November 14, 2013

Shirley Mitchell, Last Surviving Character From 'I Love Lucy' Dies at 94

Shirley Mitchell died on Monday, November 11th at the age of 94. She was most well-known to audiences as Marion Strong, the funny friend of Lucy Ricardo’s on the hit television show, I Love Lucy. She is believed to be the last surviving member of the cast. Keith Thibodeaux (a.k.a. "Richard Keith"), who played Lucy and Desi's son "Little Ricky," is 62. The character was based on Ball and Arnaz's real-life son Desi Jr. but he did not play the part on the show.

Mitchell, who played Lucy's friend Marion during the 1953-54 season, died of heart failure at her condo home in Westwood, CA. Mitchell’s sister-in-law, Nancy Olson, was the one who initially reported her death.

She was born in 1919 in Toledo, Ohio, and began her career as a radio star, where she met and became friends with Lucille Ball. Lucille Ball, of course, was the star of I Love Lucy, along with Desi Arnaz, a team that continues to make people laugh to this day, through reruns of the show. Mitchell's radio career included an appearance on Fibber McGee and Molly, The Great Gildersleeve and other programs.

Mitchell joined 'I Love Lucy' for the third season and appeared in only three episodes. She played the character of Marion, a character that was originally portrayed by Margie Liszt, and who set Lucy and Ricky up on their first date. She was best known for Lucy—getting the all-girl orchestra together for "12th Street Rag," volunteering herself as emcee for their women's club beneift because she once hosted "Senior Shenanigans" at the Rappahannock School for Girls, asking Lucy how much she weighed when Lucy had promised to only tell the truth.


Throughout her career, Shirley Mitchell appeared in many television shows including The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Three’s Company, The Odd Couple, Chico and the Man, the original Dallas, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In 2012, she lent her voice to Cartoon Network's Mad, playing Betty White. She was an actress that was in high-demand throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and received roles in almost every big show from the time period.

Some of her other credits include: John Forsythe's secretary Kitty Deveraux on several episodes of Bachelor Father; neighbor Marge Thornton on Please Don't Eat the Daisies; Mae Belle Jennings, Kate Bradley's (Bea Benaderet) cousin, on Petticoat Junction; and Opal Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. She also voiced Hanna-Barbera in "The Roman Holidays."

She also appeared in a few films such as Desk Set, Jamboree, Big Business, and The War Of The Roses. Mitchell's showbiz career spanned more than seven decades.

Mitchell attended the 5th Annual TV Awards in 2007 when Lucille Ball, who passed away in 1989, was honored posthumously with the Legacy of Laughter Award.

Mitchell was the widow of Oscar-winning songwriter Jay Livingston (who died in 2001), who cowrote classic tunes including "Que Sera Sera" and "Mona Lisa." whom she married in 1992, and is survived by her two children from her first husband Julian Frieden, Scott and Brooke. She will be remembered as one of the comedic geniuses of television, and forever in the hearts of her family and friends, and anyone who watched the hit shows that she appeared on.

October 31, 2013

I Love Lucy Christmas Special to air on CBS in Color

CBS is to broadcast a rarely seen holiday episode of the classic television series I Love Lucy as well as another classic episode in color. The two newly colorized episodes of the 1950s comedy, “I Love Lucy,” include the memorable grape-stomping episode and the rarely-seen “Christmas Episode” this coming Christmas holiday.

The I Love Lucy Christmas Special will package two colourised installments of the Lucille Ball sitcom. Both episodes that will air this Christmas have been colorized with a vintage look, and the episodes will air back-to-back, according to CBS spokeswoman Kim Izzo-Emmett.

The first half-hour will be the show's 1956 'Christmas Episode', which mixed clips from the past with original scenes of Lucy (Ball) and Ricky (Desi Arnaz) reminiscing about the birth of their child. “The Christmas Episode” first aired in December 1956, but was not included in the series’ long history of reruns, according to Izzo-Emmett. The episode, previously thought to be lost, was rediscovered in 1989 and follows the Ricardos and Mertzes as they recall the arrival of the Ricardos’ son, Little Ricky.

'Christmas Episode' will be followed by 'Lucy's Italian Movie', which includes the iconic scene of Lucy struggling to stomp grapes. The episode most popularly known as the grape-stomping episode is actually titled “Lucy’s Italian Movie.” The episode, chosen by television critics as one of the top 10 Lucy shows, follows the Ricardos and Mertzes as they visit Rome and a local vineyard.

The “I Love Lucy Christmas Special,” will air on Friday, Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. on CBS.

“I Love Lucy” aired on CBS from Oct. 15, 1951 until May 6, 1957, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and Vivian Vance and William Frawley as the Ricardos’ friends and landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz.

September 23, 2013

Stage version of 'I Love Lucy' adds little new to beloved franchise

Not the brilliant character created by Jamestown native Lucille Ball, who charmed her way into millions of Americans' hearts on the '50s television show that bore her name, but the full-color version now creaking across the stage of the 710 Main Theatre. 

That's not to say that Sirena Irwin, who plays the rehydrated version of Lucille Ball's famous character, is not a gifted impersonator. Or that Bill Mendieta, who plays Ricky Ricardo with no shortage of talent or charm, is not the spitting image of Desi Arnaz. 

It's just that this new touring production of "I Love Lucy Live on Stage," which originated in Los Angeles and inaugurated the 710 Main Theatre's first full season on Thursday night, has very little to offer beyond a sort of colorized photocopy of the original. 

The show, adapted from original "I Love Lucy" episodes by Kim Flagg and Rick Sparks, is pleasant enough for those seeking a simple replay of their childhood television viewing experiences, but bound to disappoint anyone looking for a uniquely theatrical experience. 

Aside from a few tossed-in flourishes, the 140-minute, intermissionless production is a faithful reproduction of two "I Love Lucy" episodes: "The Benefit," in which Lucy convinces Desi to perform at a fundraiser; and "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined," which features a botched jitterbug performance between Lucy and a suave dance instructor. 

The episodes themselves are sterling examples of comic writing, full of wonderfully absurd situations and humor that carries a reassuring vaudevillian ring. In the production's threadbare conceit, theatergoers themselves are cast in the roles of a studio audience for "I Love Lucy," and subject to the harmless, reheated humor of a set manager played by the charming Mark Christopher Tracy. 

Between scenes, we're treated to an increasingly bizarre and unsettling series of product advertisements for Brylcreem and Alka-Seltzer that are loaded with comic potential themselves but end up as misplaced punctuation marks. The same goes for a strange musical medley inserted between episodes that seems to come out of nowhere and serves no discernible purpose. 

Other musicals that consciously exploit the profit potential of baby-boomer nostalgia at least have the decency to throw in some extra value. Take "Jersey Boys," in which we get to peer into the personal lives of Frankie Valli and company while being treated to rousing performances directly aimed at our brains' nostalgia centers. 

Perhaps an even better model for how to do a show like this right is another Los Angeles export, "Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara," which uses Louis Prima and Keely Smith's charming music and comedy act as a lens through which to view their complex relationship. 

But this "Lucy" has none of that insight. It's merely a memory bath that reanimates familiar characters in a way that actually makes the show's pioneering comedy seem more old-fashioned than it actually is. 

Many moments in the original show, thanks largely to Ball's remarkable talents as a comedian and performer, still strike the viewer as surprisingly and even shockingly modern. But this color-by-numbers production, by contrast, seems utterly trapped in its era. 

email: cdabkowski@buffnews.com 

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(c)2013 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.) 

Visit The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.) at www.buffalonews.com 

September 03, 2013

Graffiti Artist Paints Lucy Mural For Tattoo Shop

Something Beautiful Tattoo & Piercing will soon be showing off its latest artwork, but this time it isn't on someone's skin.

Robbie and Sarah Mills, owners of Something Beautiful recently brought graffiti artist Victoriano "Iano" Rivera to Jamestown to create a mural of Lucille Ball on the side of their shop. Iano, a 22-year-old artist from Colorado, has been practicing graffiti art for roughly six years.


"I picked up my first spray can when I was 16," Rivera said. "I didn't really get serious about it until I was around 19, though."

"We're art people," Mills said. "We love tattoos, we love beautiful things. I have this big blank wall, so I figured I might as well do something with it. I saw a bunch of other people with their murals of Lucy and figured that we could do something, too. I'm really stoked for this to be finished."

The mural is not the first time the Mills family has done something Lucy related at the shop, either. During the Lucy Comedy Fest this year, the Millses ran a special for fans looking to be permanently adorned with images from Ball's eponymous television show.

Rivera said that he first heard of the opportunity when a friend mentioned to him via Facebook that Mills was looking for a graffiti artist for a mural project.

"My friend told me to call, so I did just to see what was up," Rivera said. "I showed Robbie some artwork and he seemed to be really into it, and now I'm here."

According to Mills, the only payment that Rivera requested for the work was his plane ticket to come to Jamestown and the cans of spray paint that he would be using to create the artwork. A piece the size of the mural on the side of the Something Beautiful Tattoo & Piercing generally takes between 12 and 16 hours of work to complete, Rivera told The Post-Journal.

"I usually just work straight through when I start a piece," Rivera said. "I don't like to leave them unfinished for too long."

For more information about Something Beautiful Tattoo & Piercing, located at 1690 Foote Ave. Extension, call 708-6365 or visit them on Facebook. To see more artwork from Victoriano Rivera, visit instagram.com/DATYUNGSATEN

August 22, 2013

Sale of ‘I Love Lucy’ Dress Drives Gains for Artfact

Last month the famous polka dot dress worn by Lucille Ball in "I Love Lucy", which was sold at auction by the auction house, Profiles in History for $140,000 increased the revenues of Artfact.

Profiles in History is one of many such houses that is a customer of Artfact, a Boston-based company that designs platforms, software, and e-commerce applications for the online auction industry.

Artfact said its July auction revenues increased by 142 percent on a year-to-year comparison basis. The number of transactions that were conducted on Artfact platforms was up sharply from July 2012.

“As Artfact continues to shape the future of the online live auction marketplace, making auction items more accessible and scalable to a global audience, we have seen a surge in bidding activity from collectors and dealers around the world,” Artfact CEO Rob Weisberg said in a statement. “Our roster of auction house partners also continues to grow as more houses embrace millions of online bidders coupled with increased demand delivered by Artfact’s online marketplace. This combination of bidder growth and new auction houses has driven Artfact’s robust growth.”

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