SHE WAS THE trailblazer with the blazing red hair. She was the performer who, fellow comedienne Joan Rivers said, “opened the door for good-looking women to be funny.” And she was the monstrous talent Post TV critic Tom Shales once dubbed “Television’s biggest star.”
Lucille Ball. Just the name makes you smile.
That’s largely because to several generations, the name is synonymous with Lucy Ricardo, the mischievous ’50s character who summons the reruns of the mind — iconic black-and-white scenes of conveyor-belt chocolates and stomped Italian grapes and massive contraband cheese.
“Speed it up a little!”
For 60 years this October, laughter cooked up by the stunt-loving Lucy has been comfort food for the soul.
Today, to celebrate Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday, Google has cooked up an interactive home-page logo: a vintage TV set that plays seven classic clips from “I Love Lucy.”
In other words: For one of our greatest TV stars ever, Google presents one of its greatest “Doodles” ever.
Where the words “I Love Lucy” typically appear, the heart-enclosed script lettering spells out “Google,” Click “play” and the TV set offers a time-travel tribute.
Lucille Ball’s voice. Just the delivery makes you smile.
Lucy’s centennial is being widely toasted this week. Life magazine unveiled a gallery of previously unpublished Ball photos. The Hollywood Museum is presenting an exhibit that runs till November, and the Library of Congress just opened its exhibit “I Love Lucy: An American Legend.” And TCM and Hallmark are among the channels scheduled to run marathon Lucy programming.
And a new edition of the book “Desilu” has just been published, featuring a new commentary from my Post colleague and friend Shales, the Pulitzer-winning TV writer.
Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, N.Y. in 1911, and was in show business for two decades — from showgirl parts to a string of B-movies — before she teamed with husband Desi Arnaz to launch “I Love Lucy,” a program designed to showcase her gifts.
As a comedic actress, Ball — who won four Emmys and was nominated 13 times — was a physical perfectionist (right down to the orange hair dye). (And the show’s only woman writer, Madelyn Pugh Davis, who died just this year, created many of the show’s inspired scenes.)
“I Love Lucy,” credited with being TV’s first multi-camera sitcom (and which was wisely shot on 35mm film for durability’s sake), ran from 1951 to 1957 on CBS. Ball was on TV for nearly a quarter-century straight.
Lucille Ball died in April of 1989, at age 77.
“She had one of the best lives ever,” her daughter Lucie Arnaz told the AP on Saturday. “She is one of the few people we can look at and say she left us something that can help.”
Such is the pull of her legend that when I was at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles last week, I felt compelled to find her name (Lucille Ball Morton) on the wall where she is interred.
The lure and legacy of television’s first great pioneering comedienne is just that strong.
May the appreciation of her talent run — and rerun — forever.
(Michael Cavna was TV editor at The Washington Post from 2004 to 2010.)
TO SEE SOME of the “I Love Lucy” scenes that Google used for its Doodle clips, check out the clips below:
Lucille Ball describes the GRAPE STOMPING scene:
LUCY TELLS RICKY SHE’S PREGNANT: