New Zealand Woman’s Weekly
THE MANY FACES OF LUCILLE BALL
A CAREER IS BORN
Soon after, Lucille began working as a rear-line chorus girl and model, most famously as the Chesterfield cigarette girl. But with this next leap into show business came, of course, a reinvention, as she recreated herself under the alias Dianne Belmont.
Minor film roles in the ‘30s and ‘40s followed, and she acquired yet another persona, known among Hollywood circles as “Queen of the Bs” because of her appearances in many B-movies such as Five Came Back (1939).
In the meantime, Lucy amended a few other facts from her backstory when she eloped with and then married the Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz. Not only was it an interracial marriage (they later became the first interracial couple to appear on TV), but there was also six years age difference between them, at a time when marrying a younger man was considered scandalous!
In trademark Lucy fashion, she
WHO LOVES LUCY?
With Desi, Lucille went on to have her most successful reinvention yet when, in 1951, they created I Love Lucy, a TV series that would go on to become one of the most beloved programmes in TV history. A fabulous feat for a woman who was 40 at the time, in an era where you could typically forget fame past the age of 35.
As the loud and zany housewife, Lucille reinvented what we expected of women on TV. She then broke the mould even further when she appeared pregnant on I Love Lucy, despite the US TV network
CBS insisting a pregnant woman could not be shown on air. They got around this by constantly referring to her character as “expecting” and entitling the episode with the French “Lucy is Enceinte”. For one rare moment, Lucille’s public and private persona, her reality and fantasy, came into a funny, complete harmony.
RISE LIKE A PHOENIX
Soon after the success of I Love Lucy, Lucille’s marriage to Desi broke down due to hectic performing schedules that often kept them apart.
Not long after, the TV studio Lucille and Desi had established from scratch, Desilu Productions, was sold to Paramount Pictures. But down on her luck, Lucille still had one last version of herself to unleash, which she did in the ‘80s, when she tried to revive her TV career with the sitcom Life with Lucy. It lasted only one season, but in her last public appearance before she died of a heart attack in 1988, she was given a standing ovation at the Academy Awards.
At last, she could be sure that, invented or not, the world really did love Lucy.