Date of Birth
6 August 1911, Jamestown, New York, USA
Date of Death
26 April 1989, Beverly Hills, California, USA (acute aortic aneurysm)
Lucille Désirée Ball
Queen of the B movies (during the 1940s)
The First Lady of Television
The Queen of Comedy
5' 7" (1.70 m)
Remembered as a dizzy sitcom redhead with show business aspirations, Lucille Ball was, in fact, a show business powerhouse and television pioneer. Throughout her teen years, Ball tried unsuccessfully to launch her show business career, finally landing a spot as a "Ziegfeld Girl". She launched her Hollywood career as one of the "Goldwyn Girls", but she moved out from the crowd of starlets to starring roles. With "I Love Lucy" (1951), she and husband Desi Arnaz pioneered the 3-camera technique now the standard in filming TV sitcoms, and the concept of syndicating television programs. She was also the first woman to own her own film studio as the head of Desilu.
IMDb Mini Biography By: Ray Hamel
The woman who will always be remembered as the crazy, accident-prone, lovable Lucy Ricardo was born Lucille Desiree Ball in Jamestown, New York, on August 6, 1911. Her father died before she was four, and her mother worked several jobs, so she and her younger brother were raised by their grandparents. Always willing to take responsibility for her brother and young cousins, she was a restless teenager who yearned to "make some noise". She entered a dramatic school in New York, but while her classmate Bette Davis received all the raves, she was sent home; "too shy." She found some work modeling for Hattie Carnegie's and, in 1933, she was chosen to be a "Goldwyn Girl" and appear in the film Roman Scandals (1933).
She was put under contract to RKO and several small roles, including one in Top Hat (1935), followed. Eventually, she received starring roles in B-pictures and, occasionally, a good role in an A-picture, like in Stage Door (1937) or The Big Street (1942). While filming Too Many Girls (1940), she met and fell madly in love with a young Cuban actor-musician named Desi Arnaz. Despite different personalities, lifestyles, religions and ages (he was six years younger), he fell hard, too, and after a passionate romance, they eloped and were married in November, 1940. Lucy soon switched to MGM, where she got better roles in films such as Du Barry Was a Lady (1943); Best Foot Forward (1943) and the Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy vehicle Without Love (1945). In 1948, she took a starring role in the radio comedy "My Favorite Husband", in which she played the scatterbrained wife of a Midwestern banker. In 1950, CBS came knocking with the offer of turning it into a television series. After convincing the network brass to let Desi play her husband and to sign over the rights to and creative control over the series to them, work began on the most popular and universally beloved sitcom of all time.
IMDb Mini Biography By: Tommy Peter
Gary Morton (19 November 1961 - 26 April 1989) (her death)
Desi Arnaz (30 November 1940 - 4 May 1960) (divorced) 1 daughter Lucie, 1 son Desi Arnaz Jr.
Received the Women's International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award posthumously in 1990.
Originally interred at Forest Lawn (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California, USA, Columbarium of Radiant Dawn, Court of Remembrance. In 2003, she was re-interred in the Ball family plot in Lake View Cemetery, Jamestown, New York.
A comment from a member of the preview audience of Follow the Fleet (1936) about bit-player Ball: "You might give the tall gum chewing blonde more parts and see if she can't make the grade - a good gamble."
Ball and Barbara Pepper met early in their careers when they were both "Goldwyn Girls" and remained lifelong friends.
Mother of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr..
During a Barbara Walters interview, Jane Fonda claimed that her father, Henry Fonda, was deeply in love with Lucille Ball and that the two were "very close" during the filming of Yours, Mine and Ours (1968).
Was the first woman to own her own film studio.
Born a brunette.
She signed her first promotional agreement with Max Factor in 1935 and again in 1942. Of all the stars, she had the longest association with the Max Factor company.
Once registered as a voter for the Communist party as a favor to her grandfather.
Lucy and her son, Desi Arnaz Jr., appeared together on the very first cover of "TV Guide" magazine in 1953.
Died the morning of April 26, 1989, the fifty-sixth birthday of her friend Carol Burnett. That afternoon Burnett received the flowers that Ball had ordered for her birthday.
During the 1933 filming of Roman Scandals (1933), young Lucille Ball, portraying a slave girl, needed to have her eyebrows entirely shaved off. They never grew back.
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.
Lucy and Desi Arnaz began "I Love Lucy" (1951) in the hopes of saving their crumbling marriage.
She was fired from working at an ice cream store because she kept forgetting to put bananas in banana splits.
She put her Chesterfield cigarettes in a Philip Morris package to please her sponsor (of the "I Love Lucy" (1951) show).
TV Guide picked her as the greatest TV star of all time.
Was one of the 20 original "Goldwyn Girls", along with Virginia Bruce; Ann Dvorak; Paulette Goddard and Betty Grable.
Born at 5:00 pm.
Second cousin of actress Suzan Ball.
For many years during their marriage, Lucy and Desi Arnaz hid the fact that she was six years older then him by splitting the difference in their ages. She (born in 1911) said she was born in 1914 and he (born in 1917) also said he was born in 1914.
Was known for a while as Dianne Belmont back when she was a model.
Pictured on a 34¢ USA commemorative postage stamp in the Legends of Hollywood series, issued 6 August 2001.
Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2002.
Her favorite movie she made was The Big Street (1942). Up to her dying day, she resented AMPAS for not recognizing her performance in the movie by including her for an Academy Award nomination.
One of her last television appearances was in 1989 on the 62nd Academy Awards, with Bob Hope, announcing the nominations and winner of Best Picture.
Stricken by rheumatoid arthritis early in her modeling career and spent 2 years re-learning how to walk.
Filed for a divorce from husband Desi Arnaz, the day following the last day of filming "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" (1957). [3 March 1960]
Measurements: 33-22 1/2 -34 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine).
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith. pg. 35-37. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387.
Felt that she did not deserve the title of "Queen of Comedy" and felt that it belonged to her idol, Carole Lombard.
While still contemplating whether to do the "I Love Lucy" (1951) shows, she claimed that in her dream, Carole Lombard came to her and told her to "Give it a whirl".
Was Frank Sinatra's first choice for the role of Laurence Harvey's mother in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). He was only dissuaded when John Frankenheimer took him to see Angela Lansbury in a play.
Disliked any false form of a bird, she preferred to see them in person so she banned all pictures of birds from her house and any hotel room she was staying in.
Had a superstition about the letters A and R, which is why her character was named Lucy RicARdo in "I Love Lucy" (1951); Lucy CARmichael in "The Lucy Show" (1962); Lucy CARter in "Here's Lucy" (1968) and Lucy BARker in "Life with Lucy" (1986) (she was also married to 'Desi ARnaz'). She believed she didn't have luck in her career until she changed her name to Arnaz.
First cousin of Cleo Morgan, though they were raised as sisters.
Related by marriage to Sid Gould.
Related by marriage to Vanda Barra.
Was of Irish, Scottish, French, and English descent.
Suffered a miscarriage with her and Desi Arnaz's first child in 1942.
Suffered a second miscarriage with her and Desi Arnaz's second child in 1949.
Suffered third miscarriage in 1950 with husband Desi Arnaz.
Comedian John Belushi was a fan of her and knew every detail of her life and career.
She was proud of her family and heritage. Her genealogy can be traced back to the earliest settlers in the colonies. One direct ancestor, William Sprague (1609-1675), left England on the ship "Lyon's Whelp" for Plymouth/Salem, Massachusetts. They were from Upwey, Dorsetshire, England. William, along with his 2 brothers, helped to found the city of Charlestown, Massachusetts. Other Sprague relatives became soldiers in the Revolutionary War and 2 of them became governors of the state of Rhode Island.
Lucy and Desi Arnaz were married a second time in 1946 in a church because his mother believed that the reason they didn't have children yet was because they were never married in the Catholic Church.
Lucy and Desi Arnaz were married at the Byram River Beagle Club in Connecticut in 1940.
Lucy filed for divorce from Desi Arnaz in the 1940s, but didn't go through with it because they reconciled.
Not long after the Arnazes bought their house on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills, it was featured in an episode of "I Love Lucy" (1951) (the one where Richard Widmark guest stars and she climbs over the fence to pick a grapefruit).
She named herself Diane Belmont after the Belmont racetrack in New York.
The day she first met Desi Arnaz, she had a black eye and a torn dress from filming a fight scene for Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) and he didn't find her at all attractive until they met again later in the day when she had changed into her own clothes and makeup. His oft-quoted first impression of her extraordinary beauty was "That's a hunk o' woman".
The original Desilu was her and Desi Arnaz's ranch in Chatsworth, CA. They used the same method of naming it that Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford's did when they named their estate "Pickfair".
Was once known as the "Chesterfield Girl" because she was the spokesmodel for Chesterfield cigarettes.
Was tutored in comedy by Buster Keaton.
When they were first married in 1940, Desi Arnaz had to give Lucy a ring from a drugstore because all jewelry stores were closed. She wore it for the rest of their marriage.
Her biological father died when she was three years old. Henry Durell Ball was a telephone lineman for the Bell Company. Lucy's mother, DeDe Ball, was pregnant with her second child (younger brother Fred) when Henry contracted typhoid fever and died in February of 1915.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 63-66. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
Her younger brother, 'Fred Ball (II)' (1915-2007), moved from their hometown of Jamestown, NY, to join Lucy in Hollywood in the 1930s. Fred often accompanied Desi Arnaz's band on tour during the 1940s and 1950s, and was also on the Board of Directors of Desilu Productions. In later years Fred and his wife Zo operated a motel in Cottonwood, AZ, where he died. Fred also shared the same birthday as his niece Lucie Arnaz.
In Italy, her films were often dubbed by Lidia Simoneschi or Wanda Tettoni, notably in the hilarious The Long, Long Trailer (1953). She was occasionally dubbed by Rosetta Calavetta, Dhia Cristiani, Rina Morelli and Renata Marini (in Stage Door (1937)).
Was in frail health following a heart attack in May 1988.
In 1966 it was reported in an annual stockholder's meeting that her salary as President of Desilu Productions (1962-1967) was $100,000. Her acting fees for 1966 were $130,172.
In 1968 she was reported to be the richest woman in television, having earned an estimated $30 million.
In 1962 she purchased Desi Arnaz's holdings in Desilu holdings for $3 million, as he wanted to retire to his horse ranch in Corona, CA, and lead a more stress-free life.
In July 1967 she sold Desilu Productions, consisting of 36 sound stages, 2000 employees and 62 acres adjacent to Paramount, to Gulf + Western Industries for $17 million. She received $10 million in Gulf + Western stock for her 60% of Desilu, the remaining $7 million being distributed to 3878 stockholders.
Profiled in "Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames" bu Ray Hagen and Laura Wagner (McFarland, 2004).
When her subsequent series "The Lucy Show" (1962) and "Here's Lucy" (1968) became popular, Jess Oppenheimer, a co-creator of "I Love Lucy" (1951) alleged that her character Lucy Carmichael/Carter was in fact Lucy Ricardo re-named and threatened to sue. Rather than go to court, she settled for $220,000.
Her 1960 divorce from Desi Arnaz was quite amicable. They divided their $20 million television empire equally, each retaining 25% Desilu stock (282,800 shares),she got the homes in Beverly Hills and Rancho Mirage, and Desi got the beach house in Del Mar, California and his Horse Ranch in Corona, California. In addition they agreed to joint custody of their children with him paying $450/month child support.
In 1958, in order to raise funds for their various investments, she and Desi Arnaz took Desilu public on the NYSE at $10 per share. She and Desi each retained 25% of the company, while each selling 25%. She took her $2,500,000 windfall, paid $600,000 in capital gains taxes and, always frugal, invested the remainder into bonds and securities.
When Ball lived at 1000 N. Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills, Jack Benny lived at 1002 N. Roxbury Drive.
Was offered the role of Angel in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), but was forced to turn it down due to pregnancy. 'Gloria Grahame (I)' was later cast instead.
Appears on a 44¢ USA commemorative postage stamp in the Early Television Memories issue with Vivian Vance, as Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz, in a scene from "I Love Lucy: Job Switching (#2.1)" (1952). The stamp was issued 11 August 2009.
Was good friends with actresses: Mary Jane Croft, Carole Lombard, Ginger Rogers, Vivian Vance, and Mary Wickes. All except Croft were childless; Wickes never married.
Became very good friends with Actress Maureen O'Hara during the making of 'Dance Girl, Dance' and continue being friends till Ball's death. O'Hara was with Lucille when Lucille first met her husband Desi Arnaz.
I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can do. In fact, that's good taste.
One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn't pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore faith in yourself.
I don't know anything about luck. I've never banked on it, and I'm afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: hard work and realizing what is opportunity and what isn't.
The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.
I'm not funny. What I am is brave.
Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead.
I'd rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.
A man who correctly guesses a woman's age may be smart, but he's not very bright.
In life, all good things come hard, but wisdom is the hardest to come by.
[About her meeting Desi Arnaz for the first time]: It wasn't love at first sight. It took a full five minutes.
Desi (Desi Arnaz) was the great love of my life. I will miss him until the day I die. But I don't regret divorcing him. I just couldn't take it anymore.
[About Edith Head]: Edie knew the truth about all of us. She knew who had flat fannies and who didn't -- but she never told.
[on Liza Minnelli] She's a great trouper, Liza, I wish I had her talent. If anybody's going to take over from me, it's her. She's got a mind like a trip hammer and huge vitality. She's great.
[on Bob Hope] You spell Bob Hope C-L-A-S-S.
[on Audrey Hepburn] She's a tomboy and a fine comedienne. You'd never think of her being able to do my type of comedy. But she can. She has great energy, frail as she looks. But, well, she's so beautiful, so ethereal, it would be sacrilege to put her through it.
You were taken in charge and trained. They have none of that today any place. I regret the passing of the studio system. I was very appreciative of it because I had no talent. Believe me. What could I do? I couldn't dance. I couldn't sing. I could talk. I could barely walk. I had no flair. I wasn't a beauty, that's for sure.
[on Julie Andrews] I mean, you in Britain have some of the best comediennes. Julie Andrews is a comedienne -- oh yes she is!
[on Buster Keaton] He taught me most of what I know about timing, how to fall and how to handle props and animals.
[Defending her "singing" performance in the film Mame (1974)] Mame stayed up all night and drank champagne! What did you expect her to sound like? Julie Andrews?
I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.
(About her Friend Maureen O'Hara) Maureen O'Hara is one of the people I love the most out all the people I know.
Mame (1974) $250,000+10% net profits
Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) 50% of the net profits (co-producer)
A Guide for the Married Man (1967) $10,000 for two days work.
The Danny Kaye Show with Lucille Ball (1962) (TV) $100,000
The Long, Long Trailer (1953) $125,000
The Magic Carpet (1951) $85,000
"I Love Lucy" (1951) $3,500 per episode
Two Smart People (1946) $1,750/week
The Big Street (1942) $3,500/week
A Girl, a Guy, and a Gob (1941) $12,500
Too Many Girls (1940) $1,500/week
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) $3,500/week
Go Chase Yourself (1938) $2,000/week
Don't Tell the Wife (1937) $2,000/week
Top Hat (1935) $50/week