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Ball, Lucille (Désirée).                 more selected entries

Ball, Lucille (Désirée) (b Jamestown, Chautauqua Co, 6 Aug 1911; d Los Angeles, 26 Apr 1989).

Actress, comedian, and television producer. Lucille Ball created one of television's most enduring comic characters, Lucy, who starred in several series on CBS from 1951 to 1974. Her first television series, I Love Lucy, remains one of the touchstones of American popular culture and has probably been seen by more people more often than any other program in history. Ball's father died when she was 4. Her mother remarried and left the Jamestown area four years later, but Ball remained, living with relatives. As an adolescent she was active in school and community theater projects. At age 15 Ball went to New York City to study acting and supported herself by modeling. She briefly appeared in Broadway chorus lines, but her first noticeable role was as a showgirl in the 1933 movie musical Roman Scandals, starring Eddie Cantor. Encouraged by the initial success, Ball moved to Hollywood and appeared in numerous movies for RKO Pictures and MGM. For almost 20 years she was a respected actress, comfortable in musicals, comedies, and dramas.

From 1947 to 1951 her comic talents were on display in the CBS radio series My Favorite Husband. CBS wanted to transfer the show to television, as a live situation comedy from New York City. Ball resisted, preferring to costar with her husband, Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz, and stay close to her West Coast home. Arnaz and executive producer Jess Oppenheimer devised a technique to film a weekly comedy before a live Hollywood audience. I Love Lucy debuted on 15 Oct 1951, with Ball as redheaded screwball wife Lucy Ricardo. The premise—a couple with different backgrounds living in Manhattan's East 60s, both seduced by the allure of show business—gave the series a New York City flavor. I Love Lucy was the country's most popular program for most of its six seasons and established the situation comedy as the dominant television genre. The cast reprised their roles in a series of specials (1957-60). Ball divorced Arnaz in 1960, and two years later assumed sole ownership of their production company, Desilu, becoming the first woman to head a television studio. She returned to Broadway for the musical Wildcat (1960) and produced new programs featuring her staple character: The Lucy Show (1962-68) and Here's Lucy (1968-74). In 1985 she startled her fans by playing a homeless woman in the television movie Stone Pillow. The Lucy Desi Museum in Jamestown, opened in 1996, sponsors a festival each spring.

Andrews, Bart. Lucy and Ricky and Fred and Ethel: The Story of "I Love Lucy" (New York: Dutton, 1976)

Brady, Kathleen. Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball (New York: Hyperion, 1994)

Ron Simon


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