#230 Lucille Ball TVs biggest star

Summary Notes


Lucille Ball's posthumously discovered autobiography, "Love Lucy," sheds light on the iconic actress's life, work, and the tumultuous relationship with her husband Desi Arnaz. The manuscript, found by her children Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr., reveals Lucy's early struggles, her relentless work ethic, and the journey from unrecognized talent to the heights of Hollywood success, culminating in the creation of the groundbreaking sitcom "I Love Lucy." Despite the show's unprecedented popularity, it brought immense stress, leading to the disintegration of Lucy and Desi's marriage. However, the memoir also captures Lucy's resilience, her eventual happiness in a second marriage, and the harmonious co-parenting with Desi post-divorce. The autobiography, which also includes Lucy's daughter's reflections, emphasizes the importance of documenting family histories and the enduring impact of personal legacies.

Summary Notes

Discovery of Lucille Ball’s Autobiography

  • Lucie Arnaz found a never-before-published manuscript of her mother, Lucille Ball's autobiography.
  • The manuscript was postmarked 1966 and spanned Lucille Ball's life up to 1964.
  • Lucie and her brother Desi were deeply moved by the manuscript, which revealed their mother's perspectives on life, her career, and her personal struggles.

"There, in a dusty box, he uncovered what turned out to be a never before published autobiographical work of our mothers." "I was stunned when I read it." "There's a wonderful energy that comes through a fire in her belly as a young kid, a sense of adventure, like, I want to make some noise."

The quotes express the initial surprise and emotional impact of discovering Lucille Ball's autobiography, emphasizing the vividness and energy of her life story as conveyed through her writing.

Lucille Ball’s Legacy and Estate

  • Lucille Ball, who passed away in 1989, left behind a vast estate that her children, Lucie and Desi, were responsible for managing.
  • An old attorney of Lucille Ball's found the manuscript while addressing issues related to her estate.
  • Lucille Ball's autobiography, "Love Lucy," was written in the mid-1960s but only published posthumously.

"She's one of the most successful actresses and entrepreneurs have ever lived." "They contacted an old attorney of Lucy's, and we're asking a question. And he discovered in some of his old paperwork this unprinted manuscript."

These quotes highlight Lucille Ball's success and the circumstances under which her autobiography was discovered, underscoring the significance of the find within the context of her estate's management.

Impact of Autobiographies and Personal Histories

  • The host reflects on the importance of documenting personal histories for future generations.
  • Lucie Arnaz’s introduction in her mother's autobiography serves as a reminder to preserve family stories.
  • The host expresses a personal connection to the idea of documenting life stories, having not done so with his own mother.

"Create a comprehensive family history. Do it through writing, do it through audio, do it through video." "To see her life as she saw it, it was sad for the family and it was sad for the world."

The quotes emphasize the value of recording and preserving personal narratives for both family members and the broader public, and they suggest various mediums for doing so.

Lucille Ball’s Early Life and Formative Experiences

  • Lucille Ball's autobiography details her difficult childhood, including the death of her father at a young age and her mother's struggle to provide for the family.
  • Her experiences with strict family members and the discipline they instilled in her shaped her work ethic and approach to her career.
  • Lucille Ball also acknowledged the negative impact of her upbringing on her sense of self-worth and her ability to enjoy success.

"I miss not having her around all the time." "The hardest thing for me was getting used to the idea that I deserved it."

The quotes reveal Lucille Ball's personal reflections on her childhood, the absence of her mother, and her challenges in accepting her own success, providing insight into her emotional journey.

Lucille Ball’s Advice and Influence on Arnold Schwarzenegger

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger's autobiography mentions Lucille Ball's significant influence on his early career in Hollywood.
  • Lucille Ball gave Schwarzenegger a chance in Hollywood and offered him advice that he would repeat for decades.
  • Schwarzenegger admired Lucille Ball's encouragement and support throughout his career.

"Lucille Ball gave me advice about Hollywood. She said, just remember, when they say no, you hear yes and act accordingly." "She watched it, would send me flowers, would send me a note saying, hey, you're doing such a good job."

These quotes illustrate the enduring impact of Lucille Ball's mentorship on Schwarzenegger, reflecting her generosity and the power of her advice in shaping his approach to his career.

Lucille Ball’s Business Acumen and Innovation

  • Lucille Ball took control of her career by starting her own company and owning her show, which was rare for actors and unprecedented for women at the time.
  • She and her husband Desi Arnaz are credited with pioneering the concept of syndicated television reruns.
  • Lucille Ball's entrepreneurial spirit led her to become the first female president of a major television studio.

"After many decades of being taken advantage of by other people, she bet on herself." "Lucy and Desi are credited as the innovators, the people that invented the idea of the syndicated rerun."

These quotes highlight Lucille Ball's groundbreaking role in the entertainment industry, emphasizing her determination to succeed on her own terms and her contributions to television history.

Personal Reflections and the Importance of Documenting Life Stories

  • The host reflects on the significance of documenting the life stories of loved ones.
  • Lucie Arnaz's introduction in the autobiography discusses the emotional experience of growing up with famous parents and the desire to preserve their memories.
  • The autobiography provides a comprehensive look at Lucille Ball's life, offering lessons on the impact of childhood experiences and the drive to succeed.

"But the tremendous drive and dedication necessary to succeed in any field, not only show business, often seems to be rooted in a disturbed childhood." "Chips on shoulders puts chips in pockets."

The quotes discuss the connection between challenging childhoods and the motivation to achieve success, suggesting that adversity can fuel ambition and resilience.

Early Influences and Support

  • Lucie Arnaz reflects on the profound impact her Uncle John had on her as a child.
  • He created a "laboratory" to teach her, taking her dreams seriously.
  • This early encouragement laid the foundation for her future success.

Uncle John had worlds to teach me. We constructed a laboratory of sorts in the tiny stable behind the house.

This quote illustrates the nurturing environment Uncle John provided, which was pivotal in fostering Lucie's aspirations and work ethic.

Encouragement Despite Challenges

  • Lucie acknowledges the importance of encouraging young people's talents regardless of academic performance.
  • She highlights her mother's struggles with a difficult marriage and its impact on her.

You're not a screw up. Who cares if you're not good at school? You're funny. You're an entertainer. People will pay for those skills.

The quote emphasizes the value of recognizing and nurturing individual talents, suggesting that traditional measures of success, like academic achievement, are not the only path to success.

Supportive Family

  • Lucie's mother, despite personal hardships, supported her dreams unconditionally.
  • Her mother's willingness to go into debt to fund Lucie's acting school demonstrates profound belief and sacrifice.

Dee Dee never tried to hem me in. Be an actress. Sure, why not?

This quote shows the unwavering support Lucie's mother had for her ambitions, encouraging her to pursue acting and providing practical support.

Overcoming Rejection

  • Lucie faced significant rejection at acting school, being told she lacked the talent for acting.
  • She learned resilience and the importance of perseverance in the face of negativity.

At the end of the term, the school wrote my mother and said that they were sorry, but I didn't have what it takes to be an actress.

The quote exemplifies the early rejection Lucie faced, which contrasts sharply with her eventual success, highlighting the flawed judgment of the acting school.

Work Ethic and Resilience

  • Lucie emphasizes the necessity of strength, health, and resilience in the theater industry.
  • Her dedication is evident in her relentless pursuit of opportunities and her refusal to give up.

I soon learned that to survive in theater, you have to be very strong, very healthy, and damned resilient.

This quote encapsulates the tough nature of the entertainment industry and the personal qualities required to endure and succeed within it.

Lucie's Big Break and Persistence

  • Lucie describes her lucky break in New York, which led to her recognition and subsequent opportunities in Hollywood.
  • She highlights the unpredictable and grueling nature of early Hollywood working hours.

Roman scandals was supposed to be filmed in six weeks, but it stretched into six months.

This quote provides insight into the demanding and often extended schedules of early film production, as well as Lucie's enjoyment of the process despite the challenges.

Financial Prudence and Long-Term Vision

  • Lucie discusses the importance of financial planning and saving, as advised by Russell Markert.
  • Her determination to stay in Hollywood required careful financial management and long work hours.

On his advice, I put $25 into the bank every payday.

The quote underscores the practical advice Lucie received about saving money, which was crucial for enduring the instability of the entertainment industry.

Family Unity and Responsibility

  • Lucie brought her family to Hollywood, providing for them and finding purpose in keeping the household together.
  • She expresses gratitude for having her family close and the fulfillment it brought her.

Keeping the household afloat was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.

This quote reflects Lucie's sense of responsibility and joy in being able to support and reunite her family in Hollywood, despite financial challenges.

Mentorship and Self-Improvement

  • Lucie was mentored by Ginger Rogers' mother, Leela, who saw potential in her and taught her to focus on self-improvement.
  • Leela's mentorship included practical advice on ignoring studio politics and seeing oneself as equal to others.

Leela was the first person to see me as a clown with glamour.

The quote highlights the pivotal role of mentorship in Lucie's development, with Leela recognizing and nurturing her unique talents.

Positive Mental Attitude and Learning from Others

  • Lucie stresses the importance of a positive attitude and learning from the experiences of others.
  • She shares wisdom on the transient nature of success and the value of perseverance without complaint.

I believe that we're as happy in life as we make our minds to be.

This quote conveys Lucie's philosophy on the power of mindset in shaping one's happiness and success, emphasizing the importance of attitude over circumstances.

Desi Arnaz and Marriage

  • Lucie's marriage to Desi Arnaz was passionate but tumultuous, with extreme highs and lows.
  • She yearned for a stable and loving home, something she felt she lacked in her childhood.

I knew no force on heaven or earth would be strong enough to pull those two apart. That's the kind of marriage I wanted.

The quote reflects Lucie's deep desire for a stable and enduring marriage, inspired by the example of her grandparents' strong relationship.

Hollywood Culture and Personal Convictions

  • Lucie Arnaz discusses the pressure to engage in relationships for career advancement in Hollywood.
  • She was approached by a married, powerful producer but refused his advances due to his family.
  • Her refusal led to being blackballed by the industry.
  • This experience ultimately pushed her to explore other mediums, leading to success in radio and television.

"So she talks about in Hollywood, like, a lot of these stars are sleeping their way to the top, and so they're constantly getting approached. And so she ends up getting blackballed because of this."

This quote underscores the toxic culture in Hollywood where refusing unwanted advances could lead to professional ostracism. Lucie Arnaz's ethical stance against breaking up a family led to her being blackballed.

Career Shift and Success

  • Lucie Arnaz took a break from Hollywood and tried radio, which became a smart career move.
  • Her radio success caught the attention of CBS television, leading to a significant boost in her fame.

"I had to give Hollywood a rest and look around for other showcases for my talent. I wound up trying radio. This turned out to be one of the smartest things I ever did."

The quote highlights Lucie Arnaz's adaptability and willingness to pivot her career, which paid off when her radio work led to greater opportunities in television.

Relationship with Desi Arnaz

  • Lucie Arnaz describes her stable but passionless relationship with an older director before meeting Desi Arnaz.
  • Desi's electrifying charm and star quality captivated her immediately.
  • Their relationship was marked by intense love, despite warnings from others and their own recognition of significant differences.

"The most important relationship she ever has in her life. And that's the one with Desi Arnez."

This quote introduces the pivotal role Desi Arnaz played in Lucie Arnaz's life, setting the stage for a relationship that would be both deeply passionate and tumultuous.

Desi Arnaz's Background

  • Desi Arnaz's family was wealthy in Cuba before a revolution led to the loss of their property and status.
  • At 17, Desi arrived in Miami penniless, witnessing his father's fall from grace.
  • His determination to succeed in music led him to understand the importance of self-promotion.

"Desi's father was the mayor of Santiago. His mother was a famous beauty. And one of the heirs to the Bacardi rum fortune."

This quote provides context for Desi Arnaz's early life, highlighting the dramatic change in circumstances that would influence his drive and ambition.

The Struggle for a Stable Marriage

  • Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz's marriage was fraught with challenges, including infidelity and differences in lifestyle.
  • Desi's habits of drinking, gambling, and womanizing were at odds with Lucie's more level-headed and realistic approach to life.
  • Despite the love and desire for a family, they recognized their incompatibility and nearly divorced multiple times.

"We were both head over heels in love. And we both longed with all of our hearts for a home for our own and children. But everything else in the picture seemed hopelessly negative."

The quote captures the conflicting emotions in their relationship: deep love and a shared dream of a family, against a backdrop of incompatibility and negative behaviors.

Professional and Personal Ambitions

  • Lucie Arnaz reflects on her desire for success in show business and the frustration of feeling stalled in her career.
  • She discusses the manipulation and lack of control actresses faced from powerful men in Hollywood.
  • Her ambition and experiences motivated her to become more than an actress, seeking control over her work.

"Once again, I learned the bitter lesson that directors and producers can make or break an actress."

This quote reveals the harsh reality of the film industry and the lack of agency actors often experienced, which influenced Lucie Arnaz's drive to gain control of her career.

Transition to Radio and Team Building

  • Lucie Arnaz's transition to radio with the show "My Favorite Husband" provided a new platform for her talents.
  • She worked with writers who would later contribute to her television success, demonstrating the importance of building a strong team.

"I did a series called my favorite husband. It was a half hour weekly show."

The quote signifies a turning point in Lucie Arnaz's career, where her work in radio laid the groundwork for her later success in television with a supportive creative team.

Efforts to Strengthen Marriage and Desire for Children

  • Lucie and Desi Arnaz made concerted efforts to improve their marriage and address their inability to conceive.
  • They decided to limit Desi's touring and sought medical advice, reflecting their commitment to their relationship and family goals.

"Desi and I talked far into the night. We finally decided that Desi would give up his cross country tours. And only take local engagements."

This quote shows the couple's willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of their marriage and the shared goal of starting a family, despite ongoing career and personal challenges.

Founder Mentality and Innovations by Desi and Lucie Arnaz

  • Desi and Lucie Arnaz formed their own company, Desilu Productions, to promote themselves due to a lack of faith from others.
  • They created a vaudeville act that gained popularity and led to theatre contracts across the USA.
  • Lucie's radio show success led to the idea of combining it with their onscreen chemistry, leading to the creation of "I Love Lucy."
  • Desilu Productions introduced several innovations, including the concept of syndicated reruns.
  • They embraced television despite Hollywood's fear of the medium, understanding its potential growth.

In 1950, Desi and I decided that since nobody else seemed to have faith in us as a team. We'd form our own company to promote ourselves.

This quote emphasizes the entrepreneurial spirit of Desi and Lucie Arnaz, showcasing their initiative to establish their own production company in the face of industry doubt.

Embracing New Mediums: Lessons from Walt Disney and Bill Gates

  • Hollywood saw television as a threat, but Lucie Arnaz embraced it, similar to Walt Disney's and Bill Gates' approaches to new mediums.
  • Walt Disney refused to give up television rights, valuing control and ownership, which later proved to be a smart decision.
  • Bill Gates initially ignored the Internet but later bet his company on it, realizing the importance of adapting to new phenomena.

So terrified was Hollywood of this medium movie. People were afraid to even make guest appearances, meaning while she's embracing it.

Lucie Arnaz's decision to embrace television despite Hollywood's fears highlights her forward-thinking and willingness to take risks that others were not.

Pioneering Television Production Techniques

  • Desi suggested filming "I Love Lucy" live in front of an audience, which was not common at the time.
  • The network was concerned about the costs, but Desi negotiated complete ownership of the show after broadcast in exchange for a salary cut.
  • This decision allowed Desi and Lucie to later sell the show back to CBS for millions, funding their purchase of a studio.

Desi made an offer. In return for a $1000 weekly salary cut for us, we were given complete ownership of the show.

This quote signifies a strategic business decision by Desi Arnaz, trading short-term salary for long-term ownership and control, which paid off significantly in the future.

The Cultural Impact of "I Love Lucy"

  • "I Love Lucy" became one of the most popular television shows, altering the habits of American households.
  • The show's airing time saw a reduction in various activities nationwide, indicating its immense popularity.
  • Lucie Arnaz reflects on the unexpected level of success and the stress that accompanies such fame.

Our shows changed the Monday night habits of America.

This quote illustrates the profound influence "I Love Lucy" had on American culture, becoming a significant part of people's weekly routines.

Personal Struggles Amid Professional Success

  • Despite the show's success, Lucie Arnaz experienced emotional breakdowns and sought help.
  • The stress of managing their production company and personal fame took a toll on both Desi and Lucie's well-being.
  • Lucie realized that while they had a strong attraction, they lacked mutual approval and understanding in their relationship.

I realized that we never really liked each other.

This quote captures the personal realization Lucie Arnaz had about her relationship with Desi, highlighting the complexity of their personal and professional lives intertwined.

The End of an Era and New Beginnings

  • Desi and Lucie considered retiring after five years but continued due to the success of their company, which grew to 1000 employees.
  • The stress of their empire's growth led to the disintegration of their marriage.
  • After their divorce, Lucie became the first woman president of a major television studio, and they both found happiness in separate lives.

Desi and I were totally estranged. Although we still had to be both actor and director on the show.

This quote reveals the deterioration of Desi and Lucie's marriage, even as they continued to work together professionally, highlighting the difficulty of balancing personal issues with professional responsibilities.

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