On August 6, 1911, Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, NY. She grew up to become one of the most legendary comedians and actresses of our time. A four-time Emmy Award winner, she is best known for starring in the groundbreaking sitcom, “I Love Lucy.”
After a successful modeling career in New York City, Ball moved to Hollywood in the 1930s and landed acting roles in various major motion pictures for top studios, including RKO Radio Pictures and MGM. Ball was a striking beauty with adept comedic skills, yet studios often cast her in parts that did not allow her to showcase her comedic chops.
By the late 1940s, Ball started to establish herself with audiences and studios as a strong comedian. As a result of her successful performance in the CBS radio program, “My Favorite Husband,” executives approached Ball about taking the show to television. Ball wanted her real-life husband Arnaz to play her spouse in the TV version. However, network executives were hesitant about how audiences would respond to an interracial couple. To prove them wrong, Ball and Arnaz created a vaudeville show and took it on the road. Audiences enthusiastically responded to the comedy team’s live performances. CBS ordered the pilot with Arnaz starring as Lucy’s husband Ricky Ricardo, in March of 1951.
On October 15, 1951, “I Love Lucy” aired for the first time. It became one of the most loved and influential sitcoms in television history. For four of its six seasons, “I Love Lucy” was the most watched show on TV. A sheer sign of the show’s immense success, Ball and Arnaz became the first millionaire TV stars in history. Ball also pushed the envelope on the show when she became the second-ever sitcom actress to appear visibly pregnant on screen.
After “I Love Lucy” went off the air in 1957, Ball remained a constant fixture on TV, starring in various “I Love Lucy” spin-offs. She also continued to star in a series of films and played the lead role in the 1960 Broadway production, “Wildcat.”
In 1979, she was the recipient of the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes. Among her many honors, Ball was the first woman to be inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors and was the recipient of the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Ball died of a rupture in her heart on April 26, 1989. Thanks to Ball’s groundbreaking work in “I Love Lucy,” she paved the way for future female sitcom stars. Everyone from Carol Burnett to Julia Louis-Dreyfus to Kate McKinnon can trace their paths to success back to the inroads made by the legendary Lucy.