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Lucille Ball ,Desi Arnaz; I Love Lucy Story

Updated on May 10, 2015

Vivian Vance, Lucille Ball, William Frawley and Desi Arnaz

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William Frawley

William Frawley (Fred)
William Frawley (Fred) | Source

Vivian Vance

Vivian Vance (Ethel)
Vivian Vance (Ethel) | Source

The Greatest Show On Earth

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz are two of the most recognized people in the world because of their hit show, I Love Lucy.

During my childhood I watched I Love Lucy every evening before dinner. I laughed out loud at Fred's (William Frawley's) grumpy old guy jokes, and excitedly watched in awe, the beautiful clothes of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, the polished and sophisticated manners, and of course Babalu. This was in the 70's, two decades after the shows were originally released. I was not on my own in my love for this old show, I talked to my classmates the next morning about the Lucy episode that was on last night, we were all Lucy fans.

I actually have never stopped watching the show ever since. I realize that they are all the same now, and the dialogue is never going to change, but I can watch this show as though it were the very first time over and over, and not only is it just as entertaining as it was the first time I saw it, but over the years some elements are even better, as I have grown to appreciate the subtle side, as well as the broad comedy.

The show developed out of a level of personal chaos. The marriage between Lucy and Desi was in serious trouble, due to Desi being on tour almost all the time, making it impossible for them to have any kind of family life. Lucy occupied her time as the main character in a successful radio program called 'My Favorite Husband" from 1948-1951 with Richard Denning playing her husband. This radio show was so successful that they decided to bring it into the new medium of a television show. Lucy insisted that her real husband play her husband on the show, but he was so different from Richard Denning in appearance and sound that it was hard for anyone to see him as Lucy's husband. The pilot episode was shot in 1951, followed by the first season in front of a studio audience, and Desi was greatly accepted as Ricky Ricardo.

Originally, when I was still a kid, and watching the show I liked Fred and Ethel the best. They were funny, and I loved Ethel's singing voice, and her sensible side. At this time, I would have to say that Desi is my favorite. He has to be the greatest straight man of all time. He makes the show in so many ways, because if he were not totally believable as the levelheaded husband, Lucy would not come across as funny. He pops his eyes out in total shock, and yells in Spanish when angry. He is truly a character, and I am so glad he ended up playing Ricky Ricardo.

William Frawley-1887-1966, who played Fred Mertz, had been in the business since 1916, playing in vaudeville and silent movies. By the time I Love Lucy was preparing to launch their show, Frawley was in desperate need of work, and called Lucy personally. Desi was delighted at the prospect of having the ex vaudevillian on the show, but was warned by several producers that he was an alcoholic and unreliable. Desi spoke directly to William about the issue and they both agreed that if he missed rehearsals he would be written off the show. He never missed rehearsal and was happy to be a part of a hit show. The only obstacle he had now was Ethel-Vivian Vance.

Vivian Vance-1909-1979, She got the part of Ethel after Desi saw her in a play at the La Jolla Playhouse and was immediately convinced she was perfect for the part of their landlady, Ethel Mertz. Vance was primarily a theater actress, who could sing and dance, often displaying some of those talents on I Love Lucy. Vance had been a great beauty and was actually the youngest person out of the foursome in I Love Lucy, and therefore, resented her character being married to an old man. When Frawley heard some of her bitter remarks, he took great offense, not to mention his needing the job desperately, he never forgave her and made wisecracks about her ever blossoming figure, adding to the tension. When the show was cancelled, Arnaz, offered them a chance at their own series called The Mertzes, and Frawley was thrilled, but Vance refused to ever work with Bill Frawley ever again. Frawley eventually went on to My Three Sons, and Vivian joined Lucy in the 1960s for The Lucy Show.

Desilu would become a major success as a business empire, producing not only shows that Lucy and Desi starred in, but many other hit shows of the 1950s, making Lucy one of the most admired female entrepreneurs of her time.




Elizabeth Patterson

Elizabeth Patterson (Mrs. Trumbull)
Elizabeth Patterson (Mrs. Trumbull) | Source

More I Love Lucy Cast

Elizabeth Patterson-1875-1966, played Mrs Trumbull. She had been a stage actress from 1890's-1920s, and began her movie career at age 51 in 1926. She had a long successful movie career, appearing in Dinner at Eight, Pal Joey, and They Call it Sin. At 77 she made her very first I Love Lucy appearance, not as Mrs. Trumbull, but as the town Mayor, in an episode about Lucy and Ricky getting a Marriage License. The following year she began appearing as Mrs. Trumbull. She remained active as an actress until 1961.

Lucy's Mother, Played by Kathryn Card

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From Mimmie Finch to Mrs. McGillicuddy

Kathryn Card 1892-1964, played Lucy's mother so well, miss pronouncing Ricky's name, calling him Mickey, or Xavier Cougat. Some of her episodes are the most popular, and well liked to this day. She was very active in the 40's through the 60's in bit parts and minor roles. It is difficult to find any trace of her before that time. She is such a wonderful actress that I just recently discovered she played a character on an I Love Lucy episode named Minnie Finch, in the episode titled The Fan Magazine Interview. She looks disheveled, and speaks in a gruff, slang voice, the only way to really make the connection is to read the credits. One year later she was cast as the dim witted, but smooth speaking Mrs. McGillicuddy. She continued to make occasional appearances in the Lucy Desi comedy Hour, and her final appearance was in 1964 The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Lucy & Desi

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Last of I Love Lucy

The show ran from 1951-1957, and continued for hour long episodes from 1957-1960 under the name, The Lucy Desi Comedy Hour. At this time though, the marriage was again in serious trouble. The success of the show the couple together for years, but now all that was wrong was coming back to haunt them. There were arguments on the set, and a general feeling of tension. The show came to an end and so did their marriage.

Babalu

My Favorite Husband

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    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 15 months ago

      Thank you for the look back and the background on the characters. A great Hub. Yes, Lucille Ball was a great comic actress. She was definitely the queen of screwball comedy.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Skarlet, you are very welcome. If you write in this topic area, I will stay here forever and read and read. Thanks!

      Kenneth

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Doc Sonic. Yes, I appreciate Desi even more every time I watch him, and the Babalu keeps growing on me too.

      @ Kenneth - nice to see you again. Thank you for your input.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      I agree with you, Doc. What a comedy team, Desi and Lucy and what a genius she was.

      My favorite was the Barbershop Quartet sketch. "Adeline." Great times.

      Kenneth

    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Great hub about what is arguably the best TV sitcom ever. I completely agree with you about Desi. I've always thought his portrayal of Ricky Ricardo as straight man to Lucy is what really made the show. Love the Babalu clip!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Skarlet,

      you are welcome, my new friend. And I agree. A vintage tv show and some NO-fat cheese curls and I am in great shape. Andy Griffith, Honeymooners, you name it, and yes, I Love Lucy . . .gotta have her in this mix. And thanks for YOUR follow. I am among hubbers, blessed with YOU being on my list. I will send you a personal note of thanks in the days ahead. This means that much to me. And yes, my hometown could pass for Mayberry, but no Otis.

      Kenneth

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Hello Kenneth,

      Thank you very much for the compliment, and the follow. This show along with some comfort food can solve anything for me. I am on my way over to see your hubs now.

      Lucky you to live somewhere that resembles Mayberry!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Skarlet,

      (love that name) and loved this hub. Brought back many great memories, for I too am a Lucy fan. Loved William Frawley, FRED, he was my idol when I was a boy. Ethel was too. I voted this hub UP and all the way. I am now honored to follow you. I invite you now to check out a few of my hubs and be one of my followers. That would make my day. I am so glad that I met someone on hubs who knows about Lucy.

      Thanks again and welcome to hubs!

      Your friend,

      Kenneth Avery, from a rural town, Hamilton, in northwest Alabama that resembles Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show.

      Highest regards, Kenneth

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Teaches1235

      Watching these reruns actually puts me at ease. Memories from childhood I guess.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I still love to watch the reruns of this show. You just can't beat Lucy's quick wit and antics. Vivian Vance looked stunning in the photo you posted. It is a totally different look from the TV show.

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Perspycacious

      You are so right. They are like family members to all of us, and I can see that this hub will be well liked.

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      You did not miss much. He was saying "I can't believe this! she is crazy in the head! Look at these things!"

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Not speaking Spanish, yet, myself. How much did I miss by not knowing what Desi was saying in the outbursts called for in show scripts? Let's hear from our Spanish speakers on this one.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Desi Arnaz has had special kudos for the emphasis many shows gave to props and camera angles. One of the things we can be happy about is that most of us have had Lucile and Desi and their shows to entertain us much of our lives. Thanks for the photos and the backgrounds. This is one Hub that is sure to be a hit, and you can thank Lucille, Desi, William, and Vivian for that, too.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Ditto Skarlet! ...eloquently said! Yes, the stars of today don't even come close in class to the stars of yesteryears.

      John

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Eric, billybuc, and John. I am glad to see Lucy fans here.

      @John Sarkis- Desi is really something to be proud of. He has quite a story from the upheaval of Cuba. I also am impressed, and love to see the clip of Desi thanking America for his opportunities and freedom, genuine and hear felt. We just don't see stars with that kind of class these days.

    • Eric Prado profile image

      Eric Prado 5 years ago from Webster, Texas

      One of my favorite show of all time. Voted up and awesome! =)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Pure comic genius! Thank you for bringing back memories of those days. If there was a funnier lady than Lucille Ball I don't know who it would be. Great hub!

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      I love this hub. Being of Cuban origin myself, I've always been really proud of Desi Arnaz; he was one of the first great Latino actors to actually make a way for himself in Hollywood. Him and Lucy were great together! "I love Lucy" is one of the greatest sitcomes of all times.

      Voted up and away

      John