It’s hard to know where to start in celebrating Lucille Ball as a great woman and memorable mother. There’s an entire amazing story to tell even before Lucille launched the amazing I Love Lucy show in 1951. Lucille Ball had already established herself as a showbiz veteran, having spent most of the ’30s and ’40s in a string of B-movies and landing the occasional high-profile role. She was actually entering her forties when Ball convinced the people at the CBS network to launch a show featuring her and real-life husband Desi Arnaz. There was some concern that Americans wouldn’t be too thrilled with the idea of an American housewife being married to a Cuban bandleader. That all vanished as I Love Lucy became a big hit.
It was also the start of Lucille Ball as an inspiring gal. Yes, we’ll always love her for her time in the kitchen, sporting an apron and mangling things in the kitchen. We’ll also admire her character’s pluck in always wanting to be a working mom–even if it was on the nightclub stage with her husband. Behind the scenes, however, Lucille Ball was a pioneering feminist figure. For example, I Love Lucy was launched as a live broadcast for much of America. West Coast homes, however, were usually watching poorly-made kinescopes. That was kind of a primitive version of videotape. Lucille Ball didn’t want her show looking shoddy, and cut a deal where CBS would film her show live. She took a pay cut but owned the film. That was the start of the modern rerun, and allowed I Love Lucy to become a pioneer in syndicated television–with Lucy and Desi’s Desilu Productions making millions in the process.
I Love Lucy was also a pioneer in multiple cameras and the use of live audiences and–well, pretty much everything that television became. Lucille was also a daring mom in real life. She had her first child–that being Lucie Arnaz–at the age of 39. That was pretty amazing for the times. Lucy also brought pregnancy into people’s living rooms with her second child. That would be Desi, Jr. in real life, but Little Ricky when she wrote her pregnancy into the I Love Lucy storyline. This was during a time in America when you couldn’t even say “pregnant” on the air. It was quickly deemed that Lucy could only be referred to as “expecting.”
That was another time when feared controversy became a national sensation. Pretty much all of America was tuned in for the January 19, 1953, when Lucy gave birth. Lucy was still a smart businesswoman, though. She timed her own Caesarean delivery for that same date.
Lucille Ball, of course, went on to plenty of other successful television shows. She was divorced from Desi in 1960, but the two continued to work together. In fact, Desi was still the head of Desilu Productions when he convinced his ex-wife to return to television for The Lucy Show. It was nice to see Lucy and Desi always speaking fondly of each other later in life. Lucille also enjoyed a long second marriage with husband Gary Morton. Sadly, Lucille Ball would pass away on April 26th, 1989, but there’s no denying that the world still loves Lucy….