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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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Bombastic and daring, the show, which co-starred Vivian Vance and William Frawley, as Lucy and Desi's two best friends, set the stage for a generation of family-related sitcoms to come. The program included story lines that dealt with marital issues, women in the workplace and suburban living.
And in perhaps one of the most memorable TV episodes ever, I Love Lucy touched on the theme of pregnancy, when Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky on January 19,
1953, the same day the real-life Lucy delivered her son Desi Jr. by cesarean. (Ball and Arnaz's first child, Lucie, had arrived two years before.)
As the title of the show indicated, Lucy was the star. While she could at times downplay her hard work, Ball was a perfectionist. Contrary to perception, rarely was anything ad-libbed. It was routine for the actress to spend hours rehearsing her antics and facial expressions. And her groundbreaking work in comedy paved the way for future stars such as Mary Tyler Moore, Penny Marshall, Cybill Shepherd and even Robin Williams.
Her genius did not go unrecognized. During its six-year run, I Love Lucy's success was unmatched. For four of its seasons, the sitcom was the No. 1 show in the country. In 1953 the program captured an unheard-of 67.3 audience share, which included a 71.1 rating for the episode that featured Little Ricky's birth, a turnout that surpassed the television audience for President Eisenhower's inauguration ceremonies.
While the show ended in 1957, Desilu Productions continued on, producing more television hits like Our Miss Brooks, Make Room for Daddy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Untouchables, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible.
In 1960 Ball and Arnaz divorced. Two years later, Ball, now remarried to comedian Gary Morton, bought out her former husband and took over Desilu Productions, making her the first woman to run a major television production studio. She eventually sold the company to Gulf-Western in 1967 for $17 milllion.
More acting work followed, including a pair of sitcoms, The Lucy Show (1962-68) and Here's Lucy (1968-73). Both achieved a modest level of success, but neither captured the magic that had defined her earlier program with Arnaz. It didn't matter, though. Even if she had never done another piece of acting again, Lucille Ball's impact on the world of comedy and the television industry in general would have been widely recognized.
In 1971 she became the first woman to receive the International Radio and Television Society's Gold Medal. In addition there were four Emmys, induction into the Television Hall of Fame and recognition for her life's work from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
In 1985, Ball strayed from her comedic background to take on a dramatic role as a homeless woman in the made-for-TV movie Stone Pillow. While it was hardly a smash hit, Ball earned some praise for her performance. Most critics, though, wanted to see her return to comedy, and in 1986 she debuted a new CBS sitcom, Life With Lucy. The program earned its star $2.3 million but not much of an audience.
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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