August 6 marks the birth date of Lucille Ball, everyone’s favorite redhead. As a new statue is unveiled to celebrate her 105th birthday, here are some facts about the I Love Lucy star that you probably didn’t know.
She wasn’t always Lucy. When the young Lucille Ball began her career as a model, she used the name “Diane Belmont.” She got the idea for the name after driving by the Belmont Race Track in New York and believed the name sounded much more glamorous than Lucille. I Love Diane just doesn’t have the same ring to it, though!
Lucy’s pregnancy on the show was very real. In fact, she was actually the first pregnant actress to play a pregnant woman on television! When, at age 42, Lucille Ball found she was expecting her second child, writers simply wrote the pregnancy into the show. The word “pregnant” was never mentioned, though. After all, Lucy and Ricky didn’t even share a bed in the sitcom! Show executives were afraid that the audience would be offended, since a pregnancy would mean (obviously) that Lucy and Ricky did actually have sex. And the episode where Lucy gave birth to little Ricky was aired on the same that the Lucille Ball actually did deliver her second child, Desi Jr.
Lucille Ball was not a good student. As a young girl, Lucille Ball enrolled in a New York City drama school to work on her acting, which she loved even at that young age. However, the young Lucille Ball suffered from stage fright! She was often “too nervous to perform in front of her peers” during her time at school. The problem was so bad that the school sent a letter saying that Lucy was too “shy and reticent” to be a successful student to Lucy’s mother.
The joke was on them!
Lucille Ball was the first female executive in Hollywood! Desilu Productions — named for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz– was formed in 1950. It brought not just I Love Lucy to the television screen, but Star Trek: Mission Impossible and The Untouchables to the small screen.
Lucy was 40 before I Love Lucy ever even aired! In an industry where, even today, women “age out” quickly and 25 is considered too mature for many roles, Lucy didn’t even get her “big break” until she was 40. The lady had talents and looks, as well as the experience and maturity. No wonder she was such a success!
The famous “grape scene” was nearly the death of Lucille Ball! The star nearly drowned during one of I Love Lucy’s most beloved scenes — when Lucy hikes up her skirt and stomps grapes in a hilarious effort to make wine. But apparently, the other actress in the scene didn’t speak English, and direction was lost in translation. So, at one point, she actually held Lucy’s red head under the grape juice.
And speaking of that famous red head…Lucille Ball was actually a natural brunette. She didn’t color her locks red until her role in Du Barry Was a Lady. She then decided to keep the red for I Love Lucy. But even the red we envision is probably incorrect. Her hair was not the vibrant, bright red hue we all tend to envision it as, but rather more of a “golden apricot” shade, according to her stylist.
But the red hair definitely became her own. She kept it for more than four decades, after all, keeping her curls their beautiful color until 1989.
Even after the marriage between Desi and Lucy ended, there was still love and affection. The marriage between the two was tumultuous, but even two hours before he died, Lucy spoke with Desi on the phone. Her last words to him were “I love you.” And Desi’s last words to Lucy were read to her after his death, in a letter, where he stated, “I Love Lucy was never just a title.”
We agree, Desi. And happy birthday, Lucy! Even after 105 years, we still love her, too.
[Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images]