Saturday, August 6, 2011

I Love Lucy...A Few Reasons Why

Lucille Ball by Richard Amsel

This is my entry in the "Loving Lucy Blogathon" hosted by True Classics...for more, click here.

One reason I love Lucy is that my mom always reminded me very much of her. Both were smart, attractive and there was more than occasionally something they kept from 'the man of the house' (how I remember the phrase, "don't tell your father"). Mom was talented, ambitious, determined and funny, like Lucy. There were times, in certain situations, that she would imitate Lucy's famous "Ewwww!" take. But mom was what was then called a "housewife," a homemaker extraordinaire and PTA queen - Lucy was the greatest comedienne television has yet known.

As has often been noted, Lucille Ball was in Hollywood for years before she broke out on TV. She'd been tagged "Queen of B-Movies," which is something, but clearly not enough for an actress who'd shared the screen with the likes of Tracy and Hepburn, Astaire and Rogers, The Marx Bros., Bob Hope and Henry Fonda. Her popular radio series, "My Favorite Husband" (CBS, 1948 - 1951) was the stepping stone that led to Lucy's television super-stardom on "I Love Lucy," which debuted on CBS TV in October 1951.

I've always been especially fond of the Lucy episodes from seasons 4 and 5, beginning in February 1955, when the Ricardos and Mertzes traveled to Hollywood. These shows included cameos by various stars (including John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Van Johnson and Harpo Marx) and industry legends (Hedda Hopper, Dore Schary) along with the usual Lucy hi-jinks. But I think some of my affection for these shows is also tied to the fact that Lucy and her gang had come to Southern California, my own home ground.

I don't know how many times I've seen this Lucy sketch with William Holden (Season 4, Episode 17, "L.A., at Last," first aired February 7, 1955), but it still makes me laugh out loud. It's my favorite Lucy routine of them all and one of her two or three very best. The lunacy begins when Bill Holden, whom Lucy has already accosted and made a scene over at the Brown Derby restaurant, arrives at the Ricardo's hotel room with Ricky. Lucy improvises...

Not long ago I watched the amusing Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949), in which Lucy and Holden co-starred. He hadn't yet collaborated with Billy Wilder, a teaming that would launch the actor's great film stardom, and Lucy was still a year or two from her move to TV.  I have to think that the two must've relished working together in this 1955 sitcom classic, two former B-stars now both firmly ensconced on the A List, and having a great time of it.

Click here for another of my favorite Lucy skits.

Turner Classic Movies Schedule of Lucille Ball Films, August 6, 2011
6:00 am Eastern/3:00 Pacific, Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
8:00 am Eastern/5:00 Pacific, Panama Lady (1939)
9:30 am Eastern/6:30 Pacific, Without Love (1945)
11:30 am Eastern/8:30 Pacific, Miss Grant Takes Richmond (1949)
1:00 pm Eastern/10:00 am Pacific, The Fuller Brush Girl (1950)
2:30 pm Eastern/11:30 am Pacific, The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
4:30 pm Eastern/1:30 Pacific, Best Foot Forward (1943)
6:15 pm Eastern/3:15 Pacific, Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
8:00 pm Eastern/5:00 Pacific, Stage Door (1937)
9:45 pm Eastern/6:45 Pacific, The Big Street (1942)
11:30 pm Eastern/8:30 Pacific, Easy to Wed (1946)
1:30 am Eastern/10:30 pm Pacific, Lured (1947)
3:15 am Eastern/12:15 Pacific,The Affairs of Annabel (1938)
4:30 am Eastern/1:30 Pacific, Annabel Takes a Tour (1938)


  1. How wonderful that your mother reminds you of Lucy! Or Lucy reminds you of your mother, whichever way. It's interesting how Lucy was able to represent those women, in a certain way, while also being a powerful businesswoman and actress.

  2. You know, it's amazing how many people I know who had a relative that reminded them of Lucy. For me, it was my grandmother on my Mom's side--she had that sort of way with a sarcastic remark that Ball had, plus she had acquired Lucy's cigarette voice croak after a lifetime of sucking down the ol' coffin nails.

    I'm trying to remember where I've seen that Amsel portrait before -- was it a TV Guide cover? (It's one of my favorite Lucy drawerings.)

    I got the opportunity to see the classic William Holden-Lucy encounter again the other day and while I laugh at the putty nose thing for some reason the preceding scene, where he gives her the staredown in the restaurant, makes me laugh even harder. Go figure.

    Great post, Eve!

  3. One of my favorite episodes is also L.A. at Last. I haven't seen Miss Grant Takes Richmond yet, but I'm really interested in seeing it now since she and Bill Holden did so well together on I Love Lucy.

  4. Hi, Meredith – You got it right, I’m not sure who came first (as far as which of the two reminded me of the other), but I saw a powerful resemblance between them…though my mom didn’t go as far as slapstick. Lucy’s housewife was a great (and timely) caricature – but wouldn’t have caught the entire country’s imagination had the character been portrayed by a lesser talent (who, it turned out, was a multi-talented pioneer).

    Hi, Ivan - That's Amsel's preliminary sketch for what later became a full-blown, full-color TV Guide cover.

    Coincidentally, the "L.A., at Last" episode of Lucy was airing on the Hallmark Channel just as this post published (and I recorded it). I think the entire episode is hilarious, but that moment when Lucy's putty-nose catches fire & she dunks it in her coffee (as Holden and Ricky gape) gets me every time.

  5. Hi Meredith (II) - I like Lucy and Bill in "Miss Grant Takes Richmond" (plus James Gleason and Frank McHugh!). She's very good in her '40s comedies, you can see where Lucy Ricardo came from. I've never heard the "My Favorite Husband" radio shows, but one of these days...

  6. Great post on the great comedienne. It's interesting to trace Lucy's career - you can really see how her earlier work and the actors she worked with influenced her "I Love Lucy" character. Even her early role of "fashion model" (Lucy was almost always taller than her female co-stars), had its part in her appreciation of a good wardobe on her shows. I grew up with her too, and remember being driven by the old Desilu Studio hundreds of times - where my great-aunt had worked with Lucy and company at the former RKO.

  7. My mother also reminds me of Lucy and is the one who introduced me to her and the I Love Lucy Show. A favorite film of hers of mine is The Long, Long Trailer. I don't know if you've seen it, but if you haven't you should! Great post on a great lady :)

  8. I really enjoyed this theladyeve! It is sweet that you started off comparing you mother to Lucy. Come to think of it, my mom is very much a Lucy too. Thanks for posting this great tribute on her 100th birthday. :)

  9. I love this episode. And how great that Holden, at the height of popularity and a recent Oscar winner, agreed to be on the show. Like most of the stars that appeared on the Hollywood episodes, they knew Lucy and were happy to be included. I often think of that season when they go to Hollywood as one long great episode.

  10. That portrait of Lucy is stunning. I've never seen it before! As usual, a fantastic article for the Lucy-fest! I have to go with Ivan -- the restaurant scene with Holden always makes me laugh 'til my stomach hurts. When Ethel takes out those scissors and cuts the spaghettis, I usually snort coffee through my nose, I laugh so hard. And I LOVE "slowly I turned." One of the best skits ever done on the show. Thanks for a great article and heads-up on the wonderful skits, too.

  11. A great post, Eve. Lucy produced so many great episodes on all three of hers shows, but I think my favourite would be "Lucy Does a TV Commercial." I think Lucy did the best drunk ever!

  12. That flaming nose gets me every time, but my favorite one is Lucy putting too much yeast in the dough and having an enormous loaf of bread spring from the oven. As a little kid, that reduced me to a puddle of giggles every time!

  13. I love this episode so much. It's easily my favorite of the entire series. I particularly love how it sets up the celebrity encounters for the rest of the Hollywood season. As we learn later from John Wayne, Holden's been telling folks about Ricky Ricardo's crazy wife, and the Duke even claims he "owes Bill Holden an apology" after seeing Lucy in action for himself!

    Thank you so much for participating in the blogathon--I really enjoyed your contribution!

  14. Great to hear from so many who love Lucy...

    Christian - I worked on Sunset Blvd. during the '80s and would sometimes have lunch at the Brown Derby on Vine. I don't think I ever entered the place without thinking of the Lucy & Bill scenario.

    Gabrielle - Having a Lucy-like mom is interesting, isn't it? I've seen and like "The Long, Long Trailer."

    Brandon – Hi! Good to hear from you again…and I hope you’re liking the big 2-0…so you have a Lucy-mom, too. It’s a blessing…

    CFB - The Hollywood trip was one very, very long episode. I wouldn't have minded if they'd stayed on the West Coast forever.

    Becky - About "slowly I turn" - believe it or not, a friend and I were doing a version of the routine at work the other day (everybody seems to know Lucy's best bits).

    Mercurie - You're referring to the great "Vitameatavegamin" routine - only 23% alcohol and "the answer to all your problems"..."spoon your way to health!"

    FlickChick - It's fun finding out everyone's favorite Lucy episodes - there are sooo many greats. Just thought of another: Lucy babysits for a pair of spoiled-brat twins who terrorize and try to burn her at the stake...

    Brandie - I'd forgotten that Lucy's reputation made its way around Hollywood after her Holden encounter and was referenced in later episodes. That crazy redhead...
    Thanks again for hosting a great blogathon in honor of Lucy and her 100th birthday.

  15. What can I say? Really, what IS there left to say??

    This post sums up everything that I adore about Lucy. Thank you for taking the time to craft such a well-rounded, deeply thoughtful post!

  16. Eve, I really enjoyed reading your Lucy post and what a beautiful painting of her.. I was able to catch the clever and fun film, Miss Grant Takes Richmond, on TCM. One of my favorite scenes is when, Holden things Lucy was buried alive.

    I just Love Lucy. :)

  17. Hi, Kitty, and thanks. Loved your blogathon post, too - a real Lucy primer.

    Dawn - Thanks to TCM I caught a few Lucy movies I hadn't seen, but one you mentioned on your great Lucy tribute, "Panama Lady," I've yet to see. But soon.

    Lots of Lucy Love going around... ;)

  18. Love the post, and the TCM schedule was a great addition. Thanks for participating in the blogathon!
    -Carrie, True Classics

  19. Hi Carrie - Thanks for stopping by - the Loving Lucy Blogathon was an inspired tribute - I'm still working my way through all the participating blogs...many thanks for hosting this Lucy lovefest.

  20. Lucy had a dominating presence, even in her supporting roles. Excellent tribute to one of the best.

    By the way- thank you so much for linking to my blog. I really appreciate it.

  21. Wonderful post, Eve! There's no question that Lucille Ball was a comedy genius, especially when it came to physical comedy and sight gags. If there's someone out there in the world who DOESN'T dissolve into helpless laughter when Lucy puts on that putty nose in a vain (and hilarious) attempt to go unrecognized by William Holden, I'm not sure I want to know them! :-) But I had to smile at everyone's comparison of Lucy to their own mom, because as far as I'm concerned, mine was the champ, combining a zany sense of humor, true beauty inside and out, strength of character, AND a kind, loving heart -- an unbeatable combination if ever there was one!

  22. Jill - I hope next year, when the Classic Movie Blog Assn. is taking applications again, you'll apply for membership - love your blog, you'd make a great new member.

    Dorian - All these Lucy-esque moms, who knew?? And every one "the champ" in the eyes of each of us. Thanks for stopping by.

  23. nice/simple/straightforward post...I really never thought of her as "queen of the B-Movies"...who said that???
    had a fairly good 20 year film career B4 I LOVE LUCY...she was even in a THREE STOOGES short!!!

  24. I don't know where she got that B-movie queen tag, I never thought so either, but then I knew her mostly from TV and her post-Lucy films until a few years ago.

  25. This is my first visit to your blog. I found you through Dawn's blog award.

    I am totally in love with William Holden, so I LOVE that episode of I Love Lucy. I've watched it many times, and besides laughing every time, I'm probably also drooling over the gorgeousness of my #1 guy.

  26. Hi Patti...welcome to my reel life! William Holden was at his most handsome in the mid-'50s wasn't he? He was also a great straight man for Lucy...I imagine he was trying hard not to break up while they were doing that scene...