I Love Lucy may not have been for my generation, but who can honestly say they haven’t in some way grown-up on it? The crazy antics of Lucille Ball, from factory lines to grape stomping barrels, from Ricky’s club’s dance floor to mountain tops, I wanted a mother as ridiculous as her. The crazy was always innocent and magical. And obviously hysterical, but for as much as I knew of Lucy Ricardo and as much as I admired the comedian Lucille Ball, I knew very little about her life.
What I learned was that Lucille Ball was a surviver. Her life was riddled with hurdles and land mines since she was a kid. Ball’s father passed away when she was only three years old, her mother was 21. A widower and pregnant with their second child all within one year, they moved back to Lucille’s grandparents.
Growing up was less than stable for Ball. From her step-grandparents conservative views, financial instabilities, town crises, and her own wacky grandparents, life in the Ball household was always hectic. At 14 years old, Ball was enrolled into John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts, alongside Bette Davis, as a bribe to end her current relationship. After one year, her teachers informed young Ball that she did not have what it takes to make it in show business.
Which only fueled Ball’s stubbornness for the limelight. At 18, Lucille left home to model in New York City until she got her big break. Shortly after the long nights, early mornings, slim pickings, and late working hours, Ball was infected with rheumatic fever. Although, all she knew at the time was that she could no longer stand, constantly felt ill, and there was no knowing whether or not she would ever recover. After spending two years in a wheelchair with her mother, she made her way back to Manhattan to try again for the main stage.
Manhattan’s second try led to Hollywood for a stint as a Goldwyn Girl in Roman Scandals. A variety of other small or supporting roles followed, offering Ball steady work from her contract for the first time in her life. These small and supporting roles started to grow into features, one of those being Too Many Girls where she met Desi Arnaz.
I guess you could say the rest is history. But to get an intimate look at a true love story is incredibly rare. The pain when things kept falling apart and when they could no longer keep it together is sorrowful and haunted Arnaz and Ball to their final days. Although we can all relate to relationships filled with love and pain, the intimate look at the work they both put in and the things they couldn’t change makes one’s heart bleed. For they were two people that thoroughly loved each other, too much not to be together and too much for it to ever work.
However, together they reimagined television and the Hollywood business. Rather than being subpar to films and the silver screens, Tuesday evenings became a weekly holiday so all of the country could watch I Love Lucy. The show was so popular, when the series ended, the outcry resulted in Desilu Productions selling the recordings of the show to broadcasters, creating the rerun option.
Without Lucille Ball and her relationship with Desi Arnaz, there would be no way to rewatch Friends or Law & Order: SVU for the thousandth time. Star Trek or The Untouchables may have never been produced. The ability to sit in the audience for the taping of The Late Show or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, all thanks to Desilu productions. Female comedians of the present, all thanks to Lucille Ball.