December 04, 2017

‘I Love Lucy’ Fun Facts You Haven’t Heard Before

From the article of the same name for the Entertainment section of on October 20, 2016 by Murray Newman.

There was once a famous American television sitcom aired from October 15, 1951, to May 6, 1957. The sitcom became first of many things. It is the first scripted TV series filmed with 35 mm. film in front of a live studio audience. It was also the first show to use the three-camera format. The show is none other than I Love Lucy. Amazingly, those firsts were not even the most impressive parts of the show.

These are just whispers of the things that you need to know. We bring you these 40 fun facts about I Love Lucy that you haven’t heard before.

Desi Arnaz was to be named Larry Lopez when the show was first being put together. The name was only changed to Ricky Ricardo because producers thought Larry and Lucy had horrible alliteration.

William Frawley and Vivian Vance, who played Fred and Ethel, were more than two decades apart in age in real life and that disparity caused some real friction on set. Reportedly, they didn’t get along and would constantly call one another names. It wasn’t until years after the show went off the air that their costars realized the tension they were around every day.

Lucille Ball’s iconic red hair didn’t exist until 1942. She dyed her hair for the movie DuBarry was a Lady. Her original hair color was brown. She only dyed it blonde when she first came to Hollywood. She would become known for her bright red hair, but that wasn’t what she looked like naturally.

The show was shot in front of a live audience that included 300 viewers. It was done from the first shoot until the last. Amazingly, there were a lot of “one take” scenes. Desi Arnaz later claimed that Lucille Ball works better if there are real people in her front watching her performance. You can actually hear the lyrics to the theme song in the episode “Lucy’s Last Birthday.” It’s the only episode to do this!

The lyrics are: “I love Lucy and she loves me. We’re as happy as two can be. Sometimes we quarrel but then. How we love making up again. Lucy kisses like no one can. She’s my missus and I’m her man. And life is heaven you see. ‘Cause I love Lucy, Yes I love Lucy and Lucy loves me.”

Desi Arnaz is probably the best in the industry when we talk about being prepared for every single scene. His incredible memory allowed him to read and memorize every one of his lines in just one script reading. Staffers on the show say he never messed up his lines despite very little preparation for every single scene.

Do you remember the famous grape stomping scene with Lucy? Turns out Lucille was actually choking on the grape, but continued to film. Once the cameras were off, the crew realized she was actually choking and came to help. If you want to track down the scene, it was in the episode “Lucy’s Italian Movie.”

Lucille Ball was featured on the very first ever cover of TV Guide. However, she was not just featured on that one alone. In fact, she would go on to be featured on 39 covers throughout her career. That’s more TV Guide appearances than any other celebrity. Given the fact that she revolutionized TV sitcoms, she is most certainly deserving of this honor. With so much hype the show did something that no other series had ever done.

This is one of the most popular scenes of the series and perhaps in all TV history. As Lucille Ball pretended to become increasingly drunk on the special product, she was actually downing a bunch of Apple Pectin. Lucille Ball didn’t like filming the scene and it was only years later that she admitted it was actually a very funny moment on the series.

The Ricardos’ best friends and neighbors got their names from people close to Lucille Ball. Fred came from the star’s brother (who himself was named after grandfather) while Ethel was named after Broadway star and Ball’s friend Ethel Merman. Coincidentally, Ethel actress Vivian Vance was an understudy for Merman years earlier.

Frawley’s portrayal as Fred Mertz in I Love Lucy will do down in TV comedy history, but he reportedly could not memorize his lines so well. He would get so frustrated with his lines, that he would supposedly rip out pages from the script and complain about having so many lines in each episode.

I Love Lucy ended, still ranked #1 on television, in 1957. The series has only become a bigger part of the pop culture consciousness since. It’s still show in syndication all over the world, with episodes watched by 40 million Americans a year alone. In addition, merchandise with Lucy’s iconic red locks continues to proliferate.

Whenever Lucy got herself into a crazy situation, someone off camera can be heard saying, “Uh-Oh!” That person is Lucille Ball’s actual mother and she was present at every filming. The sound producer for the show, Glen Glenn, even used the “Uh-Oh!” for other shows!

In order to get the show filmed on the most expensive – and therefore best – type of film possible, Ball and Arnaz both took pay cuts so the production crew could afford it. The series was so popular during it’s initial run that parts of American life would simply shut down while it aired. Telephone and water usage would dip dramatically for the program’s half-hour duration, and even department stores would shut their doors early due to lack of customers.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz demanded the show be filmed on 35mm film, which is expensive, and in Hollywood instead of New York City. CBS wasn’t convinced but the couple settled their differences by getting ownership of the series. Desilu Productions, formed by them, made about $40 million from this move, which is a lot more now…try $256 million in today’s economy.

The episode of Lucy giving birth to “Little Ricky” was viewed by over 70 percent of all U.S. households and had higher ratings than the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ironically, the storyline coincided with Lucy’s reali-life pregnancy of Desi Arnaz, Jr.

Lucille Ball initially did not want to make the jump from film to television. But then, she had a dream featuring Carole Lombard — a comedic actress and deceased friend — who convinced Ball to “take a chance” with the TV gig. Ball listened to her friend in the dream, and it obviously worked out.

Desi Arnaz’s accent got a lot of attention on the show, but if anybody other than Lucy made fun of the way he spoke, those jokes were usually met with silence from the audience. It was an unwritten rule on the show that only Lucille Ball could make fun of Desi’s pronunciations.

When the CBS executive approached Lucille Ball to turn her popular radio show “My Favorite Husband” into a TV show, she immediately agreed if her condition was granted. Her condition is that her real-life husband Desi Arnaz must be given the role of her on-screen hubby. Executives said there was no way the average American would believe she was married to a “foreign” man with an accent they couldn’t understand. At that point Lucy and Desi had already been married for more than 10 years.

William Frawley was such a huge baseball fan – of the New York Yankees no less – that his contract stipulated that he could miss work if the Yankees were playing in a World Series game.

While Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance ended up becoming close friends, it did not start that way. In fact, Ball began the show questioning if Vance could play her part in a comedic way without taking the spotlight from her. The good news is that they patched thing up as the series began.

William Frawley had a reputation for drunken binges and crazy antics, which caused much hesitation on behalf of the others to work with him. Desi Arnaz, however, knew Frawley was the best casting choice, but gave him one stipulation: never be late. Frawley, in all the time on the show, never missed a day.

All four main actors received wide-spread acclaim for their work, but it was Desi Arnaz who never received an Emmy nomination. William Frawley received five noms, but never won. Lucy and Vivian Vance both won for their roles, though Vance was far behind Lucy who won four times on 13 nominations.

I Love Lucy producers had to keep changing the phone number used on the show so that they weren’t numbers actually being used in service. The Ricardos had two phone numbers, while the Mertzes’ ended up with four different numbers.

One tradition of the show that lasted until the very end was that every time an actor could get the audience to erupt into spontaneous applause, that person was given a silver dollar after the scene.

Desi Arnez would often skip rehearsals and table reads to attend to Desliu Studios business. However, the actor was always able to memorize his lines after reading the script, and would deliver them perfectly at tapings. Arnaz would even memorize other character’s lines to make sure everything was on point.

During the filming in 1952, Lucy became pregnant and the regulations were put in place to use the word “expecting, not “pregnant.” So a minister, priest and rabbi (no joke intended) went through and reviewed each and every episode in order to ensure no viewers were offended by the pregnancy.

After Lucille Ball gave birth to their son, Arnaz wanted to give his wife a chance to rest at home without having to film the next episode. So he somehow convinced the network to basically air previous episodes again. Henceforth, the TV rerun was born and has since been a staple in the industry.

When Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz divorced in the early sixties, she assumed control of Desilu and became the first woman to run a major television studio singlehandedly. She proved successful, turning numerous hit shows, and eventually selling the studio for millions of dollars.

When Ball first began acting, she thought a name that sounded famous would help her take on new Broadway roles. She chose the name Diana Belmont, after the famous Belmont Stakes racetrack on Long Island, New York.

The reason why there were only a few retakes is because every single line on the show was scripted. Lucille Ball revealed later: “We never ad-libbed. We never ad-libbed on the set when we were putting it together. It was there.” Even during Ball’s famous Vitameatavegamin scene every single word was scripted and cue cards (just like in a real commercial) were used to make sure Ball didn’t forget a single line. By the way, the “Vitameatavegamin” was actually apple pectin.

The initial plan of the producers was to create a show for Ball and Arnaz that would mirror their real lives. However, the stars did not agree. They thought their celebrity lives wouldn’t be relatable. Instead, they wanted to create something new and unique.

After the show ended and Ball and Vance were making some rounds in the talk show circuit, Lucille revealed she had made “joke contracts” that demanded silly things like, “Vance must gain five pounds every week and she must never get more laughs than Ball.” Think of all the dessert Vance could have had though?

While some celebrities love to feature their children in episodes or other productions, Lucille Ball was opposed to the idea. That is why her kids — Lucie and Desi, Jr. — never appeared on an episode of I Love Lucy. Years later, the kids had no regrets of not being part of the show, which is something some parents should keep in mind.

Lucy was the first pregnant woman to ever play a pregnant woman on TV. Before the show, the idea of intimacy was often shied away from and Ball definitely did not want to hide her growing belly.

When it came to naming characters on the series, Lucille Ball seemed to prefer the personal touch. Over the course of I Love Lucy’s run, characters were named after her grandfather (Fred), a roommate (Marion Strong), a teacher (Lillian Appleby), and close friend (Pauline Lopus).

When they weren’t filming or running the production studio, Ball often led a very normal life as she enjoyed gardening, painting, and taking a dip in the pool. Seems like their “every-guy” persona from the show translated to real life.

In order to keep up the illusion for young watchers of the show, in the episode titled “Superman,” famous actor George Reeves appeared as the titular character, but instead of giving the actor credit, Ball wanted his guest star name to be displayed only as “Superman” in the credits. Reeves agreed.

When President Eisenhower was sworn in, millions of Americans tuned in. But when Lucy gave birth to Little Ricky in the “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” episode, more people tuned into that than the inauguration. Lucille Ball, America’s favorite TV personality.

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. 



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

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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