935)
Flower shop clerk
Men of the Night (1934)
Peggy
Broadway Bill (1934)
Switchboard operator
Kid Millions (1934)
Girl in "Ice Cream Fantasy" sequence
Fugitive Lady (1934)
Beauty operator
Bottoms Up (1934)
Broadway Thru a Keyhole (1933)
Girl with Louie
Roman Scandals (1933)
Goldwyn girl
Blood Money (1933)
Woman at racetrack

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Wisecracks (1991)
Other
Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Other

Director (Special)

Bungle Abbey (1981)
Director

Cast (Special)

I Love Lucy: The Very First Show (1990)
The 61st Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1989)
Performer
America's Tribute to Bob Hope (1988)
Happy Birthday, Bob -- 50 Stars Salute Your 50 Years With NBC (1988)
Bob Hope's High-Flying Birthday Extravaganza (1987)
The Television Academy Hall of Fame (1987)
Performer
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1987)
A Beverly Hills Christmas (1987)
All Star Party for Clint Eastwood (1986)
The 38th Annual Emmy Awards (1986)
Performer
The American Film Institute Salute to Billy Wilder (1986)
Performer
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1986)
The ABC Fall Preview Special (1986)
Bob Hope Buys NBC? (1985)
The Night of 100 Stars II (1985)
All-Star Party For Lucille Ball (1984)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Hilarious Unrehearsed Antics of the Stars (1984)
Bob Hope Special: Happy Birthday, Bob! (1983)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Road to Hollywood (1983)
Guest
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Women I Love - Beautiful but Funny (1982)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's 30th Anniversary TV Special (1981)
The Music Mart (1980)
Sinatra: The First 40 Years (1980)
Lucy Moves to NBC (1980)
Herself
Cher and Other Fantasies (1979)
Bob Hope Special: Happy Birthday, Bob! (1978)
General Electric's All-Star Anniversary (1978)
A Tribute to "Mr. Television," Milton Berle (1978)
CBS: On the Air (1978)
Lucy Comes to Nashville (1978)
Gene Kelly... An American in Pasadena (1978)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's All-Star Comedy Tribute to Vaudeville (1977)
The Lucille Ball Special (1977)
Circus of the Stars (1977)
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's World of Comedy (1976)
A Lucille Ball Special: What Now, Catherine Curtis? (1976)
Catherine Curtis
CBS Salutes Lucy: the First 25 Years (1976)
Swing Out, Sweet Land (1976)
A Lucille Ball Special Starring Lucille Ball and Dean Martin (1975)
Lucy Collins
A Lucille Ball Special Starring Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason (1975)
Happy Anniversary and Goodbye (1974)
A Show Business Salute to Milton Berle (1973)
Steve and Eydie... On Stage (1973)
Frank Sinatra: Ol' Blue Eyes is Back (1973)
Herself
A Salute to Television's 25th Anniversary (1972)
Super Comedy Bowl 1 (1971)
Host
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Jack Benny but Were Afraid to Ask (1971)
Carol + 2 (1967)
Guest
The Wonderful World of Burlesque I (1965)
Guest
Opening Night (1962)
Hedda Hopper's Hollywood (1960)
Guest
The Desilu Revue (1959)

Producer (Special)

Bungle Abbey (1981)
Executive Producer
The Music Mart (1980)
Executive Producer
Lucy Moves to NBC (1980)
Executive Producer
The Lucille Ball Special (1977)
Executive Producer
A Lucille Ball Special: What Now, Catherine Curtis? (1976)
Executive Producer
A Lucille Ball Special Starring Lucille Ball and Dean Martin (1975)
Executive Producer
A Lucille Ball Special Starring Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason (1975)
Executive Producer
The Desilu Revue (1959)
Producer

Music (Special)

Happy Birthday, Bob -- 50 Stars Salute Your 50 Years With NBC (1988)
Song Performer

Misc. Crew (Special)

Lucy & Desi: TV's First Couple (1994)
Other
Lucy Moves to NBC (1980)
Other

Cast (Short)

One Live Ghost (1936)

Life Events

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)

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

1940

First acted onscreen with Desi Arnaz in "Too Many Girls"

1942

Signed by MGM to be groomed as musical star; learned comic use of props on backlot from Buster Keaton

1942

Starred opposite Henry Fonda in "The Big Street," playing the uncharacteristically dramatic role of a crippled nightclub singer

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

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)

1960

Starred in Broadway musical "Wildcat"; run cut short reportedly due to Ball's health

1960

Reteamed with Bob Hope for the feature "The Facts of Life"

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

Photo Collections

Dance, Girl, Dance - Movie Poster
Dance, Girl, Dance - Movie Poster
Lured - Movie Poster
Here is an original-release insert movie poster for Lured (1947), starring Lucille Ball. Inserts measured 14x36 inches.
Follow the Fleet - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Follow the Fleet (1936), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Five Came Back - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
Here is a photo taken behind-the-scenes during production of RKO's Five Came Back (1939).
Easy to Wed - Publicity Still
Here is a publicity still from MGM's Easy to Wed (1946), starring Esther Williams, Van Johnson, and Lucille Ball. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Easy to Wed - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from MGM's Easy to Wed (1946), starring Van Johnson, Esther Williams, and Lucille Ball. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Without Love - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Without Love (1945), starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Long, Long Trailer - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a number of Behind-the-Scenes photos taken during production of The Long, Long Trailer (1954), starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Too Many Girls - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Too Many Girls (1940), starring Lucille Ball and Richard Carlson (and Desi Arnaz in a supporting role). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Meet the People - Lobby Card Set
Here is a set of Lobby Cards from MGM's Meet the People (1944), starring Lucille Ball and Dick Powell. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Too Many Girls - Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for Too Many Girls (1940). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater. This pressbook was prepared for the 1957 reissue.
Du Barry Was a Lady - Movie Poster
Here is an American one-sheet movie poster for MGM's Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), starring Lucille Ball and Red Skelton. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Du Barry Was a Lady - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), starring Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Zero Mostel.
Best Foot Forward - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a group of photos taken behind-the-scenes of Best Foot Forward (1943), starring Lucille Ball.
Without Love - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Without Love (1945). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Easy to Wed - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Easy to Wed (1946). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Two Smart People - Publicity Art
Here is a piece of specialty art created by MGM to publicize Two Smart People (1946), starring Lucille Ball and John Hodiak.
Best Foot Forward - Movie Poster
Here is an original half-sheet movie poster of Best Foot Forward (1943). Artwork is by noted caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.
The Big Street - Scene Stills
Here are some scene stills from The Big Street (1942), starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda.
The Big Street - Publicity Still
Here is a Publicity Still from The Big Street (1942), starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) - Going Into Combat Henry Fonda (Frank) and Lucille Ball (as Helen) take turns narrating the introduction to the 1968 box office hit from United Artists, Yours, Mine and Ours, and yes, that is young Tim Matheson as "Mike."
Seven Days' Leave (1942) - A Touch Of Texas G-I Johnny (Victor Mature), about to inherit big money on the condition that he marry a daughter of the Havelock-Allen family, with buddies Speak and Bitsy (Peter Lind Hayes, Arnold Stang) and lawyer Gildersleeve (Harold Peary) meets singing Mickey (Marcy McGuire, rehearsing a Jimmy McHugh/Frank Loesser tune with Freddy Martin’s group) and dishy Terry (Lucille Ball), in RKO’s Seven Days’ Leave, 1942.
Seven Days' Leave (1942) - Can't Get Out Of This Mood Following complex machinations, G-I Johnny (Victor Mature) is about to confess to heiress Terry (Lucille Ball) that his romancing is motivated partly by a big inheritance, not realizing she’s way ahead of him, we cut to Ginny Simms with the Freddy Martin Orchestra, and another Jimmy McHugh/Frank Loesser tune, in RKO’s Seven Days’ Leave, 1942.
Easy Living (1949) - I Just Follow My Heart Of Gold First scene for Lucille Ball as football team secretary Anne, getting hustled for a loan by quarterback Pete (Victor Mature) who passed out during practice earlier that day, and for Lizabeth Scott as his wife Liza, whose motives are iffy, Lloyd Nolan everybody’s boss, in Easy Living, 1949.
Room Service (1938) - Just Before He Was Shot Opening with Groucho as a Broadway producer, Alexander Asro his waiter, Cliff Dunstan, his brother-in-law, Lucille Ball on the phone, in the only Marx Brothers film made at RKO, and the only one not written for them, but based on a Broadway hit by Allen Boretz and John Murray, Room Service, 1938.
Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) - The Good Die Young Navy nurse and widow Helen (Lucille Ball) narrates as she monitors teenage Colleen (Jennifer Leak) and finds our what's bothering Phillip (Eric Shea), early in Yours, Mine and Ours, 1968.
Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) - Toughest On The Kids Having just met, both widowed and each parenting many kids, nurse Helen (Lucille Ball) and officer Frank (Henry Fonda) in their respective uniforms talk about Frank's daughter's needs in Yours, Mine and Ours, 1968.
Lured (1947) - In Flew A Dead Duck Exhausted but witty London taxi dancers Sandy (Lucille Ball) and Lucy (Tanis Chandler) deal with a customer (Eddie Parks) an agent (Gerald Hamer) and a fateful personal ad, in an early scene from Douglas Sirk's Lured, 1947,
Lured (1947) - Why Do You Accept So Quickly? American Sandy (Lucille Ball), now working with the police investigating the murder of her taxi-dancer friend, meets the suspicious and suspected Van Druten (Boris Karloff) on a foggy London night in Douglas Sirk's Lured, 1947.
Affairs Of Annabel, The (1938) - Adapted From The Hungarian Working with her gym coach (Maurice Cass), movie star Annabel (Lucile Ball) receives publicist Lanny (Jack Oakie), who aims to trick her into taking a job as a maid to prepare for her next role, his scheme soon uncovered, in RKO’s The Affairs Of Annabel, 1938.
Affairs Of Annabel, The (1938) - All Women Are Alike Now posing as a domestic called "Mary," movie star Annabel (Lucille Ball) shows incognito gangsters (Anthony Warde, Edward Marr) to their room, then meets smitten teen Robert (Lee Van Atta), in The Affairs Of Annabel, 1938.
Affairs Of Annabel, The (1938) - Stick You In The Pen! Opening scenes, nutty press agent Morgan (Jack Oakie) persuades studio chief Webb (Bradley Page) and malcontent movie star Annabel (Lucille Ball) that she should go to prison for publicity, in The Affairs Of Annabel, 1938.

Trailer

Five Came Back - (Original Trailer) Lucille Ball plays the ultimate game of Survivor after a jungle plane crash in the thriller Five Came Back (1939).
Seven Days' Leave - (Original Trailer) A G.I. (Victor Mature) must marry an heiress (Lucille Ball) whom he's never met to get $100,000, all in a Seven Days' Leave (1942).
Room Service - (Original Trailer) The Marx Brothers are three zany producers trying to extend their hotel credit until they can get a play mounted in Room Service (1938).
Fuller Brush Girl, The - (Re-issue Trailer) Lucille Ball stars as a daffy door-to-door saleswoman who blunders into a murder investigation in The Fuller Brush Girl (1950).
Facts of Life, The - (Original Trailer) Suburban marrieds (Bob Hope, Lucille Ball) are tempted to dabble in adultery.
Dark Corner, The - (Original Trailer) Secretary Lucille Ball helps her private eye boss when he's framed for murder in The Dark Corner (1946).
Critic's Choice - (Original Trailer) Bob Hope and Lucille Ball star in the movie Critic's Choice (1962) based on Ira Levin's Broadway comedy hit.
Big Street, The - (Re-issue Trailer) Lucille Ball plays a selfish showgirl who ignores Henry Fonda's lovestruck waiter until she is injured in The Big Street, 1942, produced by Damon Runyon from his short story.
Affairs of Annabel, The - (Original Trailer) Lucille Ball got her first starring role playing a screen queen who suffers through harebrained publicity stunts in The Affairs of Annabel (1938).
Ziegfeld Follies - (Original Trailer) Legendary showman Flo Ziegfeld imagines the kind of Follies he could produce with MGM's musical stars in Ziegfeld Follies (1946) starring Judy Garland.
Forever Darling - (Original Trailer) Desi Arnaz may say "I don't love Lucy!" unless her guardian angel (James Mason) can fix their marriage in Forever Darling (1956).
Two Smart People - (Original Trailer) A lady crook (Lucille Ball) tries to steal a con man's hidden loot in Two Smart People (1946).

Promo

Family

Henry Ball
Father
Telephone lineman. Died c. 1915.
Desiree Ball
Mother
Concert pianist. Married second husband Edward Peterson; divorced after one year.
Lucie Arnaz
Daughter
Actor. Born on July 17, 1951; married actor Laurence Luckinbill.
Desi Arnaz Jr
Son
Actor, singer. Born on January 19, 1953.

Companions

Desi Arnaz
Husband
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.
Gary Morton
Husband
Comedian, producer. Married from November 1961 until her death; died of lung cancer on March 30, 1999 at age 74.

Bibliography

"I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball"
Lee Tannen, St. Martin's Press (2001)
"Laughs, Luck ... and Lucy"
Jess Oppenheimer, Syracuse University Press (1996)
"Love, Lucy"
Lucille Ball, G.P. Putnam's Sons (1996)
"Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball"
Kathleen Brady, Hyperion (1995)
"I Love Lucy"
Michael McClay, Warner Books (1995)
"Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz"
Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert, William Morrow (1993)
"Lucy & Desi"
Warren G. Harris, Simon & Schuster (1991)
"Lucy: The Real Life of Lucille Ball"
Charles Higham, St. Martin's Press (1986)
"Loving Lucy"
Bart Andrews and Thomas Watson, St. Martin's Press (1980)
"The Lucille Ball Story"
James Gregory (1974)
"Lucy: The Bittersweet Life of Lucille Ball"
Joe Morella and Edward Z. Epstein (1973)

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.