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carole lombard 06

Loving Lucy blogathon: A Ball with Carole

Posted by vp19 on 2011.08.06 at 01:36
Current mood: jubilantjubilant


I wish I could present a photo of Carole Lombard with Lucille Ball, whose centenary is today, but as is the case regarding Lombard with Jean Harlow and Barbara Stanwyck, none exists or at least has surfaced. But they were friends, especially after Carole signed with RKO (Ball's home studio) in 1939. (Both of the pictures above were taken by the studio's top photographer, Ernest A. Bachrach.)

For many years, Lucy said Carole regularly appeared to her in dreams. the most famous being in 1951, when Lombard encouraged her to "go for it" in the infant medium of television. We know the result -- "I Love Lucy," which set the template for the TV situation comedy, and a series that remains a favorite all over the world.



Did such a dream actually happen? Until there's a way we can enter the dreams of dead people (paging M. Night Shyamalan!), we can't verify it. But it is worth noting -- and something many forget -- that "I Love Lucy" premiered in October 1951, two months after Ball's 40th birthday. Lucy didn't know it at the time, but she had already passed the halfway point in her life (that occurred in late 1949).

Being 40 had to seem a threat to Lucy, at least where her movie career is concerned. She saw what was going on with some of her contemporaries who had hit the milestone. Claudette Colbert had turned 40 in 1941, but the switch to wartime films enabled her to retain her status for a while; once the war ended, she joined Myrna Loy (who'd turned 40 in 1945) and Irene Dunne (who'd turned 40 in 1938) as stars who had been relegated to character parts. All had been higher-tier stars than Ball, and while Lucy was hardly starving in the late 1940s, she knew the clock was working against her for films. That's why Ball had gone into radio, with a series called "My Favorite Husband." (That series was somewhat adapted into "I Love Lucy," with radio star Richard Denning's character replaced by Ball's real-life husband, bandleader-actor Desi Arnaz.)

It turned out to be a fortuitous time for the Arnazes to move into a new medium. The movie business had begun to decline in 1949, in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling in the Paramount divestiture case the year before. The studios had cut ties with many talented, longtime employees, one of them a veteran cinematographer named Karl Freund, whose experience dated back to the German expressionist era. (He had been cinematographer on "Without Love," the 1945 film where Ball was in support of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.) Freund and Arnaz helped create the three-camera setup, which did two things: 1) It enabled Lucy and Desi to remain in Los Angeles, which they loved, rather than move to New York, and 2) The series could be preserved on film instead of kinescope, which was of lower quality and didn't last as long.



The decision was more expensive, but it more than paid off in the long run, as the Arnazes' company, Desilu, made millions and eventually purchased ailing RKO. The company developed other series as well, including "The Untouchables," "Star Trek" and Ball's later sitcoms, "The Lucy Show" and "Here's Lucy." In many ways, Ball had fulfilled a goal Lombard never got to achieve, becoming a power broker in Hollywood.

Carole was friends with both Lucy and Desi, and hosted a honeymoon party for the couple at Chasen's in 1940. One of Ball's signature film roles may have come about through Carole -- though if it was the case, Lombard didn't live to see it. We're referring to "The Big Street," an adaptation of a Damon Runyan story.

When RKO bought the property, he supposedly wanted Charles Laughton and Lombard to play the leads. Each declined. Runyon arranged for RKO to get Henry Fonda on loan from Twentieth Century-Fox, while Lombard successfully persuaded Runyon and a reluctant RKO to hire Ball. Lucy's determination to excel in the role intensified after Carole's death in January 1942, and while the film wasn't a big hit, she received glowing reviews. Wrote James Agee in Time, "Pretty Lucille Ball, who was born for the parts Ginger Rogers sweats over, tackles her 'emotional' role as if it were sirloin and she didn't care who was looking."



"The Big Street" will air at 9:45 p.m. (ET) tonight as part of 24 hours of Lucy on Turner Classic Movies' "Summer Under The Stars." (It follows "Stage Door" -- featuring Lucy, Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Ann Miller -- which runs at 8.) The Lucython ends with two of her "B" pictures from 1938 -- "The Affairs Of Annabel" at 3:15 a.m. and "Annabel Takes A Tour" at 4:30. The former, her first starring role, has an interesting sidelight for Lombard fans, as it features exteriors of the Encino home that would later be owned by Carole and Clark Gable. (At the time, it belonged to director Raoul Walsh.)

We'll close with a few portraits of the pre-TV Lucy, who was quite the beauty in her day -- something overlooked by people focusing on the TV Ball, who concentrated more on comedy than glamour.





This is part of the "Loving Lucy Blogathon," hosted and sponsored by the "True Classics" blog (http://trueclassics.wordpress.com/). More than 40 blogs have signed up for the fun, so check it out to learn more about our collective love for this TV legend and relatively unheralded film star.



Comments:


(Anonymous) at 2011-08-06 13:54 (UTC) (Link)
Her films will keep her forever in the hearts of those of us who grew up with her. You found some wonderful picture of, Lucy to share with us. I'm planning on watching the film, " The Big Street" later tonight on TCM. Thank you for the heads up.
Ivan G Shreve Jr
Ivan G Shreve Jr at 2011-08-06 15:03 (UTC) (Link)

"Loo-see..."

I love that color picture of Ball in the blue dress. Breathtaking.
(Anonymous) at 2011-08-06 16:20 (UTC) (Link)

Lucy and Carole

This what was said about Lucy by another Carole, who also wasn't born with that name--Carole Cook, who worked with Lucy as well as other TV, film and stage roles (most notably as part of the original cast of the stage version of 42ND STREET, where on opening night its producer, the legendary David Merrick, announced at curtain call the director, equally legendary Gower Champion, had died that afternoon).

When Lucy founded her Desilu Workshop of stock players (which, incidentally, included Robert Osborne). she couldn't find a funny lady to be part of the ensemble. Another member contacted someone he'd thought she'd like...his friend Mildred Cook. What follows is Cook's, quoted from the book DESILU by Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert.




(Lucy) had told me on the phone "I know people are protective about their names, and I know you've been Mildred Cook all your life, but I wonder if you would think about changing your name?" We all went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant that first night. She wrote on the tablecloth the name she wanted for me and said "I'd like you to change your name to Carole--for Carole Lombard?" I said "Right, perfect, Miss Ball. WONDERFUL!" I was lucky she didn't say Rin Tin Tin. She told me "You have the same healthy disrespect for everything that Carole did" She worshipped Carole Lombard. She also said "I want you to have an A-R in your name". I said "A-R"? She said "That's my good luck" I said "You haven't done badly with Lucille Ball" She said "I didn't hit it big until I changed it to ARNAZ".



Paul Duca
(Anonymous) at 2011-08-06 20:13 (UTC) (Link)

Great post

I hadn't realized the friendship that existed between Carole and Lucy. An interesting chapter into today's blogathon that I really enjoyed, including the story about the dream that led Lucy to "I Love Lucy." From Classicfilmboy
(Anonymous) at 2011-08-08 02:53 (UTC) (Link)

Carole and Lucy ... an awesome combination!

I have to begin by admiring the photographs you've chosen to include with your post, because they are simply stunning. I've always loved the one of Lucy with the fur on her shoulder--her expression is wonderful, and she's just so beautiful.

I have always enjoyed the anecdote about Carole "telling" Lucy to do the show. It just serves to underscore the fact that she was such an unadulterated, unabashed fan of Carole's. It reminds me of the way later comediennes like Carol Burnett would go on to revere Lucy in a similar fashion.

Thank you so much for participating in the blogathon and for being such a vocal supporter over the past couple of months. We really appreciate it! And I'm seriously looking forward to your own foray into the craziness of blogathon-management (so to speak) when Carole-tennial(+3) rolls around in October!
(Anonymous) at 2011-08-08 02:54 (UTC) (Link)
By the way, that last "anonymous" comment was me! Sorry about that. :)

Brandie
True Classics
(Anonymous) at 2012-04-04 17:37 (UTC) (Link)

Lucy & Carole

Really enjoy your site !!



Been reading abour Carole & numerology how she had some early changes in her life after she changed her name.

Keep up the Good work here !!
(Anonymous) at 2012-10-24 02:24 (UTC) (Link)

JUST LOVE HER

I JUST WANT TO SAY HOW MUCH I LOVE AND ADORE LUCILLE BALL. HER NATURAL BEAUTY AND COMEDIC TALENT IS SO AWESOME TO WATCH. I AM SO GRATEFUL THAT SHE IS WHO SHE IS AND HAS MADE SUCH AN IMPACT TO ME ESPECIALLY WHEN I WAS YOUNGER. HOWEVER IT IS ONLY AS I HAVE MATURED THROUGH THE YEARS THAT I AM MORE ABLE TO TRULY APPRECIATE HER TIMING, HER OBVIOUS FLUIDITY IN BEING COMICAL. SHE IS SO SO BRILLIANT AND JUST A HUGE PLEASURE TO WATCH TODAY. SOMETIMES, I FIND MYSELF SAD ONLY BECAUSE I WISH SHE WERE STILL HERE BUT NONE OF US CAN EVER LIVE FOREVER NOW CAN WE? BUT I CAN SEE HER AND HER WATCH HER ANYTIME I WANT THROUGH DVDS AND STREAMING. TECHNOLOGY TODAY WOULD PROBABLY SHOCK BUT IMPRESS HER I AM SURE OF THAT.

WITH THOSE BIG BEAUTIFUL EYES AND GREAT FACIAL EXPRESSIONS SHE IS BY FAR MY FAVORITE COMEDIC ACTRESS. NO ONE CAN EVER COME CLOSE TO HER. SHE REIGNS SUPREME!!!!!!
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