I am a twenty-first century Lucy fan in so much as I’ve seen clips from “I love Lucy” in film studies, women’s studies and media studies classes. I may have fallen asleep to an episode or two on Nick at Night in my youth. What really interests me about Lucy is her fame, her success, her work ethic, and the fact that her stardom hit at 40. The show I love Lucy is historic for many reasons such as the innovation of 3 camera filming, being taped live but not aired live, merchandising, and the astronomical paychecks of the stars (large enough that Desilu was able to purchase Lucy and Desi’s former employer RKO motion picture studios). I was hoping that Lucy might give be able to explain the success.
She dedicates just two out of 16 chapters to the years of I love Lucy and recounts the events with what seems to be an impartial, journalistic tone of an observer. Perhaps it is due to the timing of the book. It was put together from tapes as a ‘told to’ style from the early 60’s shortly after Lucy married her second husband. There are infinitely more details in the stories from her youth such as when as a model in New York panhandling for one penny to make up the nickel subway fare than in her stories of success.
While it’s terse, it’s also easy to hear the rhythm of the Lucille Ball coming through the page. So, what I learned from Love, Lucy was the life story of a famous actress: a regular gal with her General Foods image intact. I wonder if such a feat would be possible today. Jennifer Aniston might be able to pull it off—only time will tell.
If you have a soft spot for Lucy already, or would like a dose of 1950’s style straight-talk, I would recommend this book. If not, I’ll share my favorite part: in the first sentences of the forward, written by Lucy’s daughter, she recounts: “One of my mother’s favorite things to do, when a small group of people were involved in some ordinary conversation, was to wait until one of them left the room and as soon as she returned, blurt out, convincingly, “Here she is now! Why don’tcha tell her to her face?!!” This was always followed by frozen silence, and then she’d howl (with that depth-of-the-sea laugh she had) to see the look on the poor soul’s face…”
I’ve got to try that sometime.