I love lucy ethel

If you were around in the 1950s, there’s a high chance you were watching I Love Lucy. The iconic sitcom ran from 1951-1957 and helped symbolize an entire decade in American culture. The show was popular at the time, but who could have predicted that we would still be enjoying it 60 years later?

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The fact is, I Love Lucy was a transformative and groundbreaking show at the time. Here, we will be talking about some of the craziest facts you probably didn’t know about the famous show that steered the cultural and progressive dialogue across the country.

Larry? Who Is Larry?

You might be familiar with Ricky Ricardo, played by Desi Arnaz on I Love Lucy. The real-life husband of Lucille Ball played a fictionalized version of himself on the small screen. According to early versions of the script, Ricky’s original name was Larry Lopez. But what happened?

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Early research suggested that audiences didn’t like the idea of two main characters with similar-sounding names. So, producers changed his name to Ricky Ricardo and the rest is television history!

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No Love For Fred And Ethel

Fred and Ethel Mertz were played by William Frawley and Vivian Vance respectively. However, over the six seasons of the show, audiences might not have noticed some of the real-life tensions between the actors.

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It turns out that Frawley and Vance didn’t actually get on off-screen. The 20-year age gap between them often caused problems and it led to awkward arguments on set. Even some of the cast members wouldn’t find out until years later.

Lucille’s Real Hair

In the 1950s, it was seen as revolutionary to watch television with color on it. Lucille Ball’s red hair was an iconic part of the show and still resides comfortably in television history. However, fans of I Love Lucy will know that it wasn’t exactly natural…

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It turns out that Ball’s real hair color was brown and that she had dyed it blond when she first came to Hollywood. Her bright red hair was not as relaxed as it looked and was actually carefully constructed by makeup artists.

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Every Episode Had A Live Audience

In the golden age of television and sitcoms, I Love Lucy was one of the first shows around to have a live studio audience for every single episode. Each week, 300 people would visit the studio and laugh along as the actors recorded their scenes.

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According to Arnaz, Ball would actually perform better with a larger audience, since she could bounce off their energy. For all 180 episodes, people both young and old would sit for hours as they recorded every line.

The Theme Lyrics

For 179 episodes, it is impossible to hear the lyrics of the iconic theme tune. However, there is one episode that actually plays them! In Lucy’s Last Birthday (Se2 Ep25), they are played in full.

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They are as follows: “I love Lucy and she loves me. We’re as happy as two can be. Sometimes we quarrel but then how we love making up again. Lucy kisses like no one can. She’s my missus and I’m her man. And life is heaven you see. ‘Cause I love Lucy, Yes I love Lucy, and Lucy loves me.”

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An Awesome Memory

It can be hard for actors to learn all their lines in only a few days before each episode is set to record. According to staffers on set, there was one actor who was always prepared to tackle his scenes: Desi Arnaz.

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Apparently, Arnaz would remember all of his lines after the first table reading! This meant he had more time to prepare things like timing and delivery, making his performance even better throughout the show’s run.

Lucille Ball Almost Died

In one of the most famous scenes of I Love Lucy, Ball was stomping on some grapes in a big barrel. While it’s still funny today, there was actually a scary story behind the filming of the scene and what almost happened.

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During the filming of the scene, Ball was actually choking on a grape! As a professional, she decided to keep filming and didn’t tell anyone that she was suffering. Once the cameras cut, the crew ran over and helped her!

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TV Guide Loves Lucy

In an age where magazines ruled supreme, Lucille Ball would prove to be the queen of the game. After appearing on TV Guide’s first-ever issue, the sitcom star would go on to appear on its cover another 39 times!

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Given the fact that each episode was bringing in millions of viewers, it was good for business to have her on its cover. She liked it, too, since she was getting extra exposure. To date, she has appeared on its cover more than any other celebrity.

Drinking Apple Pectin

Today, it is considered one of the most famous scenes in sitcom history! When Lucy appears to be getting drunk of ‘Vitameatavegamin Liquid’ in ‘Lucy Does a TV Commercial’, it makes sense that the actress would have to be drinking something else!

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It would be irresponsible for her to actually drink 23% alcohol, so instead the actress is drinking apple pectin. It’s a testament to her acting skills that it looked so real! Today, it’s one of the most famous scenes in the show’s run.

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The Real Mertzes

The best friends of the Ricardos, Fred and Ethel Mertz, were actually named after real people! When developing the show, they chose the name Fred after Ball’s real-life brother (who was actually named after their grandfather!).

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For the name of Ethel, they decided to choose a name that honored the Broadway star and true friend Ethel Merman. In a strange twist of fate, Vivian Vance was once Merman’s understudy! Isn’t it strange how it all comes together?

Memory Problems

While some stars were perfect at memorizing their lines, there was one actor who wasn’t as strong as the others: William Frawley. Of course, he was one of the funniest parts of the show once the episodes were recorded, but apparently, it took a while to get there!

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Frawley would often struggle with his lines and sometimes even complain about having too much to say each week! Well, we can see he made it in the end and earned his place in television history!

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A Lasting Legacy

I Love Lucy enjoyed the pleasure of finishing its run on television as the number one show in America. While many shows eventually run out of steam, this one went out with a bang and its energy has survived for 60 years!

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Today, I Love Lucy is still watched by 40 million Americans every single year and syndicated around the world. What’s more, merchandise still remains popular – as well as the iconic red perm! When was the last time you watched an episode?

Keeping Mum

Did you ever notice a sound in the background whenever Lucy got into a crazy situation? Sometimes, you can hear the faint noise of ‘uh-oh!’ heard from behind the camera. Well, those moments weren’t always planned…

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It turns out that that was the sound of Lucille Ball’s real-life mother! She attended all the recordings and often ‘improvised’ some of her lines. Once they realized she couldn’t keep quiet, producers decided to use it as a catchphrase for other shows!

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Making Sacrifices

The producers and showrunners were certainly forward-thinking when it came to the production value of I Love Lucy. Since it is still enjoyed today, they must have invested in some of the best film and equipment possible! Of course, that sort of investment is pretty expensive…

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To make sure the books were balanced, Ball and Arnaz both agreed to take a pay cut so the crew could afford everything they needed. It’s a good thing they did because that quality programming is still enjoyed today.

The Show Dominated America

So many people would tune into each 30-minute episode that there were drastic and physical repercussions to each airing. For example, telephone and water usage would see a dramatic drop in that period since people were glued to their screens!

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In fact, the high streets would often close their shops early since everyone had gone home early to make sure they saw the start of the show. It truly dominated American culture for much of the 1950s…

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Ball And Arnaz Ran The Show

They weren’t just the stars of I Love Lucy, but they truly ran it to the success it is today! Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had both demanded that the show be filmed on 35mm, which was expensive at the time. They also preferred it to be filmed in Hollywood as opposed to New York. How did they have this power?

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It turns out that they earned ownership of the show through their company, Desilu Productions. They made $40 million from the show, which is around $256 million in today’s money.

Making The Jump

We’re in a new age of television where actors are swapping film roles for long-form TV shows that reach critical acclaim. However, in the 1960s things were a little different and TV was seen as a step down from film roles.

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Lucille Ball wasn’t too excited about moving from film to television since it was widely considered a step down. One night, she dreamt that her deceased friend had encouraged her to do the show – and the rest is literally history!

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Seen As A Foreigner

Would you like to work with your real-life partner every day? When CBS originally approached Ball about turning her radio show into a television show, she only agreed to do it if she could work opposite her real husband!

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Weirdly, producers didn’t think that audiences would believe that Lucy was married to a foreigner. This is particularly strange since they had already been married for 10 years! Their unique chemistry showed producers they had nothing to worry about. As a result, it became the classic show we love today.

One Person Could Joke

Audiences will remember the unique speaking style of Desi Arnaz on the show. The Cuban actor had a pronounced accent and would often speak with a unique tone or style. While it might have been acceptable to make fun of him behind his back, no one was allowed to do it to his face.

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Except for one person! Only his real-life wife, Lucille Ball, could cheekily make fun of his voice. It was an unwritten rule that only she could mock his voice during the production.

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Unique Contracts

Don’t ask us how or why, but William Frawley was a massive fan of baseball. Specifically, he was a die-hard supporter of the New York Yankees. Now, anyone can tell you how frustrating it can be when you have to work during your team’s game.

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Well, Frawley wasn’t having any of it! He had it in his contract that he was allowed to miss work whenever the Yankees were playing a World Series game. It’s a good thing the clause was inserted into his contract – the Yankees made the World Series each year of the show’s run except for one!

Lucy and Ethel

While it might seem obvious that Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance were to become such good friends, it wasn’t so clear at first. Initially, Ball thought that Vance was so funny that she could overshadow Ball in their performances together.

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However, the two managed to break the tension between them which resulted in a real friendship lasting decades. It’s a good thing, too, because the world was blessed with these two comedic stars on our screens for decades!

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Frawley Wasn’t Exactly Mr. Popular…

Before production started on I Love Lucy, William Frawley was considered a bit of a wild card. He was known to often go on long drunken binges into the early morning, as well as generally get up to quite crazy antics in the work environment.

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While some of the cast members were unsure if he would be a good fit for the cast, it was Desi Arnaz who encouraged the rest of them to take a chance on him. Well, they listened and the rest was history!

Emmy Awards

A show like I Love Lucy was sure to attract plenty of attention during award season. Three of the four main cast members received Emmy nominations for their work on the show. Who was the mast member who was left out?

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It turns out that Desi Arnaz never received a nomination! Overall, Frawley received five nominations, and Ball and Vance even won for their work. Lucille Ball won four times and was nominated 13 times. Nice work, Lucy!

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Changing Numbers

Whenever a telephone number was spoken on the show, producers had to make sure the numbers weren’t actually in use! This was to make sure that no one would call the number and harass the real owner of the line.

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Well, since the use of telephones was increasing per household at the time, producers had to keep changing the number in the show! All in all, The Ricardos had two phone numbers, while the Mertzes’ had four of them!

Bonuses for Laughter

Of course, when you put some of the best comedians of the time on a sound stage to record a sitcom, you’re going to get some laughs. But how funny were our four main characters? Well, it turns out that they were pretty hilarious!

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There was a major tradition in I Love Lucy that celebrated this fact. Every time a cast member got the audience to spontaneously start laughing or cheering, they would win a silver dollar at the end of the scene.

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A Pregnant Lucy

The show must go on! What is supposed to happen when one of the show’s cast members gets pregnant in real life? Well, showrunners have no choice but to incorporate it into the story. And that’s exactly what happened in 1952, when Ball and Arnaz fell pregnant.

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However, it wasn’t that easy. Audiences were a lot more prudish than they are today and measure had to be taken for people to be sensitive to it. For example, a Rabbi, a Priest, and a Minister had to read some of the scripts to make sure they wouldn’t offend anyone at home.

The Birth of a… Rerun?

After their new child was born, Desi Arnaz wanted to make sure that Lucille Ball had all the rest and sleep she needed being a new mother. Well, what did this mean for the production schedule? Suddenly, two of the show’s cast members weren’t coming into work.

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The TV network had no choice but to run an old episode of I Love Lucy since they didn’t have a new episode that week. And just like that: the first rerun was born!

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A Unique Stage Name

When Lucille Ball started acting, she experimented with unique names to make sure that she would get recognition. Since she wanted roles on Broadway, Ball chose to be called Diana Belmont. Here’s why…

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In Long Island, New York, there was a famous racetrack called Belmont Stakes. Since it was already well known, she wanted her name to resonate in people’s minds. Something changed her mind and she decided to stay with Lucille Ball. We think that’s far better!

No Room For Improvisation

While it’s not uncommon for TV stars to improvise some of their lines, the folks at I Love Lucy didn’t have that luxury! It turns out that every single spoken word on the show was in the original script – meaning there was no room to experiment.

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Lucille Ball spoke more about this in an interview years after the show ended: “We never ad-libbed. We never ad-libbed on the set when we were putting it together. It was there.”

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Matching Lives

The original plan from the producers was to make a show that would mirror the lives of real-life couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They thought, who would be able to resist an inside look into the lives of these charming celebrities?

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Well, Ball and Arnaz disagreed. They didn’t want their real lives to be front and center. While they wanted to play a couple on-screen, they opted to make it more relatable and unique by playing fictionalized versions of themselves instead.

Comical Contracts

We already understand the power that some of the stars had in their contracts. It turns out that some of the clauses were put in just for jokes and to see what they could get away with! Let’s take a look at some of them…

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Ball revealed that Vivian Vance ‘must gain five pounds every week and she must never get more laughs than Ball’. These joke contracts kept the spirits high and morale boosted as they worked together for all those years…

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Banning Children

We’ve all seen our favorite stars feature their young children in some of their shows or movies. It’s a cute way to get them a cameo and spend some time with your kids while you’re at home all day.

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Well, Ball and Arnaz seemed to disagree! Across the show’s run, they never put their children in front of the camera. This was to make sure that their children kept hold of some of their privacy and individualism. Years later, the kids admit to not minding that they weren’t featured on the famous show.

Just Your Average Family

How does a famous family spend their time away from the cameras? Well, the same way as every other family! Lucille Ball prided herself on living a typical and normal life away from the production studio.

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Her hobbies included gardening, swimming, and painting. While they played the ‘everyday’ folks on TV, it’s nice to know that they didn’t have to act too hard and that they’re similar to that off-screen, too! Were you expecting glitz and glam?

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Super Guest Spots

In the episode ‘Superman’, George Reeves makes an appearance as the Man of Steel. It was an awesome crossover moment where the two shows merged and the different characters met and conversed.

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At the end of the episode, Ball demanded that Reeves be credited as ‘Superman’ at the end. This was so that her younger viewers could imagine that the real Superman visited the show and that the illusion wasn’t broken. Very considerate of you, Lucille Ball!

The Mertzes Came And Went

William Fawley and Vivian Vance are considered supporting roles, even though they appeared in most of the episodes. In fact, there are only seven episodes where they never appeared – all of which were from the first season.

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It seems that they were supposed to come and go, but audiences loved them so much that they were written in as regular characters from the second season. We can’t imagine it any other way and we’re glad it worked out.

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Real Laughs

It’s common today to hear artificial laugh tracks playing under our favorite sitcoms. Think of shows like Friends or Seinfeld – even though they were filmed in front of an audience, they still edited the laughter to their desire.

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Well, I Love Lucy didn’t abide by such gimmicks! It turns out that all the laughter you hear on each episode is completely real and organic from the recording. Recently, more sitcoms are adopting the single-camera setting and laugh tracks are dying out.

Interesting Sponsors

It’s normal for shows to be sponsored by companies who wish to associate with pop culture and boost revenue. Well, brands were lining up around the block to be the lucky ones to sponsor I Love Lucy due to its rising audience numbers.

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When it first aired in 1951, the show was sponsored by companies like Proctor & Gambles and Philip Morris Cigarettes. How times have changed – can you imagine a cigarette company sponsoring a show today? Thankfully, laws have changed to prevent this.

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Being A Wildcat

Outside of the sitcom scene, Lucille Ball was also an acclaimed Broadway star. In 1960, when the show came to its end, Ball appeared on Broadway in the musical Wildcat. The show, which was a musical, was written by Carolyn Leigh and Cy Coleman, about an oil tycoon and his sister.

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You wouldn’t know it from the performance, but it was actually the first time that Lucille Ball appeared on Broadway! It had great reviews and ran 172 times before ending its run.

Life After Lucy

Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The couple divorced in the early 1960s after the show had come to its end. However, what happened next was another moment in television history…

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Ball assumed all control over Desilu and was actually the first woman to run a mainstream major television studio on her own. As time went on, she would help produce countless hits for the station before selling it for millions of dollars.

Read More: Even Fans Of ‘Little House On The Prairie’ Don’t Know These Facts

Lucille Ball, left, and Vivian Vance on the set of I Love Lucy. Collage by Minna.

I Love Lucy, the legendary ’50s sitcom starring comedian Lucille Ball, changed TV in so many ways. It was one of the first shows to depict pregnancy (groundbreaking because actors couldn’t even say “pregnant” on the air), and the first-ever to feature an interracial married couple (played by Lucille and her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz). But the most revolutionary, important thing about I Love Lucy, by far, was the incredible, adventurous friendship it depicted between Lucy and her best friend, Ethel Mertz:

The bond between Lucy and Ethel, played by Vivian Vance, is essential to the plot of almost every episode. Because it was the ’50s, both characters were stay-at-home housewives. But while their husbands were away at work, Lucy and Ethel didn’t just hang around the house—they got into trouble. Their wildest successes and wackiest failures always happened side-by-side. A typical episode went something like this: Ricky (Lucy’s husband) or Fred (Ethel’s) would be stubborn and/or obnoxious about a domestic issue. In retaliation, Lucy would cook up a harebrained scheme, with Ethel’s full support, to set the guy straight:

In this episode, Lucy wants to spend more time with Ricky, but he isn’t happy about her plan to tag along on a dudes-only camping trip. He offers to bring Lucy to the woods for a weekend to see if she likes it first, while secretly planning to emphasize all of nature’s most miserable aspects, which he hopes will make her back out of his upcoming excursion. Ethel overhears Ricky’s scheme and warns Lucy. Lucy convinces Ethel to drive out to the woods, hide in the bushes, and help her prank Ricky right back, which goes too far. Throwing dead ducks out of a tree for a pal, though—that’s friendship!

In another episode, Ricky and Fred insist to Lucy and Ethel that being a housewife is easier than having a “real job,” so the women offer to trade places with them. While Ricky and Fred learn firsthand how miserably difficult housework is, Lucy and Ethel go to an employment office. They lie their way into jobs at the same candy factory and spend the rest of the episode covering each other’s backs—while the factory basically goes to hell around them:

Unlike the stereotype of the perfect, untouchable housewife that most people associate with ’50s sitcoms, Lucy and Ethel sometimes had messy hair and weren’t always in full makeup. They got in trouble with everyone (not just their husbands), and generally caused scenes wherever they went. They made it OK for actresses to be something other than pretty, perfect, and poised:

In this episode, Lucy’s rich, pretentious high-school classmate calls her up soliciting a charitable donation. Sick of her former classmate’s condescension, Lucy gets wrapped up in an elaborate lie about mansions, summer homes, servants, the lot of it—and Ethel, of course, has her girl’s back. Lucy and Ethel get dressed up in their fanciest clothes to go drop off a check, but Lucy’s classmate shows up at her house instead, catching them off guard. Lucy and Ethel have to deal with the consequences of offering a much larger donation than they’d planned, and end up taking a lucrative but haywire job dressing up as alien babes and doing a publicity stunt for a movie called Women From Mars to make back the money they mistakenly donated. (Side note: This is probably the best I Love Lucy episode ever.)

But even though it was sometimes Lucy and Ethel versus the world (or just Ricky and Fred), they always cooperated with each other. They were around the same age, from similar economic backgrounds, and were both happily married. Their relationship existed on an essentially even playing field, so stereotypical female competitiveness plots—over men or status—never entered the picture. Whether they were snooping, spying, scheming, or going on wild adventures, their relationship was a source of constant mutual support. (In that respect, Lucy and Ethel’s escapades often passed the Bechdel Test before it even existed.)

The absolute coolest part about all of this is the fact that Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance were friends in real life, too! After a rocky start, when Desi Arnaz (who was equal partners in Desilu Productions with Lucille) cast Vance as Ethel without Lucille’s approval, the two remained lifelong BFFs.

Lucille went on to cast Vivian on her subsequent shows, maintaining the fictional relationship between Lucy and Ethel. They spent time together off-set, too, helping each other dye their hair and casually running into international royalty. There are great videos of them later in life being grumpy old lady friends together, picking on each other and telling funny stories that played up a common myth that they didn’t get along. Both onscreen and off-, Lucille/Vivian and Lucy/Ethel came across as smart, capable, creative women who supported each other. Even though they got themselves into some serious trouble, they walked side by side. ♦

I thought I’d do up a post to explain more about Vivian and Lucille’s friendship because I’ve been asked on this subject several times on Instagram (@welovelucilleball). Here goes…
Vivian Vance and Lucille Ball shared a special and complex friendship that could never be destroyed. When Vivian first went to Desilu studios to meet Lucille, she was so terrified because she was going to be playing second banana to the legendary movie star, Miss Ball. Of course, she wore formal clothes as she thought that Lucille would dress like that, and she wanted to give Lucille a good impression.
Everyone could remember their first meeting. There was sophisticated looking Viv, and there was Lucille, who dressed in her normal oversized blouse and black slacks. Lucille had worn a scarf that covered her red hair, and her face was bare. Basically, she looked like anything but a great movie star.
Lucille looked at Viv up and down and asked, “what part will you be trying out for?”
“For the landlady, honey,” Desi said.
“She doesn’t look like a landlady. She looks glamorous. Her hair’s the same color as mine,” Lucy stated.
“I can dye it. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me.”
“I don’t know. I want a dumpy, peroxide-blonde with curlers in her hair and a terry cloth robe and fuzzy slippers. That’s what I want.”
“You got her. I look just like that in the morning when I get out of bed.”
Lucille laughed. Now if you can make Lucille laugh, you’ve worn her respect.

When rehearsals officially started, the two girls discovered that they had so much chemistry. That was the start of their enduring friendship. They enjoyed rehearsing so much that they they had a ball.
Lucille was tough on Viv. She would direct Viv and give her lots of instructions to follow while rehearsing. She knew that Viv needed someone to be strong and tough to straighten her out. Prior to being starred as Ethel Mertz in I Love Lucy, Viv had suffered a psychological breakdown and was in recluse and her life was filled with episodes of visiting psychiatrists. Much of her mental anguish came from her then-husband, Philip Ober. He would beat her up and call her ugly names that made her feel small.
Eventually, Vivian learned from Lucille to be independent, strong and tough too. Viv knew that Lucille had struggled with her marriage for very long yet remained spirited and formidable, and Lucille always provided Viv advice on her own marriage. She eventually convinced Viv to muster enough courage to file for divorce from her abusive husband.

While most were intimidated by Lucille’s bluntness, Viv would take no shit from her. She knew that beneath Lucille’s tough exterior, she was a soft, kind and dependent lady who was extremely afraid of being hurt. She also knew that Lucille often tested people by provoking them to see if they would fight back. So, Viv always fought back when Lucille became too willful, and Lucille loved that. Additionally, while others couldn’t get away with trying to direct Lucille or to offer suggestions or directions, Viv always did, and Lucille always listened to her. It was astounding how they two ladies always helped each other bring out the best of their characters in I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show.
If you’re wondering why Vivian said “the greatest straight woman in show business” while thanking Lucille, here’s why: Viv’s husband felt threatened by their friendship. Knowing how conservative Viv was, he told her once that rumors have started in Hollywood, saying that Lucille and Vivian were so close that it seemed like they were lesbians, “a couple of cats in heat”. Vivian was so affected that she drove 50 miles to her psychiatrist for a talk. Of course, his vindictive efforts didn’t manage to break up their friendship.
Desi, Lucille and Viv remained close friends throughout their lives (William Frawley had spent his last years dealing with his health and finally passed away in 1966). After Desi and Lucille’s divorce, Desi produced the first 6 episodes of The Lucy Show. On the first day of rehearsals, Desi sat at his chair, looked at Lucille rehearsing and promptly burst into tears. Viv went and hugged Desi, “it’s never the same again, isn’t it?”
Having gone through so much to produce the most phenomenal show on earth, I Love Lucy, it was impossible to just erase one another from their lives.
A famous quote from Vivian Vance that I’m sure fans have come across is “We fought like sisters and made up like sisters. We adored each other’s company.”

It’s fitting that the theme song for Betty White’s hit sitcom The Golden Girls was “Thank You for Being a Friend.” Betty has had a lot of close friends over her 95 years, but one dearest to her was another TV legend: Lucille Ball. “We were buddies,” Betty says. “She was always going to teach me backgammon. So we’d get together and she’d have it all set up. But her idea of teaching was, ‘I’ll take my turn. Now you throw the dice,’ which I would. And then she’d move my pieces here and here, and I’d say, ‘Lucy, how am I going to learn if you’re playing the game with yourself?!’ But we did it a lot and had fun.”

While Lucy was 11 years older than Betty when they met around 1957, the two women found they had a lot in common, and their connection blossomed into a 30-plus-year friendship. Both had worked in radio before graduating to television. Both had their own production companies — a groundbreaking move for women in 1950s Hollywood. And both had the support of strong, devoted mothers. After Lucy’s 1961 marriage to comedian Gary Morton and Betty’s 1963 nuptials to Password host Allen Ludden, the couples grew close. “Lucy and Betty’s relationship spanned more than just being show business acquaintances,” a pal of the pair tells Closer. “They considered each other family.”

Betty first got to know Lucy while working on the 1957 sitcom Date With the Angels, about a young married couple. It taped at Desilu Studios, where Lucy was wrapping up the final season of I Love Lucy. “Betty was still trying to get a foothold in show business when she met Lucy,” the pal explains. But Betty wasn’t a complete newcomer, having already starred in the 1952 until 1955 comedy Life With Elizabeth, produced by her own company, Bandy Productions.

“Their bond was their common accomplishment as business women in a male-dominated industry,” Ann Dusenberry, who appeared on Super Password with Betty and Lucy and co-starred in the 1986 series Life With Lucy, tells Closer. “Betty really looked up to Lucy,” another friend says, “and Lucy saw that she and Betty were cut from the same cloth.” Lucy was well-suited to become Betty’s mentor. I Love Lucy had been on the air since 1951, and a No. 1 hit for four of its six seasons. It was produced by Desilu, her company with husband Desi Arnaz. “Lucy took Betty under her wing,” the pal notes. “She was already the biggest female star on TV, and in many ways, she paved the way for Betty’s achievements.” The friend adds Lucy also “admired Betty’s spirit in tackling the male-dominated TV business of the 1950s.”

Adversity strengthened their bond. By 1959, Lucy’s 19-year marriage to Desi had begun to disintegrate due to his drinking and philandering “I think it came to a point where Lucy was not able to emotionally handle working together,” says Keith Thibodeaux, who played little Ricky on I Love Lucy. Her 1960 divorce marked a turning point in Lucy’s life, and Betty had the experience to offer her friend words of encouragement because she had been divorced twice before. “Lucy saw Betty’s fighting spirit — they were really feminists of their time, when that wasn’t necessarily the norm in Hollywood,” says the friend. Lucy forged ahead, marrying comedian Gary Morton in 1961 and taking over the reins of Desilu. During hard times, Lucy and Betty also relied on each other’s families. As the pal points out, “Betty adored not only Lucy’s sense of humor, but her mother and Lucy’s children,” Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. (Betty didn’t have children, but after marrying Allen she helped raise his three kids from a previous marriage.)

A friendship also blossomed between “our two dynamite mothers, DeDe Ball and Tess White,” says Betty, who was an only child and close to both parents, whom she’s called “the best ever invented.” Lucy had been raised by DeDe and other relatives after her father died of typhoid when Lucy was there. A lot of the women’s strength “came from their mothers,” says the pal. DeDe, a former concert pianist, and Tess, a homemaker, taught their daughters how to stand up for themselves. “They were definitely mama’s girls,” notes the pal, “raised by women who told them they didn’t have to take a back seat to any man.”

Closer Weekly

But they did rely on their female friends. When Lucy’s mother was ailing, Betty recalls being at a party “and dragged me aside and said, ‘What the hell am I going to do if I lose my mother?’” DeDe died not long after, in 1977, and “she sort of took my mom over,” Betty shares. “Every year on DeDe’s birthday, she would send my mom a basket of violets. some kind of a lady.” Lucy stood by her friend a few years later when Betty’s husband, Allen, died of stomach cancer. “She was there with a meal and kind words when Betty needed it most,” says their pal. As one of “the friends who set about putting the pieces back together,” Betty says, Lucy “was convinced the sure cure for anything was backgammon. She made me laugh in spite of myself.”
Of course, as women of comedy, laughter was a key ingredient in their connection. “They were powerfully funny and ready and willing to be playful, even foolish, if there was a joke in it,” says Dusenberry. Their hilarity was on full display in the 1980s, when they squared off on game shows like Password and Super Password, where “they fought, teased, spatted and growled as only two giants of theater can do,” says former host Tom Kennedy. But he notes that in their mock competition, “The two women failed to mask their actual admiration.”

It was while taping a 1986 episode of Password that Lucy learned Desi had died, and Betty was able to give her buddy a shoulder to cry on. “Lucy was being real funny on the show, but during a break she said, ‘You know, it’s the damnedest thing. I didn’t think I’d get this upset,’” Betty recalls. “It was a funny feeling, kind of a lovely, private moment.”

Their bond continued until Lucy’s death at 77 in 1989 from an aortic rupture. Says the pal: “Betty has a scrapbook of photos with Lucy and people who are close to her heart.” Remembers Betty, “We had such fun!”

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Actresses Betty White (left) and Lucille Ball embracing at a book signing event in Los Angeles, October 2nd 1987. (Getty)

Betty White is recognized by fans as dim-witted Rose Nyland who shared a lasting friendship with her three roommates on “The Golden Girls,” but in real life, the now 95-year-old actress shared an equally close bond with Lucille Ball.

The two stars became friends in 1956 and the relationship endured until Ball’s passing at age 71 in 1989.

“Their bond was their common accomplishment as business women in a male-dominated industry,” Ann Dusenberry, who appeared on “Super Password” with White and Ball and co-starred in the series “Life with Lucy,” told Closer Weekly Wednesday.

EXCLUSIVE: BETTY WHITE’S GREATEST MOMENTS WITH ET

Dusenberry added it was their willingness to be funny on camera at whatever cost that sealed their friendship.

“They were powerfully funny and ready and willing to be playful, even foolish, if there was a joke in it,” she explained.

Former TV host Tom Kennedy recalled how “they fought, teased, spatted and growled as only two giants of theater can do,” but “the two women failed to mask their actual admiration.”

And when Ball’s beloved ex-husband and former “I Love Lucy” cast mate Desi Arnaz died at age 69 in 1986, White made sure to give her a shoulder to cry on.

“The day that Desi died she and I were doing ‘Password’ together,” recalled White to People Magazine back in 1989. “She was being real funny on the show, but during a break she said, ‘You know, it’s the damnedest thing. Goddamn it, I didn’t think I’d get this upset. There he goes.’ It was a funny feeling, kind of a lovely, private moment.”

White continues to remember her dear friend fondly.

“We had such fun,” she told The Atlantic in 2011. “She was always going to teach me backgammon. She was determined she was going to teach me. So we’d get together and she’d have it all set up. But her idea of teaching was, ‘Alright here, I’ll take my turn. Now you throw the dice,’ which I would.

“And then she’d move my pieces here and there and I’d say, ‘Lucy, how am I going to learn the game if you’re playing the game with yourself?’ But we did and it was a lot of fun.”

Previous episode: The Girls Go into Business Next episode: Equal Rights

PlotEdit

The Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League is putting on a variety show. Lucy falsely promises to get Ricky to be the emcee, as a way for her to get elected chairman. Lucy eventually uses reverse psychology on Ricky to get him to agree to be in the show. Lucy and Ethel plan to sing “Friendship” together during the show. All is well until they find out they’ve both bought the same dress to wear. They each agree to take the dress back, but both secretly keep it and wear it the night of the performance. They end up fighting during the song and pulling apart each others’ dresses.

TriviaEdit

  • This is the first time since “The Club Election” that we ever see Lucy and Ethel serving as co-presidents of the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League.
  • A good portion of the beginning part of the club meeting was deleted for syndication. The DVD restored the whole scene.
  • Ethel got her dress at Macy’s; Lucy got hers at Gimbel’s.
  • A puzzling part of the episode is why Lucy and Ethel don’t understand the value of each girl wearing the same dress. Fred and Ricky both think that’s a great idea- they’re doing a sort of sister act, so why not dress alike?
  • In this episode, we learn the first of what will be Ethel’s three different middle names. Her middle name is “Louise” in this episode, an inside joke, having been named after William Frawley’s hated ex-wife.
  • In season 3, wardrobe designer Elois Jenssen joined the cast. This was her second episode to work on, but it was her first big challenge. She had to make a dress for the “Friendship” number that was both realistic but able to easily be pulled apart. She ended up doing a great job.
  • The wrap-around blouse Lucy wears during the club meeting (and in many other episodes) was one of Lucille Ball’s favorites and made Elois Jenssen’s designs an instant success with Lucy. She really liked the design to wear after her second C-section, and she often wore the blouse in real life.
  • At the end of the final “Friendship” number, right before Ricky and Fred comes to pull the girls off stage, watch closely as Vivian Vance pulls on flower vines at the top of Lucy’s dress. She was tugging so hard that she nearly exposed Lucy!
  • We learn that Carolyn Appleby’s husband, Charlie, is the manager of a local TV station.
  • Ethel is the first to start pulling things off the dress on the TV show.
  • We never know the final lineup of the TV show other than Lucy and Ethel singing “Friendship,” Ricky singing “Vaya con Dios,” and Carolyn most certainly getting to have a role, but the original brainstorming session about activities for the show was Louanne Hall playing piano, Jane Sebastian doing bird calls, Carolyn doing her Bette Davis impression that Lucy thought was an impression of Lionel Barrymore, and Rosalyn McKee reciting “Trees.”
  • The desk and piano switch positions for this episode, the desk being in the bay window and the piano out in the open to allow Desi to play it while facing the camera for the friendship number.

QuotesEdit

Carolyn: Next Monday, from 12-12:30.

Ethel: Oh, that’s a fine time. That’s right in the middle of the day when everybody’s home.

Carolyn: Well, everybody’s home, alright, but it’s not the middle of the day! It’s 12 midnight!

  • Lucy: Madame Co-President, at this point, may I ask you to take over?

Ethel: Why?

Lucy: Well, it’s not fair for me to be President at this moment. For what I have to say, I ‘d rather be a civilian.

  • Lucy: But will the general public know who Marion Strong is?

Marion: Well, you can tell them at the beginning of the program, you know!

Lucy: The program would be over before we could say, “senior shenanigans of the Rappahannock School for Girls”!

  • Fred: Is this week’s meeting of The Claw and Cackle Club over?
  • Ethel: Say, you don’t think we could get along without Carolyn , do you?

Lucy: Her husband manages the station.

Ethel: Who follows Carolyn?

  • Lucy: Well, I’m the President!

Ethel: Well, I’m the CO-President!

Lucy: Well, I’m the chairman!

Ethel: Well, I’m the one who knows how you got to BE chairman!

  • Ethel: Isn’t that a wonderful idea?

Lucy: Well, no, ’cause, that way, I don’t get to sing alone.

Ethel: That’s what makes it a wonderful idea!

  • Lucy: I’m gonna use my head .

Ethel: What are you gonna do? Beat him with it?

Lucy: Well, he plays a musical instrument.

Ethel: Sure! Tissue paper and combs!

  • Fred: Why take either one of back?

Ricky: Yeah, I think it’s kinda cute. You can do, like, a sister act.

  • Lucy: (whispers) I thought you said you were gonna take your dress back?

Ethel: (whispers) I thought you said you were gonna take YOUR dress back?

Lucy: (whispers) You big stinker!

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