The Show “I Love Lucy”, Cast, Pictures, and Trivia!
This series is about a married couple living in an apartment building in New York City in the 1950’s.
First there is Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball), a woman with a great zeal for show business. And she is determined to make it. There is only one problem, she has almost no talent. However, she is a very devoted housewife and later, a mother. Her husband is Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), a Cuban American singer and bandleader, who tends to have a somewhat high-strung personality. This of course is due in part, to the shenanigans that his wife constantly pulls, especially if it means that she thinks an opportunity to break into show business is presenting itself. During these moments of agitation, Ricky will usually go back to his first language, Spanish, and begin to speak it very quickly, all the while gesturing with his head and arms.
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The Ricardo’s’ best friends, as well as their landlords, are Fred (William Frawley) and Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance). Former vaudevillians who, because of their past, only make Lucy‘s bid for stardom stronger. Fred lived through the Great Depression; therefore he is incredibly stingy when it comes to money. He also fought in World War I and tends to have a no-nonsense and grouchy type of personality. Although at times he can be a pushover, especially when it comes to Lucy and Ricky’s son, Little Ricky (Keith Thibodeaux). Ethel is from Albuquerque, New Mexico and a former model. She likes the idea of trying to relive her days from performing vaudeville, and Ricky sometimes includes her in his shows. She, unlike her best friend Lucy, is actually quite talented at both singing and dancing.
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Throughout the show’s run, other characters come and go, but the four friends are the mainstay of the series.
The four of them interact with each other quite skillfully, creating episode after episode of antics and laughter. Though this show is over 50 years old, it is still a pleasure to watch and enjoy. I give this series 8 out of 10.
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Lucy Ricardo-Lucille Ball
Ricky Ricardo-Desi Arnaz
Ethel Mertz-Vivian Vance
Fred Mertz-William Frawley
Little Ricky-Keith Thibodeaux, Joseph and Michael Mayer also Richard and Ronald Simmons)
Recurring Cast Years
Messenger-Bennett Green 1951-1956
Waiter-Louis Nicoletti 1953-1957
Club Member-Hazel Pierce 1951-1956
Jerry-Jerry Hausner 1951-1954
Mrs. Trumbull-Elizabeth Patterson 1952-1956
Ralph Ramsey-Frank Nelson 1951-1957
Caroline Appleby-Doris Singleton 1953-1957
Mrs. McGillicuddy-Kathryn Card 1954-1956
Party Guest-Barbara Pepper 1952-1955
Assassin-Richard Reeves 1951-1954
Bellboy-Bob Jellison 1952-1955
Betty Ramsey-Mary Jane Croft 1954-1957
Butcher-Fred Aldrich 1952-1956
Director-Ross Elliott 1952-1955
Jule-Herb Vigran 1952-1954
Charpontier-Shepard Menken 1951-1956
Bill Hall-Tyler McVey 1954-1957
Announcer-Lee Miller 1951-1955
Babalu Manager-Lou Krugman 1955-1956
Casting Director-Charles Lane 1953-1956
Cardplayer-Peggy Rea 1953
Customer-Kay Wiley 1952-1954
Marco-Marco Rizo 1951-1954
Cousin Ernie-Tennessee Ernie Ford 1954-1955
Factory Foreman-Elvia Allman 1952-1955
Jewel Thief-Harry Bartell 1952-1955
Counterfeiter-Lawrence Dobkin 1953-1956
Officer Jenkins-Allen Jenkins 1952-1953
Bill Parker-Dayton Lummis 1953-1955
Jim Stevens-John Hart 1953-1955
Clapstick Man-Allan Ray 1954-1955
Believe it or not, in reality, William Frawley (Fred Mertz) and Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) hated each other. Despite how it looked on the show, all the affection between the two was completely forced. They were actually offered a spin-off of I Love Lucy, but refused to do it due to their dislike of each other.
Lucille Ball (Lucy Ricardo) and her younger brother were raised by their grandparents, due to the death of their father before Lucy turned four years old. Her mother then had to work several jobs and unfortunately could not do both at the same time.
I Love Lucy was the first series EVER to end its run at the top of the Nielsen ratings. It was not done again until “The Andy Griffith Show” and much later, “Seinfeld”. Additionally, out its six seasons on the air, it was the most watched show in the United States for four of them.
What has been dubbed as the “re-run” episodes was actually thought of by Desi Arnaz so that Lucy could get some rest during her pregnancy in real life. This was done simply by re-airing some of the episodes from the first season.
Though Lucy’s second pregnancy was written into the show, (Desi Arnaz, Jr.) the network censors would not allow her to use the word “pregnant”. She instead had to say, “Expecting”.
Desi Arnaz (Ricky Ricardo) is the inventor of many techniques that are taken for granted when filming sitcoms today. Some examples are performing before a live audience, using several cameras to film with at once and the rerunning of old episodes.
A disco version of the “I Love Lucy” song from the show became a hit single in 1977. It actually stayed on the pop charts for seven weeks and the dance charts for three months.
In 2013, CBS aired a colorized version of its Christmas episode, attracting more than 8 million viewers. This occurred 62 years after the show’s premiere.
Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) had a nervous breakdown not long before Desi Arnaz happened to see her in a play at the La Jolla Playhouse. Since their (Lucy and Desi) first choice for Ethel Mertz was unavailable, he thought she would be perfect for the part.
When only a teenager, Lucille Ball entered a dramatic school in New York City, but was ultimately sent home for being “too quiet”. (Her classmate seemed to get all the raves at the time, her name was Bette Davis.) Later though, she did some modeling work for Hattie Carnegie and was chosen to be one of the 20 original “Goldwyn Girls” in 1933. (A Goldwyn Girl was a musical stock company of women dancers who were employed by the famous, Samuel Goldwyn. They were used in movies, musicals etc. Another one of the original 20 was film legend, Betty Grable). After which, she appeared in the film, “Roman Scandals”.
I Love Lucy was one of the first television shows to be filmed in Hollywood instead of live in New York City. It was the pioneer of using three cameras at the same time, and it was lucky for its enormous amount of fans, both then and now, that they did. The result of course was a high-quality print that could be preserved and watched decades later. This was also the first scripted show to be shot on 35 mm film while in front of a live studio audience.
William Frawley went on to appear in the series, “My Three Sons” for 5 years after I Love Lucy ended.
Desi Arnaz was absolutely instrumental in the development and formulation of many TV series. Most especially, “The Untouchables”.
Throughout the show’s run, many huge Hollywood actors and actresses made guest appearances. It was usually done because they were friends of the stars or simply that they enjoyed the show, as the money to guest star was such a small amount. Here are a few of the names:
Edward Everett Horton
In 1940, after being under contract to RKO Radio Pictures for several years, Lucille Ball fell in love with Cuban musician and actor, Desi Arnaz.
Vivian Vance died at age 70 of breast and bone cancer.
On TV Guide’s list of 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, I Love Lucy was voted in at #2.
Desi Arnaz wrote a very honest autobiography called, “The Book”. Surprisingly, it contained many truths including tales of his infidelity and alcoholism. His intention was to write a sequel called, “Another Book”, but he never got the opportunity.
In the second season of I Love Lucy, the episode called, “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” (where Lucy gives birth to Ricky Jr.) was the most watched show on television up to that time. In America, 71.7% of all TV sets were tuned in to that episode, managing to even beat out the coverage of the inauguration of Dwight Eisenhower’s the next morning. And even after many decades of television since this airing, there has only been one time when that record of 71.7% has been beaten. That was on September 9, 1956, when Elvis Presley appeared for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show. That brought in a rating of 82.6%.
I Love Lucy was partially based on a radio comedy series that Lucille Ball had been starring on entitled, “My Favorite Husband”. Although on the radio show it was actor Dick Denning who played her husband. When they decided to take the series to television, Ball herself was the one who suggested that her real life husband Desi Arnaz, take his place.
William Frawley died in 1966 at the age of 79 from a heart attack.
On the show, parts of the actors’ real lives were mirrored by the writers and made into character back stories. Here are a few of the examples: Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, New York and went to Celeron High School, coming to Manhattan when only a young woman. The same was true of Lucy Ricardo. Desi Arnaz was from Cuba and led his own Latin America band. Ricky Ricardo was just alike. Vivian Vance was from Albuquerque, New Mexico and got her start in showbiz, acting at the Albuquerque Little Theater. So did Ethel Mertz. William Frawley was raised on a farm in the Mid-West and was a vaudevillian. Fred Mertz was as well. And when Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz got married, they decided to do it by eloping to Connecticut, just as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo did.
Vivian Vance was married four times.
Lucille Ball was the first woman ever, to own her own studio as head of DesiLu Productions.
As an example of just how quickly you have to move when filming a live television show, on I Love Lucy, if you look at their feet when they are getting out of bed you will notice something out of place. When they go to put their feet on the ground, look closely, in some scenes Desi Arnaz is wearing black dress socks with his pajamas. And Lucille Ball is wearing nylons (which is obvious because of the reinforced toes and heels).
Jane Fonda claimed during an interview with Barbara Walter’s that her father, Henry Fonda, was deeply in love with Lucille Ball. And that the two were “very close” during the making of the film, “Yours, Mine and Ours”.
William Frawley, due to a strong fondness for alcohol, had hardly any career left by the time that I Love Lucy was about to start. Since the Arnaz’ first choice was unavailable, Frawley started heavily campaigning for the part of Fred Mertz, so then Desi agreed he would consider him. Arnaz made it clear that if they hired him he was never to show up at work drunk and that if he did he would then be blacklisted throughout the entire entertainment industry as well as fired. Frawley agreed and never broke his word. In fact, Arnaz actually became one of the very few close friends that Frawley had. Upon Frawley’s death, Arnaz took out a full-page ad in the trade papers with a picture of him and the words “Buenas noches, amigo!”
Since I Love Lucy first premiered in 1951, it has never stopped airing on television.
In the book, “The Last Mafioso”, according to Jimmy “The Weasel” Fratianno, (former mafia boss turned government informant) several of the highest members of the Chicago Mafia family were enraged about how Italians were being portrayed. They were upset about several different areas but in particular with the series, “The Untouchables”, which was executive produced by Desi Arnaz. Unbeknownst to Arnaz, a contract was put out on his life, and one night several mob hit men were waiting outside of his home to shoot him when he arrived. For some reason that was never known, Arnaz never returned home that night. It was then supposed to be carried out the next night, but emotions had cooled somewhat and the “hit” was called off. Apparently, Arnaz never found out how close he came to being killed.
Vivian Vance was the first person ever to win an Emmy award for ‘Best Supporting Actress’.
Lucille Ball has not one but two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One for Motion Pictures and one for Television. Desi Arnaz also has two stars, one for Motion Pictures and one for Television.
The very first cover of “TV Guide” magazine in 1953 included a photograph of Lucille Ball with her son, Desi Arnaz, Jr.
Lucille Ball died on the morning of April 26, 1989, of a dissecting aortic aneurysm. She was 77 years old. This was also the birthday of her friend, Carol Burnett (her 56th), who received the flowers that afternoon that Ball had sent her for her birthday.
In one of Ball’s first few films, the aforementioned, “Roman Scandals” in 1933, she had to play the part of a slave girl and have her eyebrows completely shaved off. Unfortunately, they never grew back.
Part of the reason Lucy and Desi started working together on I Love Lucy, was to save their marriage which was falling apart.
When Desi Arnaz died in 1986 from lung cancer, his ashes were cremated and scattered at sea. Ball had called him only two days before on what would have been their 46th wedding anniversary. The conversation was short but sweet, mostly involving the words, “I love you”, and ending with “All right, honey. I’ll talk to you later.”
TV Guide chose Lucille Ball, as the greatest TV star of all time.
Early in her career as a model, Lucille Ball was afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis and had to spend two years learning how to walk again.
When the last day of filming the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour was finished, Ball filed for divorce from Arnaz the very next day. (March 1960). Their divorce however, was very amicable. They divided their television empire worth $20 million dollars, completely evenly and each kept 25% of DesiLu stock. She got to keep the Beverly Hills and Rancho Mirage homes, while he kept the beach house in Del Mar and the Horse Ranch in Corona. They also agreed to joint custody of both of their children, and $450 a month being paid for each child by him. In addition, Arnaz also produced Ball’s hit musical on Broadway entitled, “Wildcat”.
Though they ended up with two beautiful children, Lucille Ball had three miscarriages during her marriage to Arnaz.
In 1957, in order to expand their production company, DesiLu, Arnaz sold his and his wife’s rights to 179 of the I Love Lucy shows for $4,500,000. In addition they sold their rights to the film “December Bride” for $500,000, as well as giving CBS the rights to their public appearances for the next decade at a price of $1,000,000. After this, they were able to buy RKO studios (Lucy’s former employer) for the amount of $6,125,000. And though Hollywood flinched at their spending so much for a studio property, in the end the decision was the right one. It made Desi and Lucy millionaires.
Lucille Ball had ornithophobia, which is the fear of birds. Ironic considering her first husband, Arnaz, used to clean bird cages for a living. The day of her father’s death in 1915, she didn’t remember very well, with the exception of a picture falling and a bird getting trapped inside of the house, thus creating her fear.
Growing up, Desi Arnaz’s best friend was, Albert Francis “Sonny” Capone. He of course was the son of famous gangster, Al Capone.
After William Frawley died, his estate came to $92,446 with his assets set to grow. He had a very unique contract with I Love Lucy that stated that he was to be paid in perpetuity. Therefore, his estate and his heirs would be paid, virtually forever for rerun revenues.
On what would have been Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday on August 6, 2011, 915 Lucy look-alikes assembled in Jamestown, New York, (her birthplace) to celebrate. This set a new world record for this type of gathering.
After receiving his draft notice in 1943 for World War II, Desi Arnaz hurt his knee and was then classified for limited service. He was put in charge of USO programs at a military hospital. While there, he quickly realized that the first thing that the wounded soldiers would ask for was a glass of cold milk. He then made it possible for movie starlets to meet the soldiers and pour the milk for them.
Both Arnaz and Ball re-married other people after their divorce in 1960, but they remained friends for the rest of their lives. Even becoming closer in the last decade before their deaths. Arnaz has been quoted as saying that, “I Love Lucy” was never just a title”.
Due to his love of baseball and the New York Yankees, William Frawley had it written into his contract that if the Yankees made it to the World Series, he would not have to work during that time period. As a direct result of this, he did not appear in two episodes of the show.