The Early Years
It was back on August 6, 1911 that Lucille Désirée Ball was born into this world. Her hometown was Jamestown NY, where she was raised by Baptist parents. Her father, Henry Ball worked for Bell Telephone as a linesman. Henry died of Typhoid fever when he was only 27 years old. Lucy was 3 at the time.
Lucy’s mother, Désirée Evelyn “DeDe”Ball, would marry again after 4 years had passed to Edward Peterson. Peterson’s parents would help care for Lucy and her younger brother Fred, who was born soon after Henry Ball’s death.
Her First Shot
Because of Lucille Ball’s low self-esteem as a child, she was encouraged to audition for a local dance troupe at the age of 12. Lucy quickly found acceptance in joining the group and she enjoyed being praised by others!
At age 14, Lucy’s mother enrolled her in The John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City. Better Davis was also a student there during this time. Despite her teacher’s advice to forget about show business, Lucille Ball became more determined than ever.
After contracting Rheumatic Fever, Lucy was unable to work for two years! Despite this setback, she began scooping up tiny acting roles, including a few alongside The Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers. Lucille Ball worked tirelessly to get bigger acting jobs. In 1936 she landed a larger role in a play called “Hey Diddle Diddle” which premiered in Princeton NJ to great reviews. There were problems with script writing and also the lead male actor was gravely ill, so the play eventually closed.
Lucy & Desi
In 1940, Lucille Ball got the lead role in a musical called “Too Many Girls”, where she met actor/singer Desi Arnaz. We all know how that worked out!
Because Lucy still had not landed any notable roles, she became known as The Queen of the B’s (referring to B-rated plays and films).
Like many struggling artists, Lucille Ball took on work in radio to supplement her income. It was this work that really honed her characterizations and her comedic timing
My Favorite Husband
In 1948, Lucille Ball landed a radio job in a comedy called “My Favorite Husband”. The show was so popular that CBS asked Lucy to develop it for television. She agreed but with the condition that her real life husband Desi would play her on-screen husband in the show. Producers thought that idea was insane because Desi was Cuban and they felt audiences were no ready to see a “mixed marriage” in their homes. Lucy held firm and the show went on with Desi in the co-lead role. The program would be called “I Love Lucy”
We have another article which goes into depth about the I Love Lucy show. You can read it here
After her marriage to Desi Arnaz fell apart and I Love Lucy ended, Lucille Ball continued making movies and had several offshoots of her on-screen Lucy character. Among these were The Lucy Show (1962–68), which co-starred Vivian Vance and Gale Gordon, and Here’s Lucy (1968–74), which also included Gordon, as well as Lucy’s own children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr
In 1982 Lucille Ball made several attempts to resurrect her career. She appeared as the host of a retrospective clip-show for the popular Three’s Company comedy, which got her a lot of exposure.
In 1985, she starred in the TV movie “Stone Pillow” in which she portrayed an elderly homeless woman. Although critics were not enthused, Lucille Ball’s fans loved her performance!
In 1986, Lucille Ball tried to revive her famous Lucy character in a show called “Life With Lucy” but was cancelled after only two months.
Death of an Icon
On April 18th, 1989 Lucille Ball was admitted to the hospital after complaining of chest pains. Doctors performed a 7 hour aortic surgery to repair a valve but despite their best efforts, Lucy passed away from complications on April 26th, 1989
Lucille Ball Trivia
- 1. Lucille Ball was born on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York.
- 2. She was the youngest of three children.
- 3. Lucille was a model and a film star before becoming a television star.
- 4. She was the first woman to own her own production company.
- 5. Lucy was the first woman to appear on the cover of TV Guide.
- 6. She was the first woman to receive the Kennedy Center Honors.
- 7. Lucille Ball was the first woman to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Comedy Awards.
- 8. She was the first woman to receive the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
- 9. Lucy was the first woman to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- 10. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
- 11. Lucille was the first woman to be named one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century by Time Magazine.
- 12. She was the first woman to be named one of the 50 Greatest TV Icons by TV Guide.