October 12, 2011

Commemorative Events: I Love Lucy 60th Anniversary

While Lucy's hometown celebration of the year was in August, the Lucy Desi Center will be hosting a day of commemorative events to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first airing of the I Love Lucy show, October 15.  The celebratory events were spurred by the recent decision of long time Center-supporter and Jamestown resident Greg Peterson to lend-for-exhibit a playbill - perhaps the earliest with Ball's name - which he discovered in the historic downtown Robert H. Jackson Center.

Peterson will host a brief showcase of the playbill and share how its serendipitous discovery is eerily linked to the anniversary of the iconic show that would forever infuse Ball and Arnaz into the consciousness of American culture, and the hearts and minds of millions.

Peterson's introduction and account will take place in the very auditorium in which the playbill's show, including a young Lucille Ball, was performed.

Visit the Lucy-Desi website for more details on these special events!

Rare Desi Arnaz Photographs
This week the Center calls attention to two rare, never-before-shared photographs of a handsome young Desi Arnaz during his service in the Army in 1940 or 1941.  These photos were recently acquired by private donation, and include a candid, sunny-faced Arnaz leaning out of a World War II plane.

"Studio A" Door
Highlighting a special 60th anniversary year for the most successful sitcom of all time, on August 3rd the Center installed and unveiled a new permanent exhibit in the Desilu Playhouse: the door to Studio A from CBS At Columbia Square in Hollywood, the network's West Coast headquarters from 1938 until it built CBS Television City in 1952.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz passed through the studio door for their very first television appearance together, The Ed Wynn Show, on December 24, 1949.  They would return and pass through the same doorway on March 2, 1951 to produce the I Love Lucy pilot.

Now you, too, can walk through the door to the famous Studio A, and feel the magic of dozens of Hollywood stars to have done so before you, including:  Gary Cooper, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Bob Hope, and Helen Hayes.

Prior to its use as a television studio, Studio A was the largest radio studio at Columbia Square. It had 1,050 seats for a studio audience and was home to many popular radio shows, including The Screen Guild Theatre, Silver Theatre, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and Art Linkletter's House Party.

This exhibit is made possible thanks to the generous donation by Gregg Oppenheimer, son of I Love Lucy creator-producer-head writer Jess Oppenheimer, and co-author of his late father's memoir, Laughs, Luck & Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time.

Santa Costume from "Missing" Christmas Episode  
Also new in 2011 is a temporary exhibit on display through December 31: On loan from Peter Mamonis, Jr. is a Santa suit from the famously "missing" I Love Lucy Christmas special. This show, which aired December 24, 1956, was the single episode withheld from the CBS syndication package, which is why it was never seen in reruns for the last 55 years.  In this episode, the "four friends" are all dressed as Santa Claus while they decorate the tree and place gifts for Little Ricky. As they sing and decorate, suddenly, there are five Santas when Fred enters the apartment also dressed as Claus.  As the friends tug each other's beards in bewilderment, one says "ouch!" and then fades away, leaving four stunned Santa-costumed friends having beheld a Christmas miracle.

Paying Tribute: Madelyn Pugh Davis 
On the right as one enters the Playhouse is a tribute to Madelyn Pugh Davis, the I Love Lucy writer who passed away April 22, 2011 and wrote for Lucille Ball for more than four decades.  Even before I Love Lucy, Davis wrote for Lucy when she worked on the radio show, My Favorite Husband.

Davis was only the second woman hired on the writing staff of CBS, and is considered a pioneer, paving the way for other women to become radio and television writers.  Once I Love Lucy started, Davis, Bob Carroll and producer-writer Jess Oppenheimer wrote the first four seasons together.  Writers Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf joined them in 1955 and, after Oppenheimer left the show in 1956, Davis, Carroll, Schiller and Weiskopf wrote the remaining episodes.
After writing I Love Lucy, Davis and Carroll wrote for The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy. They also were on board for Ball's short-lived comeback series, Life with Lucy, in 1986, and  they wrote the story for Yours, Mine and Ours, the 1968 family comedy starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda.  Davis and Carroll received two Emmy nominations for their work on I Love Lucy and one for Here's Lucy.

A tribute: Queen of the "B" Movie
Did you know that Lucille Ball was in 73 movies?  New this season is a small visual tribute to Ball's movie career, featuring ephemera from many of the films that gave Ball her reputation as "Queen of the B Movie".

Paper dolls, pay stubs and more...
Some more obscure recent exhibit additions that may excite the most seasoned Lucy fans, (or any child who likes paper dolls!) include a very cool collection of Lucy & Ricky Ricardo paper dolls from the collection of Donna Wells.  There has also been an original performance contract and pay stub added to the "Pepito Perez" display.  Pepito Perez was the clown who was featured in the I Love Lucy pilot. These two items have been donated by Peter Mamonis Jr.

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