100 years of Lucy

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


  1. thankyou David. I laugh and laugh every time I see it and when this clip is shown on TV they never give you the full scene. As most others have said she had the most amazing timing. when i was working as a gardener I came upon a heap of old newspapers and sat for ages reading them and it was the era of Lucy and Dezi. good times good times

  2. I don’t think it’s because of its black and white status that it won’t get shown again, look at Wackiest Ship In The Army, it’s on a digital channel and b&w along with a few others. That’s like saying The Addams Family will never be shown again which I find hard to believe. It’s just a matter of time before one of the digitals picks it up.

  3. Her timing was just superb. Most comediennes today will always cite Lucy as one of their inspirations and it’s obvious as to why. She always hit the mark and played the clown with a sensitive and hilarious slant. Everyone always knew what they were in for and you could sometimes see the gag coming at you a mile away, but that was just it. You knew what was coming and couldn’t wait to see her and ethel in another crazy madcap situation. Whenever you hear the words “Ethel, I have an idea” “Oh lucy, I don’t like this” you start to giggle because you know exactly what’s going to happen.

  4. The ABC was showing I Love Lucy in prime-time (6.30pm) some years ago but since then I don’t think it’s been shown on a major FTA network, although I think it may have done the rounds of Channel 31 a while back?

    It’s unfortunate that because of its B&W status it is not likely to get shown on FTA again, but then the DVDs of the show are pretty cheap I bought some for my mum – she still talks about the vitameataveganin skit!

  5. @Bre Saxs, I’ve seen official Aussie DVD releases of “I Love Lucy” in some Big W stores in Sydney, with similar box art to the American releases. Haven’t seen them anywhere else yet though, which is surprising… Hope that helps if you’re looking for them.

  6. When Desi Arnaz sold his shares of Desilu to Lucy, she actually became the first female head of a TV studio.

    “The face of Lucille Ball has been seen by more people than the face of any human being who ever lived.” TV Guide, 1989.

    Even if you never liked her shows, there’s no doubt that in some way she and her shows helped shape whatever you watch on television today!

    Amazing woman and a fascinating legend.

  7. Wow 100! My mum grew up watching all of Lucy’s show’s, but her favourite was I Love Lucy. Here’s Lucy is a regular fixture on Go! so I wonder why the channel hasn’t picked up I Love Lucy? As the series isn’t available on DVD in Australia, which is a shame.

  8. daveinprogress

    What a wonderful way to recognise one of the true television legends and comedic icons. She is absolutely one of a kind, and a pioneer for so many reasons. It is amazing to me that more than half a century on, the original series is still so funny and sparkling, her spirit and talent continue to shine on. Thanks for the post, David, it is always such a pleasure to reminisce about such a talented individual.

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