Lucille Ball Overview:

Legendary actress, Lucille Ball, was born Lucille Désirée Ball on Aug 6, 1911 in Jamestown, NY. Ball died at the age of 77 on Apr 26, 1989 in Beverly Hills, CA and was laid to rest in Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills) Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.

Early Life

Lucille Desiree Ball was born in August 6th, 1911 in Jamestwon, New York to Henry and Desiree Ball. Her father worked as a telephone lineman for the Bell Telephone Company, while her mother worked as a stay-at-home mother. Thanks to the nature of Henry's vocation, the young Lucille spent her most formative yeas moving from Jamestown to Montana and finally to Trenton, New Jersey. However, tragedy would strike the young Ball family, when Henry contracted typhoid fever soon after he and his wife conceived their second child. He then died in February of 1915, before the birth of his second child Frederick. Now without the family patriarch, Desiree Ball moved back to Western New York to live with her parents. Lucille and her brother Fred were then raised by their mother and grandparents in Celeron, New York. Her grandfather, also named Fred, would install the love of performance in little Lucille, taking his beloved granddaughter to see vaudeville shows and encouraged her to participate in her school staged productions.

After four years of living with her material grandparents, Desiree Ball remarried to Edward Peterson. When the newly weds traveled to neighboring towns looking for work, Lucille and Fred were left with Edward's strict, puritanical parents. They were apparently so strict that they banned all mirrors, save one in the bathroom, from their home. When they caught Lucille admiring her looks, they chastised the poor girl for being vain. She returned to her mother and stepfather in less than a year. Despite her relative dissatisfaction living with her new grandparents, Lucille's stepfather proved to be a far better living companion. He actively encouraged his stepdaughters will to perform, even asking the 12 year-old to participate in his local Shriner's event as chorus girl. In 1925 the 14-year-old Ball began dating local 23-year-old local thug. Her mother, unhappy with the relationship, then used Lucille's strong acting ambitions to end the relationship. Despite the family's financial woos, Lucille was sent to New York City and enrolled in the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts.  Unfortunately, a mere few months into her training, Desiree Ball received a letter from the school that stated: "Lucy's wasting her time and ours. She's too shy and reticent to put her best foot forward." Ball later stated her lack of participation was due to her extreme awe of the school's star pupil: a young Bette Davis. She soon returned home to finish her education in Celeron.

Early Career

Despite the Drama school's lack in faith in the young performer, Ball returned to New York in 1928, determined to make a name for herself. She then began to work under the name Diane Belmont, auditioning for any gig she could. Success did not come easy, and the young actress was forced to take a job at a drug store on Broadway and later at Hattie Carnegie's Dress Salon as a dress model. Her career as a model seemed to be taking off when, in 1930, Ball was suddenly struck with rheumatoid arthritis. She returned to upstate, New York, as she was unable to work for two years. In 1932 Ball once again hoped a train to the City and began rebuilding her career as an actress. She once took to modeling work to support herself financially. She continued modeling for Carnegie and took up work as a Chesterfields cigarette girl. She began to find some work on Broadway but nothing stuck. After being fired from her third job in a row, the Shubert brothers production of Stepping Stones, Ball decided to leave New York and give Hollywood a try.


When Ball arrived to Hollywood in 1933 she able to able to find quick work as an extra in the 20th Century Fox film The Bowery starring Wallace Beery and George Raft. The uncredited role of 'Blonde' marked the future comedy legend's feature film debut.  She was then cast as similar, uncredited roles in Broadway Thru a Keyhole and Blood Money. Later that year she was cast as one of the twelve Goldwyn Girls in the Busby Berkeley film Roman Sandals. As legend goes, during production Ball volunteered to take a pie to the face. Berkeley then in turned said, "Get that girl's name. That's the one who will make it." Despite the glowing endorsement from Berkeley, Ball still spend the next year as an uncredited chorus girl in films like Moulin Rogue, Hold That Girl, Kid Millions, and Fugitive Lady. In 1934 she played a supporting role in the Three Stooges short Three Little Pig Skins. By the mid-1930s Ball was a contact player at RKP Pictures and in 1935 appeared in two Astaire/Rogers films - first as a Fashion model I Roberta and then as flower girl in Top Hat. Both roles were uncredited. The next year she once again appeared in a Astaire/Rogers film, this time with a credited supporting role in Follow the Fleet. That year she also appeared in a series of short films, including Dummy Ache and One Live Ghost. In 1937 she teamed with Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn as a supporting role in the George La Cava film Stage Door.

She remained at RKO into the early 1940s, playing mostly supporting roles or leading roles B-pictures. During this time Ball became known as the "Queen of the B's" due to the sheer amount of B-picture films she appeared which include Having a Wonderful Time, Next Time I Marr, Panama Lady and That's Right - You're Wrong. While shooting the film Dance, Girl, Dance, she Ball was introduced to Cuban bandleader, Desi Arnaz. The two immediately hit it off and were married in 1940. The pair then appeared in Ball's next film, Too Many Girls. Ball continued to star in a series of B movies, becoming more and more dissatisfied with her career at RKO. However, she did mange to play a decent role opposite Henry Fonda in the romantic-drama The Big Street. In her most serious role yet, Ball played a paralyzed nightclub singer who is idolized by the shy busboy, played by Fonda. The role is reported to be Ball's favorite. Despite the role, nothing more of not followed and in 1943 Ball sighed a contact with MGM.

MGM and I Love Lucy

In 1943, at the behest of MGM studios, Ball dyed her hair its now trade mark color of red. Her first film for her new company was opposite Red Skelton in the comedy Du Barry Was a Lady. She then appeared in war time moral booster Best Foot Forward, starring as herself. The next year she starred was loaned to Warner Brothers for the musical comedy Meet The People. Despite signing a new contract with a new company, Ball found herself falling into the same supporting role and the same B-movies. She played separate fiddle to Katharine Hepburn in the romantic comedy A-picture, Without Love and then starred in the B-grade noir The Dark Corner. By the end of the decade, disappointed in her stagnating career, Arnaz began to push his wife toward Broadcasting. The advice proved fruitful and in 1948 Ball was cast in the CBS radio series My Favorite Husband. The program was so successful that CBS asked Ball to develop the concept into a series. Ball agreed but on under one stipulation: that Arnaz. Although the studio didn't think general audiences would be accepting of All-American redhead and a Cuban immigrant as a couple, they agreed to the deal. Ball and Arnaz also took a pay cut to ensure the show was shot on film, rather than less expensive kinescope most other series were using at that point. Ball and Arnaz also retained full ownership and rights to the program and produced it under their new television production company: Desilu Productions. In 1951 I Love Lucy hit the airwaves.

Within six months of airing, I Love Lucy was the number one rated show. The sitcom was nothing that had been seen a television. Brzen and bombastic, the show featured Lucille and Desi and Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, with Vivian Vance and William Frawley as their best friends and neighbors, Ethel and Fred Mertz. It was also once of he first sitcom to touch upon subjects like women in the work place, living in suburbs and even pregnancy. One a technical note, the show was pioneer in many ways. It was the first to feature multi-camera shooting, a live studio audience and Ball became the first woman in history to be head of a production company. Running from 1951 to 1957, the show remained a ratings juggernaut through out most of its run. The show also received five Emmy awards, countless nominations, and is now a huge part of the American pop-culture history.

After Lucy

Although I Love Lucy ended in 1958, Desilu remained busy and went on to produce more televisions shows such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mission: Impossible and Star Trek. However the stress of running a production studio and strenuous schedule of an entertainer began taking its toll on Arnaz even before the show ended and in 1960, Lucille and Desi divorces. Despite the break up, the two remained friends until Arnaz's death in late 1980's. That year she made her Broadway debut in the musical Wildcat.  In 1962 Ball remarried to fellow comedian Gary Morton and bought the remained of Desilu from Arnaz, making Ball the first woman to head a major television production studio. Ball also continued to act, following her I Love Lucy success with The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy. I 1974 she starred in the big screen adaption of Mame, however, many felt her miscast in the role. She remained on for the rest 1970s and 1980s with appearances on shows like The Practice, The Bob Hope Show, and the TV movie Lucy Calls the President. In 1985 she gave her final dramatic performance in the TV Stone Pillow. Although the film did little in the ratings department, the film showed Ball had some acting power left. In 1986 she made her last TV show Life with Lucy, which was cancelled after only two months on the air. Her final public appearance was at the 1989 Academy Awards, presenting with fellow comedic great, Bob Hope. The Pair received a standing ovation. Less than a month later Lucille Ball died April 26th, 1989. She was 77 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



She was honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the categories of Television and Motion Pictures. In addition, Ball was inducted into the Womens Hall of Fame and TV Hall of Fame and was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 2001. Ball was never nominated for an Academy Award.

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Lucille Ball Quotes:

Frank Beardsley: Is that all? Why didn't she tell me?
Helen North: Because you would have said, "Is that all?".

Alec Howe: You're human aren't you?
May Daly: I hope not!

Kitty Weaver: Am I really doing this? Me, Kitty Weaver? Secretary to the PTA? Den mother to the Cub Scouts? Am I really going to San Francisco to spend the weekend... with the husband of my best friend?

read more quotes from Lucille Ball...

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Lucille Ball Facts
Profiled in "Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames" bu Ray Hagen and Laura Wagner (McFarland, 2004).

Became very good friends with Maureen O'Hara during the making of Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) and continued being friends until Ball's death. O'Hara was with Lucille when Lucille first met her husband Desi Arnaz.

Before her movie career, Lucille was a model at Hattie Carnegie's in New York. She mainly modeled heavy fur coats, because she was startlingly thin as a young lady.

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