100 years later, we still “love” Lucille Ball


Scrapbook page with a photograph of Ball and Arnaz, in the late 1940s. A new exhibit, titled “I Love Lucy: An American Legend,” Opened August 4 at the Library of Congress. (Photo credit: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection; Music Division; Library of Congress)

The comedic actress, who would have been 100 on August 6, is part of the inspiration behind the latest exhibit to open at the Library of Congress. “I Love Lucy: An American Legend” opened August 4 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1950’s comedy. Ball, who had enjoyed moderate success as a film and radio actress until this point, was 40 years old when the show first aired on October 15, 1951 and starred with real-life husband and entertainer Desi Arnaz.


Scrapbook page including cover story about writing Ball’s pregnancy into the I Love Lucy story line, 1953. (Photo credit: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection; Music Division; Library of Congress)

The pages also share a glimpse into Ball and Arnaz’s pre-”Lucy” life, when the couple was working in radio and film, and later onstage together in their pre-sitcom vaudeville act. More on-view “Lucy” memorabilia includes paper dolls of the TV family, magazine covers from “Time” and “Look” Magazine, the original sheet music composition for Desi Arnaz’s “Babalu” and the composition of the show’s theme song. Visitors will be most delighted by the screen reels of favorite episodes of the series, including the iconic “Vitametavegamin” commercial (from ep. 39: “Lucy does a TV commercial”) and Lucy and Ethel’s hilarious turn in a candy factory (from ep. 39, “Job Switching).


Babalu, 1940s. Desi Arnaz, composer. John Frederick Pickering, arranger. (Photo credit: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection; Music Division; Library of Congress)

Photograph of the "I Love Lucy" cast, 1956. (Photo credit: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection; Music Division; Library of Congress)

In addition to the exhibit, author Kathleen Brady has re-released her 1994 biography “Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball” in paperback through publishing company iUniverse. Brady had the unique opportunity of interviewing Ball at her home in Beverly Hills in the late eighties, and remembers the four-time Emmy winner as a robust spirit: “She had more energy than anybody I had ever met – energy in the sense of a force field. I don’t think that she was completely in control of it,” she says.

In the duration of their afternoon-long visit, what impressed Brady most was a rather innocent moment, when she spotted the actress’ plain handbag on a chair: “She could buy and handbag in the world, and she’s got one just like my mom,” she thought. Brady says in addition to her “unmatched gift for physical comedy” her ability to see opportunity within the simple things made her so great: “She so appreciated the ordinary. She saw the potential in the ordinary.”

Even though she was well-known for the hilarity that she brought others and “…worked very hard to honor the respect that people paid her,” Brady feels that Ball, who died in 1989 at the age of 77, would “want her talents as an actress recognized” as her legacy.

“She was truly, truly great,” Brady states.

“I Love Lucy: An American Legend” will remain open through Jan. 28, 2012. For more information, visit loc.gov. Kathleen Brady’s book, “Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball” can be purchased at iuniverse.com/bookstore.

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