This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lucille Ball.
Ball was 77 when she died in 1989 of a ruptured abdominal artery after heart surgery, but her legacy lives on not just in comedy, but in television production.
I Love Lucy ran from 1951 to 1957 on CBS and was the most watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons.
Together with husband-producer Desi Arnaz, the couple proved that audiences would accept a blue-eyed redhead married to a Cuban-born band leader with a heavy accent.
Under DesiLu productions it was the first scripted TV program to be shot on 35 mm film in front of a studio audience.
Ball and Arnaz pioneered the three-camera sitcom, using multiple cameras to guarantee no shot of Ball’s rubber face would be missed. CBS however baulked at the extra expense, so Arnaz, ever the quick-thinking manager, agreed to foot the bill if CBS let him keep the rights to the episodes. At the time there was no such thing as reruns or syndication, so CBS agreed. It was a masterstroke that would net the two a fortune.
DesiLu became a powerful force in early television, producing December Bride, The Untouchables, Our Miss Brooks and Make Room for Daddy. After Ball and Arnaz divorced in 1960, he sold her his share in the company for $3 million. With a shrewd business sense, she built it into a major TV production company and in 1967 sold it to Gulf & Western Industries Inc. for $17 million.
At Ball’s insistence, the studio produced the original Star Trek series for NBC, with Ball even telling execs who wanted to ditch it that the show was ahead of its time.
Ball went on to feature in a number of sitcoms including Here’s Lucy, The Lucy Show, and films including Yours, Mine and Ours and Mame.
She lives on in syndication and remains one of TV’s greatest ever stars.
Lucie Arnaz, Ball’s daughter once said, “I think of her as mom most of the time. Then I switch … and try to see her as the rest of the world does. It’s almost too big.”
Source: ABC News