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One of America's most beloved comedians, Lucille Ball is particularly known for her iconic TV show I Love Lucy.
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Lucille Ball moved to Hollywood and met Cuban-born entertainer Desi Arnaz while working on the film "Dance, Girl, Dance." The pair formed Desilu Productions and soon began their own pioneering television sitcom on CBS, "I Love Lucy."
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Born on August 6, 1911, in Jamestown, New York, Lucille Ball got her start as a singer, model and film star before becoming one of America's top comedic actresses with the 1950s TV show I Love Lucy, co-starring on the show with her husband, Desi Arnaz. The two divorced in 1960, and Ball went on to star in The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy while also becoming a top TV executive. She died in 1989.
"I'm not funny. What I am is brave."
Lucille Ball was born on August 6, 1911, in Jamestown, New York, to Henry Durrell Ball and his wife Desiree. The elder of the couple's two children (her brother, Fred, was born in 1915), Lucille had a hardscrabble childhood shaped by tragedy and a lack of money.
Ball's father, Henry (or Had, as he was known to his family) was an electrician, and not long after his daughter's birth he relocated the family to Montana for work. Then it was off to Michigan, where Had took a job as a telephone lineman with the Michigan Bell Company. Life came undone in February 1915 when Had was struck with typhoid fever and died. For Ball, just 3 years old at the time, her father's death not only set in motion a series of difficult childhood hurdles, but also served as the young girl's first real significant memory.
"I do remember everything that happened," she said. "Hanging out the window, begging to play with the kids next door who had measles, the doctor coming, my mother weeping. I remember a bird that flew in the window, a picture that fell off the wall."
Desiree, still reeling from her husband's unexpected death and pregnant with Fred, packed up and returned to Jamestown, New York, where she eventually found work in a factory and a new husband, Ed Peterson. Peterson, though, wasn't a fan of kids, especially young ones, and with Desiree's blessing, he decided the two of them would move to Detroit without her children. Fred moved in with Desiree's parents, while Lucille was forced to make a new home with Ed's folks. For Ball that meant contending with Peterson's stern mother, who didn't have much money to lavish on her step-granddaughter. The family, Lucille would later recall, lacked enough money even for school pencils.
Finally, at age 11, Lucille reunited with her mother when Desiree and Ed returned to Jamestown. Even then, Ball had an itch to do something big, and when she was 15 she convinced her mother to allow her to enroll in a New York City drama school. But despite her longing to make it on the stage, Ball was too nervous to draw much notice.
"I was a tongue-tied teenager spellbound by the school's star pupil, Bette Davis," said Ball. The school finally wrote her mother, "Lucy's wasting her time and ours. She's too shy and reticent to put her best foot forward."
She remained in New York City, however, and by 1927 Ball, who had started calling herself Diane Belmont, found work as a model, first for fashion designer Hattie Carnegie, and then, after overcoming a debilitating bout of rheumatoid arthritis, for Chesterfield cigarettes.
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Model and comedienne Lucille Ball met Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz in 1940 while filming Too Many Girls. They fell for one another instantly and eloped later that year. In 1951, they debuted the hit television series I Love Lucy, starring as the zany middle-class couple Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. With near-perfect timing and a genius for ad-libbing, the red-haired Ball cruised through 179 episodes. The duo also founded Desilu Productions in 1950, a successful independent television production company. Ball and Arnaz divorced in 1960, ending one of television's greatest marriages, though they remained friends until his death in 1986.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz 2 people in this group
In the early days of television, actresses of the small screen often reflected the traditional roles of women in society. TV moms of the 1950s managed to keep a tidy home; serve as an attentive ear to family troubles; and have dinner waiting—all while keeping every hair in place. Jane Wyatt epitomized the archetypal housewife and mother on Father Knows Best, while Donna Reed made running a household look easy on The Donna Reed Show. These women, and many more like them, laid the groundwork for future female acting roles, and served as inspiration to the women watching at home.
TV Moms: 1950s 5 people in this group
Did you know that since 1912, nearly 50 million girls in the United States have joined the Girl Scouts? Girl Scouts helped an amazingly diverse array of famous women develop a strong foundation of courage, confidence and character. It's no surprise then that quite a few famous women spent time in the sash. Celebrities who got their start selling cookies and earning merit badges include Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter and actress/writer Carrie Fisher; former first ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan; Olympic skaters Bonnie Blair and Peggy Fleming; astronaut Sally Ride; and iconic women's rights activist Gloria Steinem. Browse our collection of inspiring famous Girl Scouts who have certainly earned merit badges in their fields.
Girl Scouts 45 people in this group