Friday, August 5, 2011

What Lucille Ball and Coffee Creamer Have in Common

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.


  1. in films like Du Barry Was a Lady, which only Ball and Virginia O’Brien make bearable

    No love for Red Skelton, huh? Well, that's understandable...he's sort of an acquired taste. But while I agree one hundred percent with you on Ginny, you can't beat the Tommy Dorsey band in period wigs and costumes...and I like Zero's contributions, too.

    I'm probably the only person in the classic movie blogosphere who gets a rash at the mere mention of Van Johnson but if you like old-time radio there's a classic Jack Benny Show broadcast where he guest stars and he and Jack go out on a double date. It's probably my favorite Johnson moment.

  2. He's just not my cuppa tea, unfortunately. Though you are absolutely right Dorsey's band is wonderful, I stand corrected.

    I'm generally not a huge Van Johnson fan either (in terms of guest stars that season give me william holden and eve arden any day) but my love of the number outweighs it. That radio special sounds like loads of fun and I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

  3. One of my favorite I Love Lucy scenes is also the dance number with Van Johnson. I also thought they worked well together in Easy to Wed and Yours, Mine and Ours.

  4. Hmm I don't think that I have seen Easy to Wed. I really need to beef up my Lucy filmography!

  5. I thought the same when I watched that scene for the first time!! It's so awesome how she goes from being funny/nervous (so well acted) to perform this amazing number, dancing like she was floating in the air :) Great post!

  6. Thanks Clara! I could truly watch it over and over again (and sometimes do) :)

  7. Oh, the Van Johnson dance is just so beautiful. As you said, it really highlights the more graceful side of Lucy's talent. The character of Lucy Ricardo is such a clown (I love your description of her as a "goober"), it's sometimes easy to forget that she has this other side, too. Thanks for bringing that to light here!

    And thank you so much for participating in the blogathon--we are so pleased you that you decided to "join in the fun!" :D

  8. Thanks for the kind comment, Brandie! Glad I made it just in time. ;)

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