Lucille Ball 1911-1989
If your familiarity with Lucille Ball is confined to her TV shows and specials from the 'golden age' of television until her death (1989), her film career in Hollywood comes as a bit of a shock. Instead of the ditzy comedienne and wife of Ricky Ricardo, Ball's motion picture work encompasses glamour-soaked roles under the cameras as a well as a variety of comedy efforts.
She started out in Hollywood as an extra in the 1933 Roman Scandals, and worked through a whole string of B-films (for example Five Came Back 1939) and some better budgeted-movies (The Big Street 1940, opposite Henry Fonda).
If you watch the Marx Brothers in Room Service (1938) and spot her while expecting comedy keeping with her I Love Lucy reputation, you'll be surprised how Ball is just another character foil for the Marx Brother's craziness.
However, a few years later when Ball appears in the Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn Without Love (1945) it is clear Ball is combining both photogenic good looks of a veteran Hollywood female film actor with a handle on comedy well ahead of the average 'straight' actress, and the edge of I Love Lucy has started to show.
By the time she stars in the comedy The Fuller Brush Girl (1950) the "Lucy Ricardo" DNA is showing all the way through, but it is mitigated by the carefully photographed Hollywood star cinematography and her own 39 year old physical architecture.
In 1951 Lucille Ball started in her co-starring role opposite (then) husband Desi Arnez in the 181 episodes of I Love Lucy. This TV show had a popularity which eclipsed everything that had come before in her career, and introduced her to a wave of younger people who had little familiarity with her long career in Hollywood. It made a fortune for her and Arnez, and cemented her as the premier female comedy star of TV.
She appeared in 'serious' films on occasion afterward (for example the semi-comedic examination of adultery in The Facts of Life with Bob Hope, 1960) but her work thereafter was almost strictly comedy. By the time her final effort in front of the cameras was made (the 1986 Life with Lucy, 13 shows filmed, only 8 aired) she was carbonized into the I Love Lucy character by virtue of it's sheer success and global syndication.
She suffered from ornithophobia (a fear of birds) and banned all bird images from her home and offices. She attributed her comedic skills to her film favorite Carole Lombard, and to Buster Keaton.
Before Hollywood, Ball worked as a model under the name Dianne Belmont, contracted rheumatoid arthritis and spent two years re-learning how to walk. In her bit role as a slave in the 1933 Roman Scandals, she was required to shave off her eyebrows, and they never grew back.
Later, Ball was the first woman to ever own her own film studio as the head of Desilu Productions. Careful with investing and holding her money, she was often listed at different times as the wealthiest woman in American Television.
Lucille Ball, 1940
Original Page Dec 2013 | Updated April 2016
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- Laura - 1944- Dana Andrews is a police detective investigating a murder of a girl so seemingly perfect he is frustratingly falling in love with her ghost.
- The Body Snatcher - 1945 - Grave-robbing in Scotland becomes a test of willpower between a compromised doctor (Henry Daniell) and the cabman (Boris Karloff) who ferries bodies (living and dead) for him.
- Hitchcock 2012 - Story of the making of the 1960 film Psycho, and how Alfred and Alma Hitchcock worked together during its production.
- Shepherd of the Hills - John Wayne, Harry Carey and Betty Fields in the Ozarks
- Son of Paleface 1952 - Bob Hope and Jane Russell team up in this sequel to bring a small amount of law and order to the west. Includes Roy Rogers and Trigger "The Smartest Horse in the World"
- Cat People - 1942 - Simone Simon in Val Lewton's first horror film for RKO - - what hints at being a sideways imitation of Universal's The Wolf Man but turns into a psychological study of marital alienation and self-deception, along with Lewton's frequent theme of superstition clashing with rational explanations that don't always quite fit.
- Wife vs Secretary - 1936 - Cark Gable has a problem: Myrna Loy and Jean Harlow are deciding on which woman will get to claim his heart in this corporate melodrama.
- Confession - 1937 - One of Kay Francis' best films and a well-made version of the German film Mazurka.
- Holiday Inn - 1942 - Bing Crosby turns his farm into a show business showcase, and Fred Astaire shows up. Incidentaly, he's also interested in Bing's girlfriend, Marjorie Reynolds. Film features the song "White Christmas", among many others.
- Gone with the Wind - 1939 - The biggest money-maker and one of the most famous films ever made.
- Dr. Strangelove - 1964 - The world is on the verge of a nuclear disaster between the United States and the Soviet Union - Director Kubrick makes this seem quite funny in this Cold War satire.
- Blade Runner - 1982 - Ridley Scott's influential film about 'replicants' who wish to live on earth and find a way to extend their limited lifetimes. Harrison Ford is sent to stop them.
- The Vampires Coffin - 1958 - Well made Mexican horror film with excellent photography amid a very familiar plotline. However, good performances and humor help make this version stand out.
- Daybreak - 1931 - Helen Chandler and Ramon Novarro in a melodrama about a piano teacher and an Austrian Imperial Officer who are trapped into (sometimes brutal) societal expectations for their lives.
- Stolen Holiday 1937 - Claude Rains and Kay Francis are almost lovers, but not quite; but she is extremely loyal as his financial empire begins to fall apart.
- Guilty Hands - 1931 - Lionel Barrymore and Kay Francis are working out who has killed a wealthy philanderer.
- The Vagabond Lover - 1929 - Rudy Vallee and Marie Dressler in a song-soaked and humorous telling of an amateur jazz band that is pretending to be a group of famous pros.
- The Lady Vanishes - 1938 - Hitchcock's famous film about a disappearing lady aboard a trans-continental train. Except for one stubborn young female passenger [who is consequently accused of mental instability] no one aboard can remember the vanished elderly Miss Froy.
- White Zombie - 1932 - Bela Lugosi likes making zombies, and this comes in handy when a local plantation owner on Haiti decides if he can't woo a certain girl to be his wife, he'll have Lugosi turn her into a mindless slave that he can command.