Lucille Ball, the queen of American comedy, is being honored across the country today for what would have been her 100th birthday.
The star of “I Love Lucy,” which propelled her to national stardom and made a gargantuan influence on the sitcom comedy, will be celebrated in the quirky fashion for which her comedic style was known. In Jamestown, New York, the comedienne’s hometown, there will be a look-alike contest with hundreds of participants wearing bright red wigs, a nod to her trademark flaming red hair.
Also, the Hollywood Museum is currently holding a week-long exhibition that will include photography collection spanning Lucy’s life including her childhood and professional life, personal annotated copies of her scripts from TV shows and films. Also a “Redheads Only Room" will be shown, where Max Factor worked on Lucy’s famous look, featuring their original signed contract, the museum’s website says.
The Hollywood Museum contains the Historic Max Factor building, where she and the legendary makeup titan worked on her famous look.
“It's where Lucy first became a redhead,” says Museum President Donelle Dadigan.
And even Google has honored the Queen of Comedy with a graphic containing famous scenes on the search engine’s homepage.
The road to stardom for Lucille Ball was not an easy one. Her father died of typhoid fever when she was only four-years-old and was raised by her mother and grandparents. Although she had encouragement from her mother to follow her acting dreams, acting teachers were not so encouraging.
At the age of 15, she enrolled in the John Murray Anderson/Robert Milton School of Theater and Dance in New York. She failed to impress her instructors, however, and the school’s owner wrote a letter to her mother telling her not to waste her money.
After several more setbacks, including getting turned down for parts and a physical battle with arthritis, she eventually got a break as the poster-girl for Chesterfield cigarettes, PBS said on its website. That gig helped her land a role in the Eddie Cantor film, “Roman Candles,” in 1933, which paved her way to earn the title, “Queen of the B movies” as she starred in 43 B-films by the end of that decade.
However, despite the vast amount of work she was getting, Lucy still had not found her niche. She was bouncing around from role to role, playing everything from dramatic leads to comedic side parts. The big screen had not fully embraced her and she took a part in a radio show entitled, “My Favorite Husband,” where she played the role of a housewife constantly getting into weird situations.
Her excellent comedic performance is said to have been on par with Chaplin and the Marx Brothers, and as she won the hearts of millions, she set-up her role for what would make her a household name in “I Love Lucy.”
The show became one of the biggest hits in television history and Lucy had more than just a creative role in it. A shrewd businesswoman, Lucy gained ownership of the show with husband Desi Arnaz through Desilu Studios.
Even after the show’s end and her and Desi’s divorce, Lucy remained president of Desilu Studios and created several more hit TV shows, including American pop culture staples Mission: Impossible and Star Trek.
As an actress, comedienne, and producer of some of the biggest shows in American history, as well as a hugely influential figure in American comedy, Lucille Ball is one of show business’ true icons. And 100 years after her birth, her influence is still strong.