30 Surprising Facts About Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball impacted the entertainment industry in many incredible ways. Before she became an iconic comedy star, Ball was a struggling student and actress. However, she overcame many obstacles to become a successful entertainer and businesswoman.
Read on to learn 30 surprising facts about Lucille Ball, from her lowest point to becoming the queen of comedy.
Ball’s Teachers Didn’t Believe in Her
If you think school is tough, you should check out what happened to Lucille Ball. In 1926, Ball attended New York’s John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts as a teenager. But she performed poorly. When it came to the moment Ball had to perform in front of her peers, she got too nervous.
She Struggled Becoming an Actor
After failing drama school in 1928, Ball looked for acting gigs in New York. But she had to put her plans on hold. Ball fell sick and took two years to recover. What did she catch? The serious illness remains unknown to this day.
She Went Through a Name Change
After driving by Belmont Race Track in New York in 1932, Ball became inspired to call herself “Diane Belmont.” She thought the name sounded more glamorous than her real name. Ball used this name while working at various stage productions and when she entered the modeling industry.
Hollywood Called Her “Queen of the Bs”
Ball’s luck as an actor began to change in the 1930s. She landed her first role as a Goldwyn Girl in Roman Scandals. It was a small role, but the work inspired Ball to move to Hollywood permanently. The fun was only getting started.
How Did She Meet the Love of Her Life?
Ball’s career eventually led her to work as a chorus lady in Too Many Girls, where she met Cuban singer Desi Arnaz. Ball immediately fell head over heels for Arnaz, but their first meeting wasn’t love at first sight for Arnaz.
She Married a Younger Man and Lied About It
Did you know Ball was six years older than Arnaz? An older woman marrying a younger man was a big deal in the 1940s. It wasn’t socially acceptable. But that didn’t stop Ball and Arnaz. Six months after Ball and Arnaz met, the two eloped.
Ball Broke Barriers in TV
Ball broke many barriers in the entertainment world. She got her first big break at the age of 40, when most women struggled to land roles in Hollywood. Ball defied the odds after receiving the lead role in I Love Lucy.
Ball and Arnaz Became the First Interracial Couple on TV
Ball wanted to cast Arnaz as her TV husband on I Love Lucy, but CBS disagreed with the choice. In fact, CBS hesitated to cast Arnaz on I Love Lucy due to his Cuban heritage and accent. The network believed American audiences wouldn’t accept an interracial couple.
Ball and Arnaz Proved That They Were Meant to Work Together
When Arnaz went on tour with his band in 1950, Ball joined him. She wanted to convince the network that the two were an excellent fit for I Love Lucy. The couple performed comedy skits across the country throughout the summer-long tour.
Ball’s Pregnancy on TV Became a Notable Moment in History
Not only did I Love Lucy break racial barriers, but it also broke social barriers on TV. Ball found out she was pregnant while filming for Season 2 of I Love Lucy. Featuring a visibly pregnant woman on TV was considered socially unacceptable by some in the 1950s.
How Committed Was She to Comedy?
Ball took her job as the comedy queen seriously, doing anything for a laugh from the audience. She rehearsed scenes until they came out perfectly. Ball also wasn’t scared of taking risks, including ones that may get her physically hurt. She was definitely a tough and hardworking woman.
Ball Admitted She Got Nervous While Filming
Ball gained strength by admitting her faults to herself and her peers. While filming the episode, Lucy Does a TV Commercial, Ball was nervous and worried about messing up her lines. The script included saying “Vitameatavegamin” many times in the episode.
Ethel and Lucy’s Friendship on TV Broke the Status Quo
During the 1950s, most TV shows portrayed women competing against each other. Realistic on-screen women friendships like the ones in popular shows such as Broad City, Friends and Gilmore Girls weren’t seen on television. Vivian Vance (Ethel) and Ball shook the entertainment industry.
She Tricked ‘I Love Lucy’s’ Cigarette Sponsor
I Love Lucy almost didn’t air because CBS struggled to find a sponsor for the show. In the end, tobacco giant Philip Morris became a sponsor. Philip Morris wanted each episode to feature the name “Philip Morris” whenever possible. They also wanted the cast to smoke their cigarettes in each episode.
Why Did She Take a Paycut For the Show?
Ball and Desi wanted the work close to home in Los Angeles. However, in the 1950s many TV shows were broadcast from New York. CBS and Sponsor Philip Morris opposed the idea. But Ball and Desi insisted and fought to film I Love Lucy in California.
Ball’s Children Were A Big Deal
Ball became a mother, after giving birth to her first child, Lucie Arnaz in 1951. Ball’s new baby daughter, Lucie Arnaz, influenced her decision to work close to home in Los Angeles. This ultimately led to Ball gaining full ownership rights to I Love Lucy.
Ball Almost Drowned While Filming a Fight Scene
Ball experienced some wild and unpredictable moments while filming I Love Lucy. In the episode, Lucy’s Italian Movie, Ball almost drowned. The cast member, Teresa Tirelli, set to wrestle with Ball didn’t speak any English. As a result, an interpreter had to give Tirelli directions.
Only Ball Was Allowed to Make Fun of Arnaz’s Accent
Arnaz’s character, Ricky, had trouble with English and pronunciation on I Love Lucy. The writers made an unofficial rule that only Ricky’s wife, Lucy, could make fun of his accent or language problems. The writers found a creative way to make it unacceptable for others to mock Ricky’s accent.
Ball’s Marriage Had Some Serious Problems
Ball and Arnaz’s marriage had many happy moments, but it also experienced some dark stages. At the beginning of their marriage, Ball was concerned about Arnaz going on tour with his band. According to Country Living, she was worried about Arnaz being unfaithful.
She Became Ill While in A Musical
After I Love Lucy, Ball left Hollywood for New York to star in the Broadway musical, Wildcat. After a few performances, the show received little enthusiasm. The majority of the audience came to see Ball. When Ball became ill, Wildcat took a turn for the worse.
She Found Love Again
After Ball and Arnaz divorced, Ball wanted to find a partner who wasn’t threatened by her success. She also hoped for someone who would take care of her. It didn’t take long for Ball’s wish to come true. Thanks to Wildcat co-star, Paula Stewart, Ball met Gary Morton.
Ball Was the First Woman to Run a Major Studio in Hollywood
Arnaz was in charge of Desilu Productions, a company founded by the couple, until 1962. Ball bought out Arnaz's shares of Desilu Productions for $2.5 million, becoming the first female CEO of a major production company in 1962. Desilu Productions went on to produce a number of hit TV shows and films, including Mission: Impossible and Star Trek.
Was Her Hair Really Red?
While Ball was best known for her contributions to comedy, she was also known for her iconic red hair. Was her hair always red? Ball was naturally a brunette, but dyed her hair several times in her career. In 1933, Ball bleached her hair blonde.
She Didn’t Need a TV Husband
Ball portrayed an unmarried woman on The Lucy Show, becoming one of the first women to lead a show without a male co-star. Ball and Morton co-produced The Lucy Show, which was a follow-up sitcom to I Love Lucy (without Arnaz).
She Held the Longest Recorded Laugh in US Television History
In one episode of I Love Lucy, Ball performed a dance routine with eggs. Ball hid the eggs in her blouse during the dance, filling her top with scrambled yolks and making a big mess. The live audience couldn’t stop laughing at the comedy sequence.
She Worked With Her Children
In 1968, Ball launched the series Here's Lucy, featuring Desi Jr. and Lucie Arnaz. After The Lucy Show ended, Ball wanted to star in a show with her children. As a result, a whole new show was written for the family.
Did Ball and Arnaz Become Enemies?
After a breakup, it can be hard to remain friends with an ex. But somehow Ball and Arnaz made it work. When Ball and Arnaz became lovers, they were also best friends. After their divorce, they remained good friends. Ball told People that they never got a lawyer for their divorce.
She Was Connected to the Communist Party
Ball listed her party affiliation as Communist when she registered to vote in 1936 and 1938. As a result, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) investigated Ball’s family in 1952. Ball met with HUAC investigator William A. Wheeler in Hollywood to set the record straight.
She Won Many Awards
Did you know that some celebrities have more than one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Ball received two stars on the famous sidewalk: One for her work in motion pictures and another for TV. The comedy queen earned both stars in 1960.
She Made Fans Laugh Until the Very End
Ball continued to act and make public appearances until her final years. In 1985, she appeared in the TV film, Stone Pillow, as a bag lady, which ended with a trip to the hospital for dehydration. She last appeared on TV in the 1986 series, Life With Lucy.