Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball Headshot

Actor • Comedian • Executive • Producer

Birth Date: August 6, 1911

Death Date: April 26, 1989

Birth Place: Jamestown, New York

Spouses: Desi Arnaz

Children: Desi Arnaz Jr.

Comic actress Lucille Ball wielded enormous influence, both in terms of scope, production and technology, over television situation comedies with her Emmy-winning series "I Love Lucy" (CBS, 1951-1957), which helped elevate her from hardworking film actress to one of the biggest stars of the small screen. Born Lucille Desiree Ball on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York, she was the daughter of Bell Telephone Company lineman Henry Ball, whose job required that the family relocate on several occasions during Lucille's childhood. In 1915, Henry Ball died from typhoid fever, forcing Lucille, her mother and her newborn brother, Fred, to return to New York, where they lived with her maternal grandparents. She was introduced to performing through her stepfather, Edward Peterson, who encouraged her to join the chorus line at an event for the Shriners, of which he was a member. Attempting to encourage her daughter's artistic ambitions - and hoping to thwart a budding romance with a local tough- Ball's mother enrolled her in the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City, where Bette Davis was among her fellow students. The experience proved wholly discouraging - she was openly advised against a career in acting by the school's teacher - and returned to the family's home in Jamestown. Three years later, Ball returned to New York City, where she worked as a model for fashion designer Hattie Carnegie; a bout of rheumatoid arthritis sent her home again for a two-year period, but a determined Ball returned to New York City again in 1932. After adopting the stage name Diane (or Dianne) Belmont, she worked on Broadway in various chorus roles, which led to her first screen role when she replaced a chorus girl in the Eddie Cantor vehicle "Roman Scandals" (1933). Ball soon moved to Hollywood, where as a contract player for RKO Pictures, she appeared in minor roles in the Three Stooges short "Three Little Pigskins" (1934) and the Marx Brothers' "Room Service" (1938), as well as three films with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, including "Top Hat" (1935). Ball soon graduated to supporting roles in "B" pictures, including the surprise box office hit "Five Came Back" (1939), and "Too Many Girls" (1940), a musical co-starring Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz, whom she would marry that same year. Ball's big break would come three years later, when she signed with MGM to star in its adaptation of the musical "DuBarry Was a Lady" (1943). The film also featured Ball's debut as a redhead, a decision reportedly made at the behest of the studio's publicity department. For the remainder of the decade, she worked steadily in features for the decade, bouncing between musicals like "Thousands Cheer" (1943) and "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946), both with Gene Kelly, and numerous comedies, including "Without Love" (1945), with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, as well as the occasional drama like the noir "The Dark Corner" (1946) for director Henry Hathaway. During this period, Ball also starred in "My Favorite Husband," a popular comedy for CBS Radio; when the network decided to move the series to television, Ball insisted on starring opposite Arnaz and revamping the series to reflect -in the broadest possible terms - their own lives. CBS was initially reluctant to sign Arnaz, but after the couple toured in a vaudeville version of the concept that proved popular with audiences, CBS agreed to their terms, and "I Love Lucy" debuted on television in 1951. Produced by the couple's own company, Desilu - the first television production company headed by a woman - "Lucy" was not only a sizable hit with viewers and a five-time Emmy winner (including three for Ball herself) but the ideal showcase for Ball's comic talents, which encompassed both flawless timing and delivery but also physical comedy and slapstick. The show was also the first television comedy to film on 35mm - a decision made to allow Ball and Arnaz to remain in Hollywood and prevent broadcast of blurry kinescopes of each episode to East Coast viewers - the first to utilize more than one camera in a comedy format, and the first to film before a live audience, all of which would become industry standards in the half-century to follow. The success of the series allowed Desilu to purchase studio space, where shows like "The Jack Benny Program" (CBS/NBC, 1950-1965) and "The Andy Griffith Show" (CBS, 1960-68) would film, but also produce other series, which would include "The Untouchables" (ABC, 1959-1963) and "Star Trek" (NBC, 1966-69). Despite this unparalleled success, Ball and Arnaz had been unhappily married for decades, and when "Lucy" ran its course in 1960, the couple officially divorced two months after filming its final episode. She would buy out his shares of the company in 1962 and eventually sell the company itself in 1967 for $17 million. During this period, Ball continued to act, most notably in the minor Broadway musical "Wildcat," which mainly served to provide her with a theme song, "Hey, Look Me Over," and an introduction (through co-star Paula Stewart) to actor Gary Morton, who would become her second husband in 1961. There were occasional appearance in feature films like the screen version of "Mame" (1974), which was widely panned. More successful were two subsequent sitcoms: "The Lucy Show" (CBS, 1962-68), for which she won two Emmys, and "Here's Lucy" (CBS, 1968-1974), which featured longtime friend and screen foil Gale Gordon and her real-life children, Desi Arnaz, Jr. and Lucie Arnaz. Ballwould remain a favorite guest on numerous episodic and talk shows for much of the late '70s and 1980s before giving a dramatic turn as a homeless woman in the made-for-TV feature "Stone Pillow" (CBS, 1985). This led briefly to her fourth sitcom, "Life with Lucy" (ABC, 1985), but the sight of the 75-year-old Ball performing slapstick couldn't keep the series from being cancelled after just two months. Ball would make her final public appearance at the Academy Awards in 1989, where she and Bob Hope were given a standing ovation while presenting an award. On April 18, 1989, Ball was hospitalized after complaining of chest pains. She was determined to have an aortic aneurysm and underwent heart surgery and the transplant of a new aorta. She appeared to recover from the surgery without complications, but on the morning of April 26, she slipped into unconsciousness and was declared dead from an abdominal aortic aneurysm that same day. Her long career and legacy was paid tribute through numerous posthumous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989 and induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2001.

Credits

Hollywood Musicals

Actor
Show
2022

Funny World of Lucy, the Later Years: I Love Lucy to the End of Her Career

Actor
Show
2021

Funny World of Lucy, the Early Years: The Rise of Her Career Up to I Love Lucy

Actor
Show
2021

I Love Lucy Christmas Special

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2019

I Love Lucy Funny Money Special

Actor
Lucy RIcardo
Show
2019

I Love Lucy Christmas Special

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2018

I Love Lucy Christmas Special

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2017

The New I Love Lucy Superstar Special

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2017

I Love Lucy Christmas Special

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2016

New I Love Lucy Superstar Special

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2016

Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly: Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back

Self
Show
2015

I Love Lucy Christmas Special

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2015

I Love Lucy Superstar Special

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2015

I Love Lucy Christmas Special

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2014

I Love Lucy Christmas Special

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2013

Classic Movie Bloopers: Uncensored

Actor
Show
2011

I Love Lucy Christmas

Actor
Lucy Ricardo
Show
2001

The ABC Fall Preview Special

Actor
Show
1986

Sous les étoiles de New York

Actor
Movie
1986

Stone Pillow

Actor
Florabelle
Movie
1985

Super PasswordStream

Actor
Game Show
1984

Super PasswordStream

Guest
Game Show
1984

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Mr. T

Guest
Show
1984

Frank Sinatra the First 40 Years

Actor
Show
1980

Lucy Moves to NBC

Actor
Movie
1980

Lucy Moves to NBC

Producer
Movie
1980

Password PlusStream

Guest
Game Show
1979

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Jimmy Stewart

Guest
Show
1978

Circus of the Stars

Self
Ringmaster
Show
1977

Three's CompanyStream

Host
Series
1977

Lucy Calls the President

Actor
Lucy Whittaker
Movie
1977

Lucy Calls the President

Executive Producer
Movie
1977

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Danny Thomas

Guest
Show
1976

CBS Salutes Lucy: The First 25 Years

Actor
Show
1976

Dick Van Dyke & Company

Guest
Show
1976

What Now, Catherine Curtis?

Actor
Catherine Curtis
Show
1976

The Practice

Guest Star
Show
1976

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Lucille Ball

Guest
Show
1975

Happy Anniversary and Goodbye

Actor
Norma Michaels
Movie
1974

Happy Anniversary and Goodbye

Executive Producer
Movie
1974

Mame

Actor
Mame Dennis
Movie
1974

Jack Benny's Birthday Special

Self
Show
1969

Here's LucyStream

Actor
Lucy Carter
Series
1968

Here's LucyStream

Director
Series
1968

The Dick Cavett ShowStream

Guest
Talk
1968

Yours, Mine and OursStream

Actor
Helen North Beardsley
Movie
1968
54%

The Carol Burnett ShowStream

Guest
Series
1967

Carol + 2

Actor
guest
Show
1967

Lucy in London

Actor
Lucy Carmichael
Show
1966

Lucy in London

Executive Producer
Show
1966

A Salute to Stan Laurel

Actor
Guest
Show
1965

The Merv Griffin Show

Guest
Talk
1965

The Danny Kaye ShowStream

Guest
Series
1963

Greatest Show on Earth

Actor
Kate Reynolds
Show
1963

Critic's Choice

Actor
Angela Ballantine
Movie
1963

The Danny Kaye Show With Lucille Ball

Self
Show
1962

The Lucy ShowStream

Actor
Series
1962

The Lucy ShowStream

Producer
Series
1962

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny CarsonStream

Guest
Talk
1962

Twelve Star Salute

Guest
Show
1961

The Facts of Life

Actor
Kitty Weaver
Movie
1960

This Is Alice

Executive Producer
Series
1958

The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour

Actor
Show
1957

We Love Lucy

Actor
Show
1957

Lucy's Really Lost MomentsStream

Actor
Series
1956

Forever Darling

Actor
Susan Vega
Movie
1956

The Long, Long TrailerStream

Actor
Tacy Bolton-Collini
Movie
1954
55%

La Roulotte du plaisir

Actor
Movie
1954

I've Got a SecretStream

Guest
Game Show
1952

The 4th Emmy Awards

Host
Show
1952

I Love LucyStream

Actor
Lucy RIcardo
Series
1951

The Magic Carpet

Actor
Princess Narah
Movie
1951

The Jack Benny ProgramStream

Guest
Talk
1950

Show of the Year

Self
guest
Show
1950

The Bob Hope Show

Guest
Show
1950

What's My Line?Stream

Guest
Game Show
1950

La Vendedora de Cepillos

Actor
Movie
1950

Fancy Pants

Actor
Agatha Floud
Movie
1950

The Fuller Brush Girl

Actor
Sally Elliot
Movie
1950

Sorrowful Jones

Actor
Gladys O'Neill
Movie
1949

Easy Living

Actor
Anne
Movie
1949

Miss Grant Takes Richmond

Actor
Ellen Grant
Movie
1949

Her Husband's Affairs

Actor
Margaret Weldon
Movie
1947

Lured

Actor
Sandra Carpenter
Movie
1947

Ziegfeld FolliesStream

Actor
Specialty
Movie
1946
67%

Two Smart People

Actor
Ricki Woodner
Movie
1946

Easy to Wed

Actor
Gladys Benton
Movie
1946

When Lovers Meet

Actor
Kay Williams
Movie
1946

The Dark Corner

Actor
Kathleen Stewart
Movie
1946

Without LoveStream

Actor
Kitty Trimble
Movie
1945
83%

Meet the People

Actor
Julie Hampton
Movie
1944

Best Foot Forward

Actor
Lucille Ball
Movie
1943

Thousands Cheer

Self
Movie
1943

Du Barry Was a LadyStream

Actor
May Daly/Madame Du Barry
Movie
1943

The Big Street

Actor
Gloria Lyons
Movie
1942

Valley of the Sun

Actor
Christine Larson
Movie
1942

Seven Days Leave

Actor
Terry Havalok-Allen
Movie
1942

Look Who's Laughing

Actor
Julie Patterson
Movie
1941

A Girl, a Guy and a Gob

Actor
Dorothy "Dot"/"Spindle" Duncan
Movie
1941

Too Many Girls

Actor
Consuelo "Connie" Casey
Movie
1940

The Marines Fly High

Actor
Joan Grant
Movie
1940

Dance, Girl, Dance

Actor
Bubbles/Tiger Lily White
Movie
1940

You Can't Fool Your Wife

Actor
Clara Fields Hinklin/Mercedes Vasquez
Movie
1940

Five Came Back

Actor
Peggy Nolan
Movie
1939

That's Right -- You're Wrong

Actor
Sandra Sand
Movie
1939

Panama Lady

Actor
Lucy
Movie
1939

Beauty for the Asking

Actor
Jean Russell
Movie
1939

Twelve Crowded Hours

Actor
Paula Sanders
Movie
1939

Room Service

Actor
Christine
Movie
1938

Joy of Living

Actor
Salina Garret Pine
Movie
1938

Go Chase Yourself

Actor
Carol Meeley
Movie
1938

Next Time I Marry

Actor
Nancy Crocker Fleming
Movie
1938

Annabel Takes a Tour

Actor
Annabel Allison
Movie
1938

Having Wonderful Time

Actor
Miriam "Screwball"
Movie
1938

The Affairs of Annabel

Actor
Annabel Allison
Movie
1938

Don't Tell the Wife

Actor
Ann "Annie" Howell
Movie
1937

Stage Door

Actor
Judith
Movie
1937

That Girl From Paris

Actor
Claire "Clair" Williams
Movie
1937

Follow the Fleet

Actor
Kitty Collins
Movie
1936

The Farmer in the Dell

Actor
Gloria Wilson
Movie
1936

Chatterbox

Actor
Lillian Temple
Movie
1936

Bunker Bean

Actor
Rosie Kelly
Movie
1936

A Night at the Biltmore Bowl

Self
Movie
1935

Roberta

Actor
Fashion Model (uncredited)
Movie
1935

I Dream Too Much

Actor
Gwendolyn Dilley
Movie
1935

The Three StoogesStream

Actor
Franchise
1934

The Affairs of Cellini

Actor
Lady-in-Waiting
Movie
1934

News aboutLucille Ball