Why We Love Lucy.

I may be breaking some rules here by not doing a particular film, but I like the general approach. More importantly, I couldn’t choose a movie to feature and haven’t had the time (sad …) to rewatch any of them, as I would want to do before posting. Instead, I decided to just talk about Lucille Ball, actress and comedienne extraordinaire.

Lucy has a great life story, but Lucy biographies have already been written. For a basic biography, Wikipedia has a decent one. Lucille Ball had a career that stretched from the 1930s and beyond, and for which she received lifetime recognition in the 70s and 80s. She’s acclaimed not only for her talent, but for her contributions to the advancement of women in multiple fields of entertainment: film, television, radio, and even behind the scenes. Lucy played many character roles, but also brought a fresh style of comedy to everything she did.

Most noted for her hilarious role in I Love Lucy, she brought acute comedic timing and undeniable commitment to her character. Her work not only echoed the great comic pieces, like those of Abbott and Costello, but also revolutionized the way comedy was portrayed. She could deliver a line with a straight man, with another gag runner, or on her own. Her work came from language (Vitameatavegamin), gags and slapstick humor (Lucy on the assembly line), and situation (purchasing an excessive amount of meat and then getting locked in the freezer storing it … and then hosting the “biggest BBQ in the world” when every bit of meat is later incinerated by accident). Her delivery sold it all. Not only was her timing spot on, but her expressions communicated everything. They showed a character with highly relatable emotions, moved the scene forward, and were as endearing as they were over the top.

At the time, it was uncommon for women to push forward comedy as aggressively as she did. Her comedy was about the audience, but also about herself. She wasn’t playing second fiddle to someone else, and she managed to carry the weight of the comedy she was creating. Lucy didn’t need to coin phrases to be recognized–her scenes themselves became icons. She set the standard for television comedy. It was easy to understand and enjoy for most anyone with its simple humor, but the comedy itself was complex. She didn’t have to rely on base humor–it was sheer elegance.

Still, Lucy was hardly relegated only to television, or even to comedy. She worked in a breadth of industries, paying her dues first as a model and extra, then later in numerous B movies. But even later in her career, after her phenomenal success in television, she still worked in other films and on Broadway.

Why we love Lucy is really quite simple. She showed the comedy world what would work, but also who she was. Lucille Ball had the spark and commitment that marks the difference between talented and great. She brought all of herself to every performance, and that made each one undeniably Lucy.

8 thoughts on “Why We Love Lucy.

  1. It doesn’t seem possible that Lucille Ball would have been 100 years old today. Her films will keep her forever in the hearts of those of us who grew up with her.

  2. I really enjoyed your thoughtful look at Lucy’s legacy and career.

    I can watch an episode of “I Love Lucy” for the hundredth time and still be in awe of her work, even while laughing until my sides ache.

  3. Well said. She was a classic and her performances are timeless. I plan on watchng a lot of TCM’s Summer Under the Stars today, since she is being honored for her 100th! 🙂

  4. As I’m typing this, Me-TV is running the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel sell salad dressing. (“Looks like Aunt Martha had too many old fashioneds!”) So you’ll have to excuse the sloppiness of this comment, because I’m teary-eyed with laughter…she was a true television legend.

    Just wanted to thank the True Classics trio for hosting the blogathon, and kudos on such a fine and thoughtful post. So encouraging to see so many people still loving Lucy.

  5. ” She brought all of herself to every performance, and that made each one undeniably Lucy.” Couldn’t be said better. A big thanks for hosting this blogathon to remember Lucy 🙂

  6. I love the episode of Lucy when they all head out ‘to California’ and they sing in the car as they cross the bridge. I can still watch that and the episode where Lucy is rushed to the hospital to give birth and the episode with William Holden and the one with John Wayne and the one with….well, actually, I can watch pretty much any episode of I LOVE LUCY and it still makes me laugh. 🙂

  7. Vitameatavegamin — who could ever forget that one? And you also mentioned one of my very favorites, the whole cow and the freezer. I love it when she tells Ethel to help her tape the cow back together so they can return it. Another favorite is the dream of Lucy in Scotland, with Ethel and Fred as the 2-headed monster who woujd only eat Macgillicuttys. And then there’s — well, like Yvette, you could just go on all night! You guys have put together a great blogathon. Your own contributions, and the wonderful articles I’m reading prove it to be a great success. I wish I could have contributed too, but timing was not good for me at all. And, I don’t know what I could possibly have offered that’s any better than the great stuff posted today! Congratulations!

  8. Great post. I must say that even today at the impact Lucy has had on modern American pop culture. She was an actress, a comedienne, and an entrepreneur. She would have an incredible impact if all she done was I Love Lucy, but she did so much more. My absolute favourite bit with Lucy is still from I Love Lucy. It’s in the episode “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” in which Luch promotes the apparently 90& alcohol product Vitameatavegamin! Lucy could play a very funny (if unsuspecting) drunk.

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