Lucille Desiree Ball
Paternal 22nd Cousin, 1x removed.
Although I'm only a very distant cousin to this wonderful and talented lady, it was a discovery that put a smile on my face - I've always loved Lucille Ball! Our common ancestor was King Edward I "Longshanks" Plantagenet. Edward I was the King of England and was also known as the "Hammer of the Scots" due to his harsh treatment of the Scots and the Welsh (he also banished the Jews from England). Not the greatest relative, but my 22nd paternal Great Grandfather was the common connection between myself and Lucille Ball.
My relationship to Lucille is through her paternal side of her family. Lucille was born on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York to Henry Durrell Ball and Desiree (DeDe) Evelyn Hunt. Lucille was the first of 2 children born to Henry and DeDe, with her brother Fred being born after her father's death from typhoid fever at the age of 27; Lucille was 3 at the time of her father's death.
At the age of 12, Lucille's step father (DeDe remarried 4 years after Henry's death) encouraged her to audition for the chorus line in his Shriner's upcoming show. Lucille was accepted and it appears that the acting "bug" bit her; she loved the attention that being on stage garnered from the audience.
In 1926, DeDe enrolled Lucille in the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts (Bette Davis was also enrolled in the same school) in New York City. The teachers did not believe that acting was for Lucille, and it would appear that she didn't believe that the drama school was good for her either; she would later tell people that all the school had taught her was "how to be frightened". Lucille was determined to prove the teachers wrong - acting was in her blood, and it was what she was going to do.
Lucille returned to New York City in 1928 to continue pursuing her acting career. In order to support herself, Lucille found work as an in-house model for Hattie Carnegie, a self-made fashion icon in New York City. Lucille, under instruction from Hattie, dyed her hair blonde (she was a natural brunette) and began her work modeling for Hattie Carnegie. This lasted until Lucille became ill with rheumatic fever and had to stop working - both modeling and acting, for 2 years.
In 1932 Lucille returned to work in New York as a model for Hattie Carnegie and also became the face of Chesterfield Cigarettes, her image adorning many Chesterfield ads. Lucille began to land some roles on Broadway in the chorus, but these jobs did not last very long.
Lucille got an uncredited role as a Goldwyn Girl in a 1933 movie called Roman Scandals after-which she moved permanently to Hollywood to follow her dreams of being an actress. Throughout the 1930's, Lucille was a contract player for RKO Studios and had many small parts in various movies including parts in movies with The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn (another distant cousin of this writer).
Lucille's first credited role came in 1936 in the movie Chatterbox. Lucille auditioned for - and lost - the role of Scarlett O'Hara in the now classic Gone With The Wind, which one Vivien Leigh an Oscar for her performance as Scarlett. In 1940 Lucille landed the lead role in the musical Too Many Girls where she also met and fell in love with Desi Arnaz who was playing one of Lucille's body guards in the movie.
Lucille and Desi met on the 2nd day of filming and their attraction to one another was immediate - the couple eloped later that same year. In 1942, Cuban-born Desi was drafted, but due to a prior knee injury, he stayed in Los Angeles and organized USO shows for wounded service men returning to the States.
Lucille and Desi's relationship is well documented as one that can best be described as "tumultuous" - the pair loved each other deeply, but with Desi's wandering eye and the couple's fiery dispositions, their fights and arguments were as intense as their love for one another. Lucille filed for divorce in 1944, but the couple reconciled.
On October 15, 1951, the world was introduced to I Love Lucy, a now legendary sitcom starring Lucille Ball and her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz. The show had been developed for TV from a radio show that Lucille had co-starred in called My Favorite Husband. Ball and Arnaz developed the radio show into I Love Lucy for CBS under the condition that Arnaz star as Lucille's husband. The show, while innocent by today's standards, still holds up and can still be seen in reruns more than 60 years after the show ended.
Prior to the I Love Lucy show starting, Lucille gave birth to her daughter, Lucie Desiree Arnaz on July 17th, 1951. On January 19th, 1953, Lucille gave birth by cesarean section to her second child, son Desiderio Alberto Arnaz Jr., better known as Desi Arnaz Jr. On January 19th, 1953, the same day as Lucille gave birth to her son, the I Love Lucy episode in which Lucy gave birth to a son aired on TV and was watched by 44 million people.
On March 3rd, 1960, one day after Desi's 43rd birthday and one day after filming the final I Love Lucy show, Lucille filed for divorce. This time the divorce went through and the couple were divorced on May 4th, 1960. Although divorced, Ball and Arnaz remained friends until Desi's death in 1986.
After divorcing Desi, Lucille bought his shares in their production company Desilu Productions in 1962. Lucille also continued to act on TV and her shows The Lucy Show which then morphed into the very popular Here's Lucy starred Lucille Ball as well as her children, Lucie and Desi Jr. starring as her children. In each show Lucille played Lucy who was a widow and the crazy predicaments that Lucy and her friends would find themselves in. When the show was revamped into The Lucy Show, Lucy had moved to Los Angeles to go to work for her late husband's brother, played by Gale Gordon. I remember both shows, but in this author's humble opinion, The Lucy Show will always be the most memorable of the two shows, and even today the characters antics - while tame by our standards - still garner laughs; it was simply crazy, good fun.
Lucille remarried in 1962 to Gary Morton and remained married to Morton until her death in 1989. Lucille continued to act through the 1970's and into the 1980's, but she would never again reach the same heights of fame as she did when she was playing the role of Lucy (in any of the Lucy series). An attempted comeback in 1986 in the TV sitcom Life With Lucy, which co-starred Gale Gordon, simply did not work. I remember watching a few of the episodes of Life With Lucy and, while I had high-hopes that the series would succeed, I found the show sad rather than funny; there was something about watching a much older Lucille Ball run around as she had on her previous hit shows that just seemed sad to me. Like millions of other fans, I really did love Lucy, but this show just did not work.
Lucille, a life-long smoker, complained of chest pain on April 18th, 1989. She was diagnosed with a dissecting aortic aneurysm and underwent surgery to repair her aorta and successfully replace an aortic valve. On April 26th, 1989, Lucille awoke with severe back pain and lost consciousness and died at 5:47 am PDT. Lucille had succumbed to a ruptured aortic aneurysm that was unrelated to her surgery. Lucille had passed 1 day before this author's 23rd birthday and at the time I felt as if I had lost a member of my own family (I did not know that I had actually lost a distant family member at the time). Lucille Ball was like family to not only myself, but to hundreds of millions of other people who thought of her, and her character Lucy, as family.
I remember Gale Gordon being interviewed on TV as he either entered or exited Lucille's memorial service when he simply said "Everybody loved Lucy." He was right - everyone did and still do, Love Lucy.
Lucille Ball, a lady with great beauty, intelligence and ambition that was often hidden behind her exceptional talent for making everyone laugh. I only wish that I had had the chance to have met this great lady - and my distant cousin - when she was still with us.
Thanks for the laughs, Lucille.