August 03, 2007

Lucille Ball and the Secrets of Show-Business Success

According to Britannica Blog: Lucille Ball was far less madcap and scatterbrained than I Love Lucy painted her to be. With Cuban costar and, for 20 years, spouse Desi Arnaz, she founded one of TV’s most powerful production companies, Desilu, which brought out 229 half-hour shows in 1954 alone—the equivalent, Arnaz reckoned at the time, of 80 feature films.

Lucille Ball was not just comic genius—and she was a born comedian of the rarest sort—but also a shrewd, tireless worker whose approach to career building and maintenance seldom failed her. “I don’t know anything about luck,” she said. “I’ve never banked on it, and I’m afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: hard work and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t.”

Lucy had to work hard. At the dawn of the television age, her star was setting in Hollywood. She had worked her way up from “Queen of the B’s,” as she was called, onto the A list by the end of the 1930s, but a decade later, even after fine turns in films such as Fancy Pants, was getting passed over even for parts that called for “a Lucille Ball type.”

She became a major star only on the small screen. Even then, I Love Lucy started off slowly. Its sponsor wanted to kill it after the pilot, and audiences took a while to warm up to the show. It survived only through doggedness, Machiavellian dealing, and sometimes brutal micromanagement on Ball’s part.

That and, of course, her ability to please a crowd. We love Lucy because she made sure we couldn’t overlook her. The proof is there, in black and white.

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