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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lucy Remembrance | 1911 - 1989

Today marks the 23rd anniversary of the day Lucy passed away.


Lucille Desiree Ball 
AUGUST 6TH, 1911 - APRIL 26TH, 1989


I'm always more then a little upset on this day. Some may think it's a little bit pathetic to be genuinely sad on the anniversary of your favorite actress's birthday, but I could care less what others think. Lucy, to me, is more than "my favorite actress." She's one of my role models, one of the human beings I admire the most, and having loved  her ever since I was nine I feel like I know her. It's more personal than someone could imagine from the outside looking in.

My love, respect, and admiration for her is something that's hard to explain. I'm going to try to put it into words the best I can. When I see her on the screen, whether it's in one of her brilliant television shows or a not-so-good B movie from her RKO days, she just makes me want to smile. It's the way she is on screen, how happy she seems to be there to entertain you and she's enjoying it. When I watch Lucy, I know she "gets" it. She's not just acting for a paycheck, she's doing it because it's an art, and she understands that and respects it. 

Perhaps it's because she had to work so hard for it. If anyone knew what it means to persevere, it was Lucy. When she was fifteen, her mother managed to put aside enough money for Lucy to start establishing herself as an actress by entering a dramatic school. But the school didn't like Lucy. They were already enamored with their star pupil, somebody named Bette Davis, and they sent Lucy home, telling her mom, DeDe, that she was "wasting her money." Can you imagine how Lucy might've felt after that? I would be hurt, and I would feel like it was all over. But not for Lucy. She was determined and she got into the business anyway.

When she was in New York pounding the pavement, she took a job modeling at Hattie Carnegie's so she would have money to eat. She became so overworked she was terribly sick and sent home by Hattie herself. They discovered she had a crippling arthritis, and for a long time Lucy was in bed. She had to learn to walk all over again. She was in her 20's when this happened, on the brink of everything, and I can imagine how much of a setback this might've felt like. As everything had been derailed. But she was a fighter, and she dealt with it, and she did it. She learned to walk again, and she returned to New York, and her job, and eventually became one of Sam Goldwyn's girls in a chorus line - and made it to Hollywood.

But even upon getting there there was numerous setbacks. When she finally started to get leading roles, they were all B movies. One after the other, real turkeys, when, looking back, Lucy is the only significant actor. One of the main reasons was because a important producer had wanted to leave his wife for Lucy, but Lucy refused to do so despite the benefits it would have to her career. She knew the man had kids and she couldn't stand to see the children be hurt. Despite her refusal, his wife find out about the offer, and blacklisted Lucy's name throughout RKO. (It is said the producer might be Pandro S. Berman).

But she pushed on. Even her marriage to Desi is an example of her determination. I love the two of them together so much, as you all know, but even I can't deny that that marriage had serious problems. Yet she continued to try and make it work for twenty years, which is a long time, especially in Hollywood. Many have noted how loyal Lucy was. She kept the same housekeeper, nanny, driver & hair stylist for decades. I think in the similar way she was loyal to people, she was loyal to her acting projects. This made her a perfectionist, and, for some, hard to work with - but Lucy was a woman who gave it her all, and continued to do so even after she became a star. I have so much respect for her because of all of this.

Lucy is underrated. No, I'm not kidding, she is. Sure, she's definitely largely appreciated for her comedic talent, anyone with a sane mind will admit that. But she is underrated for many other things: her dramatic ability, for one. She wasn't just a comedienne, she was an actress. Watching her in roles pre I Love Lucy will show you this. As I said before, many of these are terrible films, but these varied roles show off Lucy's incredible talent as an actress. I hated The Big Street (1942), and yet the same time I can appreciate it because of how amazing Lucy is in it. Her role is unlikeable, a total b*tch to be honest. And yet I'm glad to see her in this steel cold role. It shows how well she could do drama, and she really could do it wonderfully.


People never take note of the fact of what a versatile actress she was. When she was a B movie star, she was put in all types of movies: comedies, dramas, film noir, musicals. Yes, even the latter, though she couldn't sing. And even though oftentimes the script was terrible and her co-stars not that great, she made the best of it, and in the end she always shone.

Besides this, she's underrated for her beauty. Because she was a comedienne, people choose to ignore this fact all the time. But as Bob Hope said at the 1989 Emmy's, "she had a beautiful face, made for comedy. Nobody looked better with a mouth full of peanuts or a blouse full of chocolate." Or, as Desi put it, "She could preform the greatest physical comedy without losing her feminine appeal." The writers of the show, Madelyn Davis and Bob Carroll, called Lucy a "beautiful clown". In her autobiography, Davis wrote that this made Lucy blush but it was indeed true - even when she was wearing a baggy suit, battered top hat, and big funny shoes, she was still beautiful.


Still, above all this, comedy was indeed her greatest talent. It was just a part of her and I think it always was. When she was a kid, she used to go to vaudeville shows with her grandfather and admired the ability the comics had to make the audience keel over in laughter. She wanted to be able to do the same thing, make people laugh, and she indeed had that gift. She was excellent at physical comedy and made the most wonderful facial expressions, but those were just assets. She didn't need them. She could be funny even with her voice - just listen to any episode of My Favorite Husband, the 1940s radio show that eventually became what we know as I Love Lucy on the small screen.

Every time I watch her in an episode of I Love Lucy, I'm just in awe of her comedic talent. Just the other day I was watching, and taking awe of her brilliance as a comedienne. That's really the word for it. Honestly, Lucy Ricardo gets into the wildest, wackiest situations that are in many ways reminiscent of screwball comedy. Hilarious but unlikely. But I think a part of what makes I Love Lucy so funny is that Lucy played her character so that she was genuinely believable. Even as he was drunkenly trying to sell Vitavetavegamin or stuffing chocolate down her blouse in a mad hurry, you could believe it. It's not things that you could imagine actually happening to you, but perhaps it was the little things that made it seem that these situations were realistic.

Take the scene from the episode "Lucy Does the Tango." Lucy has eggs stuffed down her shirt because she's trying to hide them from Ricky. He wants to practice the tango they're going to do for Little Ricky's PTA, which ends in a dramatic move where Ricky spins Lucy out, then throws her back in and crushes her against him. But her shirt is full of eggs! She does the routine, anticipating what's going to happen in that fateful final moment all the while. It does indeed happen, and the eggs smash and her blouse is dripping with yolk. As Ricky stares at her, his eyes bulging, while Ethel cringes and the audience roars with laughter, Lucy crosses her arms over her dripping shirt and tries to look casual, as if anyone could have eggs stuffed in their shirt. That little motion made the scene altogether funnier, and, believe it or not, realistic. This was the scene that contains I Love Lucy's longest laugh: 65 seconds long.

The other day, Bette wrote a post about what it's like to rediscover just how wonderful your favorite star is. I mean, you know that you love them, but then there are sometimes these moments that remind you just why they're your favorite. And with Lucy, this happens to me all the time. Just seeing a picture or reading a piece of trivia puts a smile and reminds me just how much I love this lady.

Lucy loved and greatly admired Diane Sawyer, which is ironic because I always tell people I "want to be Diane Sawyer when I grow up" (I love journalism). She never met her, but when she died her family and friends sought Diane for her eulogy, and she complied. It was titled, Is There Laughter in Heaven? Diane herself answered this question in the eulogy: "I believe that there is laughter in heaven because Lucille Ball is there."

So every year on this day, I try not to be upset but instead smile. We may no longer have her on this Earth, but thanks to I Love Lucy, she will never ever be forgotten. Each generation is discovering her just as audiences did in the 1950s. And it may sound like a cliche, but heaven really did get an angel that is making everyone 'upstairs' laugh until their stomach hurts. It's something to smile about indeed.

Each year on this day, I think of it as another full year that there has been laughter in heaven.


"Yes, you are the one that they love the most Lucy. Joy requires no translation. God wanted the world to laugh - and he invented you, Lucy. Many are called, but you were chosen."

- SAMMY DAVIS, JR.

***

I made this for her, too, if anyone is interested. 

Is there anything you love about Lucy the most?

10 comments:

Dani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dani said...

I love the way you write about Lucy, as I said on the youtube video, because as I read it, I get excited about her as well. The passion and the love you have for her are contagious! Also, I don't think it's pathetic to be sad on the anniversary of her death. Even though you didn't actually know her, she had and continues to have an impact on your life. And if you stop to think about it, that's what actors try to do with their art; they hope to move people. So, if you care enough about her to be sad, then it only means she was great.
Well, I hope yesterday wasn't too bad for you. Did you stay home all day watching her movies? That's what I always do on a birthday/death anniversary of actors and actresses I love.

Kristen said...

Never has their been a comedienne like Lucille Ball. I can watch I Love Lucy on repeats and still be entertained! Lovely tribute.

Elisa said...

Lucille Ball was the funniest woman to grace the screen, big and small.

KimWilson said...

Lucy was a gifted comedienne. You are right to admire her.

Rianna said...

Thank you so much for your lovely comment here & on the Youtube video! It makes me so happy every time you say that I'm part of the reason you became introduced to Lucy; and it's so great that you're watching The Lucy Show, too! :D

I'm glad you understand how I feel. I was afraid some might think it's ridiculous - but then I was like, oh, whatever! So I'm glad you know what I mean. :)

I had school of course but I tried to squeeze in as much time watching her TV shows as possible!!

Rianna said...

Thank you so much, she will forever be my favorite :)

Rianna said...

I agree with you 100%. Thanks for your comment!

Rianna said...

Yes, she most certainly was, and I do admire her greatly.

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