Theater archives

Happy 100th Birthday, Lucille Ball!


Saturday marks Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday. Those of us who grew up watching I Love Lucy (and later, The Lucy Show) on Nick at Nite and TV Land know what an amazing comedic talent she was. But for all of the wails of “waahhhhh” and all the “‘splainin'” she had to do, she was also a pioneer for women working in the entertainment industry in front of the cameras and behind the scenes.

In a year in which the Internet over-debated the issue of “women in comedy” with the release of Bridesmaids, it’s important to remind ourselves of the original redhead. Without Lucy putting on a burlap sack, getting drunk off Vitameatavegamin, stomping around in grapes, or setting her fake nose on fire, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, and their gang would have never been able to shit themselves in the street to such acclaim.

So now let’s guffaw about the hilarious things Lucy did in her career, and remember that debating whether or not women are funny is stupid. Women have been and forever will be funny. When’s the last time you were reminded of that great Ricky Ricardo or Fred Mertz bit? Yeah. Didn’t think so.

Meanwhile, Lucy was not a puppet behind the scenes. In 1962 she became president of Desilu, the first woman to assume such a role in the industry.

So certainly, Lucy’s birthday is cause to celebrate, and there are a plethora of ways to do so. If you can make it to Lucille’s hometown, Jamestown, New York, you can catch the end of Lucy Fest (though, sadly, you’ll have missed Joan Rivers — she performed Thursday night). Also, tomorrow, Jamestown will try to break the world record for the “most people dressed as Lucy Ricardo in one place, at one time.”

If you’re a homebody with a television (or, rather, without a costume) you can take part in one of the marathons of her television and film appearances. Meanwhile, in the city, the Paley Center for Media will host screenings of Lucille’s work through September 3.

You can also peruse LIFE’s gallery of gorgeous previously unpublished images of Lucy.

For good measure, here’s a video of a gravel-voiced older Lucy, wearing a fabulous coat, discussing the famous scene she did with Harpo Marx during one of Lucy‘s Hollywood episodes. The video features a clip of the scene, which could be our favorite in the entire series. We will stand by our assertion that the Hollywood episodes are paramount to the European ones. (Though “Lucy Gets A Paris Gown” is pretty great.)