Lucille Ball's Biography
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Lucille Ball, a famous comic actress, was born on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York to Henry Durall Ball and Desiree (DeDe) Evelyn Hunt, a concert pianist. Soon after her birth, the family moved to Anaconda, Montana where her father got a job as a telephone lineman. Within one year, her father got a better paying job with the Michigan Telephone company and the family moved to Wyandotte, Michigan, a small industrial town near Detroit. Son after their move to Michigan, Mr. Ball caught Typhoid Fever and became too sick to work. He lost his job, the city health authorities put a sign on the house warning neighbors to keep out because of the typhoid fever. On February 15, 1915 Mr. Ball died from typhoid fever at the age of 23 years old. Lucille was 3 years old. DeDe, who was pregnant, and Lucille moved to Celoron, New York (near Jamestown) to live with DeDe's parents, Fred and Florabelle Hunt. There Lucy's brother, "Freddie," was born. Lucy was always dramatic, loved to put on neighborhood plays, and had a way of getting into and out of trouble as a child. Grandpa Hunt loved to take his grandchildren on adventures, such as early morning fishing trips, mushroom picking, and rides on the streetcar to see vaudeville acts. This is where Lacy learned about delivering punch lines and making jokes with expressive gestures. She found out she wanted to make people laugh. She liked to be able to help people to forget their problems for a while with the use of humor.
cede married her second husband, Edward Peterson, when Lacy was nine and divorced after one year. Ed Peterson introduced Lucy to the film community in nearby Chautauqua, New York which was a hot spot for new actors and musicians. This is where she got her first glimpse of a monologist which is a lone actor on a bare stage who creates a world of nothing to make people laugh and cry.
In school, Lucy was involved in the drama club, basketball, softball, and cheerleading. Her mother gave her lessons in piano, ukulele, and saxophone. She even went to a music school for a short period of time. Lucy earned good grades in school, but she sometimes had difficulty concentrating and would skip school dreaming of acting in New York City. Lucy held several part-time jobs to earn money for her future. In 1926, her mother gave her permission to drop out of school and go to the famous John Murray Anderson/Robert Milton School of the Theater and Dance in New York City. Lucy had difficulty adjusting to the demands of this very expensive, challenging school. She was shy in front of her demanding teachers and confident classmates and could barely speak up in class. She was told by her teachers that she was wasting her time and was too shy to put her bet foot forwards, so she moved home. This did not make Lucille give up her dream to become an actress. She later would proved the acting school was very wrong.
Sixteen year old Lucy moved back to New York, roomed with friends and took small, unsuccessful chorus girl parts. She became a part-time secretary, a department store clerk, and took modeling classes. She posed as the "Chesterfield Girl" for the cigarette company's billboard advertisements. The billboard exposure led Lucy to a modeling job with the famous dress designer, Hattie Carnegie. She briefly called herself Diane Belmont hoping to enhance her image. To keep a slim, modeling figure, Lucy practically starved herself. This and the long hours of standing and modeling, caused her leg muscles, which had not completely healed from a car accident years earlier, to become further weakened. She collapsed during a modeling session. Doctors determined her legs were damaged and that she might not walk again. Lucy had to return home to Celoron, bedridden and nearly crippled. It took almost two years for Lucy to recover. At age 21, Lucy had to learn how to walk all over again.
Lucy finally got a break in 1933, when she was chosen by MGM producer, Sam Goldwyn, as one of the Goldwyn Girls in Roman Scandals, starring Eddie Cantor. While performing in Roman Scandals, Lucy forced herself to overcome her shyness, by clowning with everyone on the set and charming the director into giving her one line of dialogue. It was an MGM hairstylist who dyed Lucy's brown hair red to match her fiery soul who gave her her trademark. Eventually, after endless walk-ons, Ball found a secure home at RKO, where she became "Queen of the Bs'. In 1940, she starred in the movie, "Too Many Girls" with Cuban actor, Desi Arnaz. They fell in love and eloped that November. They starred in many movies together.
Lucille and Desi, were both out of work when their employer, RKO Production Company, went out of business. They decided to buy the RKO studio lot, and renamed it "Desilu Productions." Many shows were filmed at Desilu Studios, such as "The Andy Griffth Show."
Lucille starred in the 1950's television sitcom, "I Love Lucy" (a Desilu production) with her husband, Desi Arnaz. She played a housewife in New York City, who kept getting into trouble while trying to become an actress. Desi played her husband, Ricky Ricardo, a Cuban bandleader. The Ricardos' best friends and landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz, were played by William Frawley and Vivian Vance. Vivian Vance later went on to play opposite Lucille in "The Lucy Show." Lucy Ricardo eventually had a baby, becoming the first woman to be portrayed as pregnant on television. "Little Ricky" was played by Keith Tibodeux. This was one of the first shows to be performed in front of a live audience. Lucy insisted on this because she felt it helped her perform at her best. "I Love Lucy" aired for seven years in the 1950's and captured two-thirds of the entire television viewing audience for three of those seasons. Even today, "I Love Lucy" is still the most rerun television sitcom.
Desi and Lucy had two children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. Lucie Desiree Arnaz was born on July 17, 1951. She became an actress and married actor Laurence Luckinbill. Desi Arnaz, Jr. Desiderio "Desi" Alberto Arnaz lV was born January 19, 1953 became an actor and singer.
Lucille Ball had registered to vote as a communist in 1936 at the insistence of her grandfather, even though she was not a communist. When McCarthy's blacklist came out, her name was on it. She appeared before the 1953 House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings. With much difficulty she was able to disprove the charge. Many others who were blacklisted had their lives and careers ruined.
After "I Love Lucy" ended, Desi and Lucy divorced. Even though their marriage was truculent, they had stayed together for the duration of the show. Though their marriage had failed, Lucille and Desi remained friends throughout the rest of their lives.
In November, 1961, Lucille married her second husband, Gary Morton (aka Morton Goldapper), a comedian and producer. She remained married to Mr. Morton until her death. In 1962, Lucille bought Desi Arnaz's share of Desilu Productions and became the first woman to head a major studio. Desilu went on to produce both the original Star Trek and Mission Impossible television series. She sold the company in 1967 to Gulf & Western for seventeen million dollars, though a bank account was never what Lucy was all about.
Lucy received numerous awards for her comic acting and was a role model for female comedians. Looking back over her career, Ball insisted she was never funny, but "What I am is BRAVE." She died in 1989, at the age of seventy-eight. She did not survive open-heart surgery to fix a problem with her aorta. Lucille Ball will always be remembered as the best comedy actress of all times.
Written by Kelley Verrette
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