Today is the centennial of one Lucille Ball, born 100 years ago on this very day in New York. Her most famous incarnation was obviously "Lucy Ricardo" on television's beloved sitcom I Love Lucy. But until I Love Lucy and intermittently afterwards, she graced the silver screen, too.
The earliest entry in her filmography I've personally seen is the wonderful ensemble comedy Stage Door (1937) which is an absolute must-see for all actressexuals. No matter where you look on the screen in that film aboard a boarding house for Broadway dreamers, there's a screen goddess for your eyeballs: Hepburn, Ball, Rogers, Miller, Arden. Ball's last film was the ill fated musical Mame (1974) which is often ridiculed for its liberal use of ye olde 'smear the screen with vaseline' de-aging technique and for the quality -- or lack thereof -- in the singing. But even if Mame isn't anything like a classic, if you erase it from film history you lose that awesome scene of her and Bea Arthur crooning frenemy classic "Bosom Buddies" and we can't have that!
[Editor's note: Ugh, what is up with that clip. It's in widescreen but it looks like pan & scan. Is the aspect ratio off on all the vhs/dvd copies available?]
But the Lucy movie my mind always drifts to is Douglas Sirk's Lured (1947). It's worth a look for the curio factor alone, it being an early Sirk, a thriller which predates and predicts Hollywood's serial killer craze by a good 50 years, and an odd snapshot of a moment in time where it looked like she might become a dramatic screen star instead of the loveable goofball TV comic she was clearly meant to be.
If you're interested in Lucy, there's a new book out called Lucille Ball FAQ which is a treasure trove of weird trivia. For example, did you know that she actually auditioned for the part of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind (then again, who didn't?) or that she really wanted but just barely missed out on being Sugarpuss O'Shea in screwball classic Ball of Fire or that that she turned down the fabulous "Alexandra" in Sweet Bird of Youth? (Geraldine Page earned a well deserved Oscar nomination and got to fondle Paul Newman. What was Lucy thinking?)
Did you know that the first celebrity name-checked on I Love Lucy was the movie star Gregory Peck? Or that in one episode Ball mimics her Stage Door castmate Katharine Hepburn's most famous line-reading from that movie "the calla lilies are in bloom again"?
The subtitle of the book is "Everything Left To Know About America's Favorite Redhead". I 'm not well versed enough in Ball's lore to know if that's accurate but the book certainly offers 'A Lot to Know About America's Favorite Redhead.'
What's your fondest memory of Lucille Ball?
P.S. Google is celebrating as they do with a cute tv screen and channel changer.