Lucille Desiree Ball, the undisputed First Lady of television comedy, was born on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, N.Y. In 1933, her gig as a Chesterfield Cigarette Girl led to her first Hollywood role as one of the Goldwyn Girls in Roman Scandals
. By the following decade, Ball was considered to be a preeminent comic actress in film, with such credits as Stage Door
, Room Service
, The Big Street
, DuBarry Was a Lady
and Sorrowful Jones
Lucille Ball met her husband and future show-business partner, Desi Arnaz, on the set of an RKO film in 1940. In 1948, she decided to try her hand at radio. She then went on to play the wife on the series My Favorite Husband
for three years. Her next move defined her career; it was I Love Lucy
I Love Lucy
was one of the most successful shows in all of television history. The show enabled Ball and Arnaz to purchase RKO Studios, which they renamed Desilu. (During Ball's tenure on this series, she made two feature films with Desi, The Long Long Trailer
and Forever Darling
). Although I Love Lucy
was still on top in the ratings, Lucy and Desi decided to end the series in 1957 - instead, they devoted their time to a series of one-hour specials featuring the same characters. The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour
ran until 1960, when Ball and Arnaz divorced.
In 1961, Ball married nightclub comedian Gary Morton, who served as a producer for her projects. From 1962 until 1974, she worked steadily on television and starred in two consecutive series: The Lucy Show
and Here's Lucy
. Her final feature films were Yours, Mine and Ours
and the musical Mame
. In 1985 she experimented with non-comedic material, playing a homeless woman in the dramatic TV movie Stone Pillow
. The following year she was back performing pratfalls with her steady co-star of the 1960s, Gale Gordon in Life with Lucy
Lucille Ball's last TV appearance was with Bob Hope, with whom she co-presented a production number at the 1989 Academy Awards
. She died weeks later.
Lucille Esmerelda McGillicuddy was born in West Jamestown, N.Y. At 22, she is set up on a blind date with a Cuban drummer named Ricky Ricardo. The two soon marry and move into a New York City apartment; their landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz, soon become their best friends. In fact, Lucy constantly enlists Ethel in her hairbrained schemes, most of which blow up in her face. Much of her plotting has to do with her trying to get into Ricky's nightclub act -- though he repeatedly turns her down. She and Ricky have one son: Little Ricky, a musical prodigy like his father. In the final season of the show, the Ricardos and Mertzes leave New York and move to Connecticut in order to have a quiet life in the country.