Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Feast of Saint Lucy

My Fellow Comedists,

This week sees the feast of Saint Lucy, the 99th anniversary of the birth of Lucille Ball. Born in upstate New York, she moved frequently as a child because of her father's job until he died and she was sent to live with her grandparents back in New York state. Her grandfather loved vaudeville and frequently took Lucy to see performances.

When she dropped out of high school and started dating the son of a gangster, her mother shipped her to the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City, but only lasted a few weeks. She decided to go into show business the hard way and found work as a chorus girl, a fashion model, and ultimately the poster-girl for chesterfield cigarettes. Trying and failing to make it into parts on Broadway, she moved to L.A. where she got a small part in one of Eddie Cantor's movies which led to a non-stop string of bit parts that included work with The Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers. these turned into larger parts and she became "the Queen of the B movies."

But then she made the move to radio and in 1947, she became Liz Cugat, the wacky housewife in "My Favorite Husband," which in many cases became her later tv show word for word. CBS was in the midsts of populating its new television network with versions of its successful radio shows and Lucy demanded that "My Favorite Husband" have one major chance, the husband on tv would be her real life husband, Desi Arnaz, who as a bandleader was always on the road straining their marriage. At first, the network balked because the idea of a white woman and a Cuban husband was worrisome to them in 1950. But Lucy displayed the toughness in the boardroom she would need later and got her way and "I Love Lucy" was born.

The success was unparalleled. They formed Desilu Studios which gave Lucy complete creative control and she created years of the best comedy on television for a decade. "I Love Lucy" in some ways launches many of the standard aspects of modern situational comedy, but is also the end of vaudeville recycling some classic bits for the next generation. Clever writing combined with slapstick, Lucy did it all. She became the first woman to run a studio in Hollywood and was known as a tough negotiator and a careful and caring boss turning out hits like "Mission: Impossible" and "Star Trek."

But it was Lucy Ricardo that makes her immortal. One word: Vitameatavegemin.

what's your favortie Lucy moment?

Live, love, and laugh,

Irreverend Steve