Lucille Ball

Lucille Desiree Ball, born on August 6, 1911, was an American actress and comedian, in Jamestown, New York. She was the star of the hit T.V. show, “I Love Lucy.” Ball broke barriers for women in the entertainment industry as an entertainer and a businesswoman. Today, we honor Ball by recognizing all of her achievements.

Fast Facts

Full Name:

Lucille Desiree Ball

Nickname:

Technicolor Tessie, The First Lady of Television, The Queen of Comedy

Birth date:

August 6, 1911

Death date:

April 26, 1989 (age 77)

Height:

5' 7"

Relationship Status:

Married

Net Worth:

$80 million

Background

In Jamestown, New York, Lucille Desiree Ball was born on August 6, 1911. Her father, Henry Durrell “Had” Ball, died when she was three years old, and her mother, Désirée Evelyn “DeDe” Ball, was a single mother who worked multiple jobs, as a result, her grandparents raised her and her brother. She was a passionate teenager who desired to “make some noise” and was always prepared to assume responsibility for her brother and younger cousins. She enrolled in a drama school in New York City, but was sent home because she was “too timid.”

She returned to New York City in 1932 to restart her acting career, and she supported herself by working for Carnegie and as the Chesterfield cigarette lady once more. She began earning chorus work on Broadway under the name Diane (often written Dianne) Belmont, but it did not last. Ball moved to Hollywood permanently after an uncredited role as a Goldwyn Girl in “Roman Scandals” (1933), starring Eddie Cantor and Gloria Stuart. She was signed to R.K.O. Radio Pictures and had a few minor appearances after that, including one in “Top Hat” (1935). She eventually landed prominent roles in B-movies and, on rare occasions, a nice role in an A-movie, such as in “Stage Door” (1937) or “The Big Street” (1942). Ball made her Broadway debut in the musical “Too Many Girls” in 1940, where she met and fell in love with Desi Arnaz, who portrayed one of her character’s four bodyguards. In the 1940s, Ball signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, although he never became a great star there. Ball, like many other aspiring actors, took on radio work to augment their salary and get recognition. Lucy played alongside Henry Fonda in “The Big Street” in 1942.

When Ann Sothern turned down the character in “DuBarry Was a Lady”(1943), M.G.M. producer Arthur Freed cast Ball, Sothern’s real-life best friend, in the role. Ball represented herself in the 1943 film “Best Foot Forward.” Ball featured in “Lover Come Back” in 1946. She starred in the radio comedy “My Favorite Husband” in 1948, in which she played the absent-minded wife of a Midwest banker. C.B.S. came knocking in 1950, offering to transform it into a television series. Work on the most popular and universally appreciated sitcom of all time, “I Love Lucy,” began after Desi persuaded the network brass to allow him to portray her husband and to turn over the rights to and creative control over the series to them. For most of its run, “I Love Lucy” was a star vehicle for Lucille Ball, and for most of its run, the sitcom topped U.S. ratings. The principal cast of “I Love Lucy” continued to appear in hour-long specials under the moniker “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour” after the show ended in 1957. She received two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960: one at 6436 Hollywood Boulevard for contributions to motion pictures, and the other at 6100 Hollywood Boulevard for contributions to the arts and sciences of television.

After several weeks of returned ticket sales, the 1960 Broadway musical “Wildcat” was forced to close early due to Ball’s inability to recuperate from sickness and finish the play. The song ‘Hey, Look Me Over,’ which she performed with Paula Stewart on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” was inspired by the musical.

While filming the Rodgers and Hart stage classic “Too Many Girls” in 1940, Ball met Cuban-born bandleader Desi Arnaz. They immediately clicked when they met again on the second day. On November 30, 1940, they came to a halt and were married. Ball filed for divorce in 1944 and received an interlocutory decree, but she and Arnaz reunited, preventing the final decree from being entered. Ball gave birth to her daughter, Lucie Désirée Arnaz, on July 17, 1951, just three weeks before her 40th birthday. A year and a half later, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV, also known as Desi Arnaz, Jr., was born. They divorced on May 4, 1960, but Arnaz and Ball remained friends and spoke highly of one another until Arnazl died in 1986. The following year, Ball co-starred with Keith Andes and Paula Stewart in the Broadway musical “Wildcat.” It was the start of a 30-year friendship with Stewart, who introduced Ball to her second husband, Borscht Belt comic Gary Morton, who was 13 years her junior. Due to his demanding work schedule, Morton said he had never seen an episode of “I Love Lucy,” according to Ball. Morton was immediately hired by her production company, where he was taught the television business and subsequently promoted to producer; he also appeared in a few episodes of her numerous series. They owned properties in Beverly Hills, Palm Springs, and Snowmass Village, Colorado. Ball was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on April 18, 1989, after having chest problems. She had surgery to repair her aorta and a successful seven-hour aortic valve replacement after being diagnosed with a dissecting aortic aneurysm. Ball awoke with acute back pain shortly after daybreak on April 26 and lost consciousness; she died at 5:47 a.m. P.D.T. at the age of 77. Ball died of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm that was unrelated to her surgery, according to doctors.

Ball was honored at three memorial services. Her ashes were first interred in Los Angeles’ Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery, where her mother was also laid to rest. Ball and her mother were re-interred in Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown in 2002, in compliance with Ball’s desire to be buried with her mother at the Hunt family plot. In 2007, her brother’s ashes were also laid to rest there.

Career timeline

1930s
Ball Signed to R.K.O. Radio Pictures

During the 1930s, she worked as a contract performer for R.K.O. Radio Pictures, where she appeared in a two-reel comedy short with the Three Stooges ("Three Little Pigskins," 1934) as well as a film starring the Marx Brothers ("Room Service," 1938).

1951
"I Love Lucy"

Ball starred in and produced "I Love Lucy," which went on to become one of her most famous works.

1983
20th Century Fox

Ball and Morton teamed up in 1983 to form a film and television production firm at 20th Century Fox, which comprises all film and television projects as well as intentions to produce plays.

1986
A Kennedy Center Honors Recipient

Ball was named a Kennedy Center Honors recipient on December 7, 1986.

Why We Love Lucille Ball

  1. She was a beautiful woman with a lot of confidence

    Ball struggled to find success as an actress before becoming one of history's most legendary comedies. Rather than returning home in the face of difficulties, she pursued a career as a model.

  2. She wasn't scared to experiment with her look

    Lucy didn't always have her renowned red locks. She's a brunette who bleached her hair to a very pale blonde early in her acting career. The production company only urged her to color her hair red—or "golden apricot," as her stylist described it—after "I Love Lucy" premiered.

  3. She is a true businesswoman

    From 1950 through 1962, the pair founded Desilu Productions, a television studio named after Desi and Lucille. She bought out her ex-husband after their divorce and became the president, C.E.O., and star of her new sitcom, “The Lucy Show.” She sold the studio for $17 million in 1967.

5 Surprising Facts

  1. The longest laugh ever captured

    During the "Lucy Does the Tango" episode of “I Love Lucy,” in which she's dancing with a dozen or more eggs stowed in her shirt, she had the longest laugh ever recorded on tape (65 seconds).

  2. Before the show, she had a revelation

    She stated that a dream in which Carole Lombard instructed her to "Give it a whirl" was the catalyst for the creation of "I Love Lucy".

  3. The Women in Film Crystal Award

    She was one of the first women to get the Women in Film Crystal Award in 1977, and she also received the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1979.

  4. One of the richest women

    In 1968, she was believed to be the wealthiest woman in television, with an estimated $30 billion in revenues.

  5. She was also a professor

    Aside from acting, she worked as an assistant professor at California State University, Northridge in 1979.

Lucille Ball FAQs

Why did R.K.O. drop Lucille Ball?

According to Charles Koerner, R.K.O’s chief of production, Lucy was too young to draw a young audience to the theater. R.K.O. terminated her contract at the age of 39.

How old was Lucille Ball when she met Desi Arnaz?

When Lucille Ball met Desi Arnaz, 23, on the set of “Too Many Girls” in 1940, she was 28 years old.

Was Lucille Ball a philanthropist?

Yes, she was. Ball has volunteered with the Fairfield County Community Foundation, F.C.C.F’s Fund for Women and Girls, Starlight Children’s Foundation, Connecticut Council for Philanthropy, Lavelle Fund for the Blind, and Center for Hope.

Lucille Ball’s birthday dates

YearDateDay
2022August 6Saturday
2023August 6Sunday
2024August 6Tuesday
2025August 6Wednesday
2026August 6Thursday

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