Sometimes my mother calls me Lucille. It’s not because she has forgotten my name (though I was often confused with the family dog…), rather this is more a playful reference used when I’ve done something silly. And by silly I mean something Lucy Ricardo might do. I’ve loved I Love Lucy since childhood, and it’s still my favorite show. It is not only a link to television’s past but to my own.
Only later would I learn the many sides of Ball. Her days as a platinum blonde chorus girl at RKO (check out Astaire/Rogers films Top Hat and Roberta for some early cameos, among others) and eventual promotion to full red-headed Technicolor glory in films like Du Barry Was a Lady, which only Ball and Virginia O’Brien make bearable. Offscreen reading about her love affair with Desi Arnaz can only lead to ugly crying and the over consumption of thin mints.
What fascinates me the most is how she was always half and half. Half out of this world gorgeous movie star, half goober. Her beautiful eyes would brighten as a deformed putty nose threatened to light her face on fire. Lucy Ricardo often gravitated towards the silly and the slapstick, and this is what Ball remains best known for. But part of the fun is the rare moments when that other side shines through.
The only way I can imagine celebrating her centennial in public memory is to post what I would probably deem my favorite scene from I Love Lucy. It’s part of an episode that appropriately takes place during the Hollywood season, when Lucy gets to do a dance number with Van Johnson. It has always stuck out to me as one of the few moments when Lucy completely drops her schtick. The number begins situation normal (i.e. humorous) and slowly transitions into Lucille Ball, effortless screen queen. The true beauty is that Ball made both seem effortless. The result is magical.
I only just discovered that there is a wonderful blogathon going on at True Classics to celebrate her August 6th birthday (and I have now joined in the fun!), so be sure to check out the posts here.