Tuesday, September 15, 2009
"Lucille Ball, The Funniest Woman on Television" from Voice of America
This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell about the much-loved performer Lucille Ball. Her famous television series, “I Love Lucy,” was first broadcast in nineteen fifty-one.
The “I Love Lucy” show was a huge success. It was the most popular television show of the nineteen fifties. The kind of television program Miz Ball helped develop is called a situation comedy. Some television experts give her credit for inventing this kind of series. Today, some of the most popular television programs in America are situation comedies.
Lucy and Desiderio Arnaz/Ricky Ricardo
Often, a show would include a part with Mister Arnaz acting seriously while Miz Ball added a funny element. In the following piece, Mister Arnaz tries to sing normally and Miz Ball adds the comedy:
(MUSIC: "By the Waters of the Minnetonka")
Also on the “I Love Lucy” show were Vivian Vance and William Frawley. Miz Vance played Ethel Mertz and Mister Frawley played Ethel’s husband, Fred Mertz. On the show, the Mertzes were friends of the Ricardos and owned the building in which they all lived.
Fred Mertz loved baseball, which was America’s most popular sport at the time. “I Love Lucy” often showed Fred Mertz intensely watching baseball or some other sport like boxing while Ethel added her own funny comments.
Fred and Ethel Mertz
A well-known story about the “I Love Lucy Show” concerns the birth of the Arnaz’s son, Desi Junior. Officials of the broadcasting company wondered what to do when Miz Ball became pregnant in nineteen fifty-two. Miz Ball explains that her husband, Desi, came up with a solution:
(SOUND: “Why don’t we have it on the show?”)
Miz Ball’s pregnancy was made part of the show. In fact, critics say the show in which Lucy Ricardo tells Ricky that she is pregnant is one of the best. In it, Lucy goes to the entertainment place where Ricky’s band is playing to tell him that they are going to have a baby. Ricky suddenly understands that he is going to be a father after Lucy secretly requests the song, “We’re Having a Baby:”
(MUSIC: “We’re Having a Baby”)
Miz Ball gave birth to her second child on the same day that Lucy Ricardo gave birth. In fact, Desi Junior’s birth date was planned to happen on the same day as the broadcast.
Desi Arnaz Junior
The success of the “I Love Lucy” show did not come early in Lucille Ball’s life, or easily. Instead, it was the result of years of hard work.
Miz Ball was born near Jamestown, New York, in nineteen eleven. She tried to get into show business at an early age. Early on, she went to the same acting school as the famous actress Bette Davis. However, she left when she was told that she did not have enough acting ability.
In the early nineteen thirties, she moved to Hollywood. She appeared in a number of movies, but was not well known.
In nineteen forty, she met the leader of a musical group who had been born in Cuba. His full name was Desiderio Alberto Arnaz de Acha the Third. They worked together in a movie and married soon after they met. For the next ten years, she appeared in movies and on radio. He traveled a lot with his band.
Miz Ball had another demand. She wanted her show to be a production of the best quality. Early television pictures were not of good quality. Miz Ball wanted her program to be filmed, which would improve the picture, and then broadcast later. Yet she wanted people to watch the program as it was being filmed so the sound of their reactions could be captured.
Miz Ball also wanted to film the shows in Hollywood. CBS did not want the extra costs. So, Miz Ball and Mister Arnaz agreed to work for less pay. In exchange, CBS let them own the program. That agreement made them owners of what would become one of the most successful programs on television.
Lucy, spaced out
Mister Arnaz supervised their company, Desilu Productions. The company produced sixteen different television programs and ran three production centers, called studios.
In nineteen sixty, Lucille Ball and Mister Arnaz legally ended their marriage. Mister Arnaz sold his part of the company to his ex-wife. Miz Ball became the first woman to head a major production company. It was one of the biggest in Hollywood.
Miz Ball also was the star of several other shows of her own. “The Lucy Show” was broadcast from nineteen sixty-two to nineteen sixty-eight. “Here’s Lucy” followed until nineteen seventy-four. Miz Ball later sold her production company to Paramount Studios.
Desiderio Senior and Junior
Miz Ball died in nineteen eighty-nine after a heart operation. Yet, she still makes people laugh. Her programs are rebroadcast on television and there are hundreds of Internet sites about her. After all these years, everyone still loves Lucy.
(MUSIC: “I Love Lucy”)
This Special English program was written by Mario Ritter and produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Mary Tillotson.
And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.
1. When Lucille Ball was pregnant with Desi Junior, ____________________ .
2. CBS didn't want to spend extra money to make a high quality production, so ________________________ .
3. In 1940, Desiderio Arnaz was ________________________________ .
4. Some television experts give Lucille Ball credit for inventing _________________ .
5. Desi Arnaz was cast in the role of Lucy's husband because __________________ .
6. The "I Love Lucy" show survives today, not only because it is a great comic TV show, but also because ________________________ .
7. During the 1950s, Lucille Ball _________________________ .
8. In Hollywood in the 1930s, Lucille Ball appeared in several movies, _______________ .
9. Desiderio Arnaz and Lucille Ball were also producers. Their company, __________________ , produced sixteen different television programs.
10. When Lucy Ball first attended acting school, ______________________ .
Lucy and Ethel at the Chocolate Factory: