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Centennial: Do You Love Lucy?

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?)

A new book and a still from Stage Door (1937) with Hepburn, Ball and Ginger Rogers

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.

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Reader Comments (10)

Stage Door is definitely a must-see but let's keep it as a secret... I don't want Hollywood to do a horrible remake as they did with The Women.

August 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Peggy Sue --- good point. i guess i shouldn't do a STAGE DOOR theme week ;)

August 6, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This will seem strange but I think about Lucy whenever I watch The Girlie Show: Live Down Under. Madonna looks so much like Lucy with her expressions throughout the performance.

Also, another odd place where Lucy comes up for me is Sadie Frost in Bram Stoker's Dracula playing a character name Lucy with redhair.

August 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtfu11

I sort of agree with Peggy Sue. Stage Door is the ultimate actressexual secret! How is it not labeled a classic of referred to as much or at all in movies nowadays?. I wouldn't necessarily do a remake of this movie, but I could see taking it's premise and doing something with it. My favorite movies are always about the life on stage and in the dressing rooms (All About My Mother, All About Eve, Opening Night, Children of Paradise,) Off course in order for this "remake" to happen we need to set some rules 1) Do not give the project to Rob Marshall; he mishandles actresses 2) Do not turn it into a musical 3) Why do I imagine this being a perfect follow up to Luca Guadagnino's I Am love? He would make this ever so luscious! well, give the project to someone who has proved he can work with actresses, properly and who's not afraid to work with international actresses.

August 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCristhian

Not too familiar with dramatic and cinematic Lucy, but I Love Lucy is probably my favorite television show ever. The most criminally overlooked episode of the show: "Mr. and Mrs. TV Show" where the gang does a commercial for the department store Phipps.

August 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I'm so glad you mentioned "Lured" it is a terrifically weird movie with such an oddball cast, where else will see Lucy and Boris Karloff sharing the screen and Lucy is full of snap and verve. Beside that as far as movies go she's enjoyable in "Stage Door" but that is really a Kate vs. Ginger duel with a side of Andrea Leeds breaking your heart. "Miss Grant Takes Richmond" is cute. I love her in "Best Foot Forward" and she is utterly hateful in "The Big Street". As absolutely perfect as Angela Lansbury was in "The Manchurian Candidate" it's a shame Lucy turned it down I think if she had let herself she could have been sensational.

August 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

I will always thank the reruns of "I love Lucy". I fell in Love with the show, while in the hospital all alone and scare when I was in my teens. It helps me through with my pain and loss.

August 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchand

chand -- why were you in the hospital all alone? how terrrible.

joel6 -- i've forgotten much about lured but i just remember it being this "terrifically weird" movie as you say

August 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

I get that Lucille Ball wasn't a great singer. She could, however, sing on key, act the crap out of a role, and move. That's more than enough to carry the right kind of project. Brooke Shields gets rave reviews for doing the same kind of part now in the same style and will be the first to tell you that she is more an entertainer than a singer. Ball's Mame doesn't offend me as it does some people. You want offensive "what were they thinking" in a film? Stick to grousing about the Gypsy film starring Rosalind Russell. Same kind of performer, completely wrong for the role.

I Love Lucy is my favorite TV show of all time. Nothing tops it. It's smart, it's funny, and it's designed with an inch of its life. The central cast is perfect. My favorite Lucy memory has to be the episode where Lucy stages the seance. It's the closest thing to perfection I've ever seen on TV.

August 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Lucy starred in two of my alltime guiltiest pleasure movies. I'm still not sure if they're terrific or terrible, but I love them both: The Long, Long Trailer and Yours, Mine And Ours. I think they were two of the first movies I looked for when I got my DVR (along with The Parent Trap).

Long Long Trailer is just an extended I Love Lucy episode with Stacy (or Tacy?) & Nicky I believe. My family always refers to the cooking in the slanted trailer scene, or Lucy making dinner while the trailer is moving.

Yours Mine And Ours was also great fun - the best Lucy scene being either where she gets drunk at dinner or where her first date goes dangerously awry and she loses her slip and eyelashes.

Thank you Lucy!!

August 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach
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