(Stage Door also boosted the career of Lucille Ball. In films since her bit role debut in the Wallace Beery drama The Bowery (1933), she languished for several years in uncredited bits and smaller roles, often in B pictures. After Stage Door, she renegotiated her contract with RKO and got more money ($125 a week), better parts, and higher billing. Despite good notices in Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) and The Big Street (1942) opposite Henry Fonda, her film career never catapulted her to A status. It took television to assure her place as one of the greatest stars with her landmark 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy.) Lucille Ball - Hollywood's Golden Age

Lucille Ball (1911-1989)

Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball
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Lucille Ball was an outstanding film and television performer. She was a comedienne, actress, and model, as well as a highly successful film and television executive. She was one of the most popular and influential stars in Hollywood during her lifetime, with one of Hollywood's longest careers. An actress in the 1930's, she became a B-movie star in the 1940's and in the 1950's became well known as the star of the sitcoms 'I Love Lucy', 'The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour', 'The Lucy Show' and 'Here's Lucy'. She was as famous for her red hair as for some of her acting roles.

Lucille continued to make films in the 1960's and 1970's and she received awards commensurate with her talents with thirteen Emmy Award nominations and four wins. She was also the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1979, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986 and the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1989.


She was born Lucille Desiree Ball on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York. After the death of her father from typhoid fever when she was three, Lucy and her younger brother were brought up by her mother and grandparents and it was her grandfather who instilled in her a love for the theater and the ambition to become an actress.

When she was 16 she entered drama school in New York but was outshone by her peers, who included Bette Davis, and told by a coach that she was 'too shy' and 'had no future at all as a performer.' She was strikingly pretty and found work fashion modeling for designer Hattie Carnegie and also as the Chesterfield cigarette girl.

In 1933, she was chosen to be a "Goldwyn Girl" and she also made an appearance, uncredited, in the film 'Roman Scandals'. She moved to Hollywood, determined to make it as a movie actress. She was contracted to RKO Radio pictures and her Hollywood career began with many minor roles during the 1930's in movies such as 'Three Little Pigskins' in 1934, with the Three Stooges, and 'Room Service' in 1938, with the Marx Brothers. She also had fleeting supporting roles in several Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers films such as 'Top Hat' in 1935 and 'Follow the Fleet' in 1936. In 1937 she had her most important role to date as one of the aspiring actresses in the Oscar nominated 'Stage Door' co-starring Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers.

Generally Lucille's movie career consisted of small parts in B movies. In the 1940's she was signed to MGM where she worked with Buster Keaton and appeared in such movies as 'DuBarry Was a Lady', with Red Skelton in 1943, and 'Fancy Pants' with Bob Hope in 1950, but did not achieve much success there either. She became known in Hollywood as 'Queen of the Bs'. Originally with chestnut hair, she had it died blonde for her early career until 1942 when she became a redhead on MGM's instruction.

In November, 1940, after a whirlwind romance, Lucille married the Cuban musician Desi Arnaz whom she had met on the set of 'Too Many Girls'. Like many performers working in movies, Lucille had picked up radio work to earn side income as well as gain exposure. In 1948 she landed a starring role as the zany wife on the radio comedy 'My Favorite Husband' for CBS Radio. When after 2 years, CBS asked her to develop the successful program for the new medium of television Lucille agreed with the proviso that she work with her husband but CBS did not think the American public would accept a Cuban husband of an all-American wife. The couple finally convinced programmers to let them play the roles by going on tour together with Lucy playing the scatterbrained housewife trying to get in Arnaz's show. The tour was a great success and 'I Love Lucy' debuted in 1951. In return for a salary cut, Lucille and Arnaz retained the rights to and creative control over the series and it became the standard for all TV sitcoms to follow and one of the most popular sitcoms of all time.I Love Lucy dominated the weekly TV ratings in the United States for most of its 6 year run.

Their company became Desilu Productions, one of the most successful independent production companies in the world. The company pioneered second-run syndication of successful shows and made many millions of dollars on rebroadcasts of 'I Love LUcy'. Desilu also made a number of other highly successful programs such as 'The Untouchables', 'Star Trek', and 'Mission: Impossible'.

Lucile and Arnaz had two children, Lucie and Desi Jnr. but Arnaz's drinking and compulsive womanising caused the marriage great stress and the couple divorced in May, 1960, although they remained on friendly terms until his death in 1986.

Lucille bought out Arnaz's share of the studio, and she continued to be a very active studio head. She went on to play largely the same zany role, although as a single woman, in 'The Lucy Show' and 'Here's Lucy', with an occasional big-screen break ('Yours, Mine and Ours', in 1968, 'Mame' in 1964), but the point was made: 'I Love Lucy' is the stuff of legend, and every episode remains as fresh and funny as the day it was recorded. It also finally made Lucille Ball the star that movies had failed to do.

In 1961 Lucille married Gary Morton, a comedian 13 years her junior, whom she had met the previous year whilst doing the musical 'Wildcat', on Broadway. He was actively involved in the management of his wife's career and ultimately became a producer in Desilu. They remained married until Lucille's death.

Lucille Ball died on April 26, 1989. She was aged 77 years.

Lucille Ball Academy Awards

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Lucille Ball Filmography

The Bowery
Broadway Through a Keyhole (uncredited)
Blood Money (uncredited)
Roman Scandals (uncredited)
Fugitive Lady (uncredited)
Three Little Pigskins
Jealousy (uncredited)
Broadway Bill (uncredited)
Men of the Night (uncredited)
Perfectly Mismated
Kid Millions (uncredited)
The Affairs of Cellini (uncredited)
Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (uncredited)
Murder at the Vanities (uncredited)
Bottoms Up (uncredited)
Hold That Girl (uncredited)
Nana (uncredited)
Moulin Rouge
Behind the Evidence
His Old Flame
The Whole Town's Talking(uncredited)
Carnival (uncredited)
Roberta (uncredited)
I'll Love You Always (uncredited)
A Night at the Biltmore Bowl
Old Man Rhythm (uncredited)
Top Hat (uncredited)
The Three Musketeers (uncredited)
I Dream Too Much
Foolish Hearts (1935)
Muss 'em Up (uncredited)
Follow the Fleet
The Farmer in the Dell
Bunker Bean
Dummy Ache
Swing It (uncredited)
So and Sew
One Live Ghost
Winterset (uncredited)
That Girl from Paris
Don't Tell the Wife
There Goes My Girl
Stage Door
Go Chase Yourself
Joy of Living
Having Wonderful Time
The Affairs of Annabel
Room Service
Annabel Takes a Tour
Next Time I Marry
Beauty for the Asking
Twelve Crowded Hours
Panama Lady
Five Came Back
That's Right - You're Wrong
The Marines Fly High
You Can't Fool Your Wife
Dance, Girl, Dance
Too Many Girls
A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob
Look Who's Laughing
Valley of the Sun
The Big Street
Seven Days' Leave
Du Barry Was a Lady
Best Foot Forward
Meet the People