Lucille Ball. She acted in a ton of films and starred in three successful TV sitcoms. Stefan Kanfer's Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball attempts to capture that on the page.
Lucy lost her father at a young age (3-years-old) and began her adult career at a young age (17-years-old). Her modeling career was interrupted when she developed rheumatic fever and it would be a bit longer before she returned to NYC (1932) and resumed her modeling career while trying to learn an acting break. She became a Broadway chorus girl and then moved over to films. She made numerous films early in small roles that didn't even earn her a film credit. Her first credit was in 1934 playing the small role of Peggy in Men of the Night. She continued in small roles -- many uncredited -- until things changed for her with the 1937 classic Stage Door.
Stage Door was about young actresses trying to make it on Broadway and the RKO film starred Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers with strong supporting roles from, among others, Constance Collier, Eve Arden, Ann Miller and Lucille Ball. She's actually a very clear presence in this film. You can't miss her or her excellent notes in various moments of the film. She's from far away from NYC and lands just the right reproach to Ginger Rogers when Ginger doesn't want to double on dinner dates with loggers. Stage Door was considered the film about backstage life until All About Eve two decades later.
After Stage Door, Lucy never did bit parts again. She was a strong supporting player or she was the lead. She did Room Service with the Marx Brothers, 1938's The Affairs of Annabel was successful enough to result in a sequel entitled Annabel Takes a Tour and many others. But the most important early film after Stage Door was 1940's Too Many Girls. It was a musical comedy that did well but where it made the real impact was that Lucy met Desi Arnaz while making this film.
In 1942, she'd make The Big Street with Henry Fonda and earn strong praise for her performance. Seven Days' Leave from the same year was a hit but RKO didn't care and they got rid of her. She signed with MGM and made DuBarry Was A Lady -- which remains a strong film and a strong performance from Lucy. I bought it about 15 years ago in a pack with other Lucy films including my favorite The Fuller Brush Girl (she loses her switchboard job just when she needs to buy a house with her fiancee so she starts selling door to door and ends up caught up in a murder). That was a film from 1950. Others in the 40s and early 50s that are worth catching? Sorrowful Jones with Bob Hope, te 1946 film noir The Dark Corner, the 1947 film noir Lured, Fancy Pants with Bob Hope again, Miss Grants Takes Richmond and The Magic Carpet.
As early as 1940, Lucy was doing radio. And that was a smart move because, after RKO dumped her, this saved her career. RKO thought she was too old to become a big film star. MGM briefly had her in lead roles -- and her friend Bob Hope would cast her opposite him in lead roles -- but more often than not, like in the Hepburn-Tracy film Without Love -- she was back to supporting roles.
CBS radio played My Favorite Husband, a pilot that they had passed on, when another show wasn't ready to air. It was a hit and they quickly made it into a radio series. Lucy starred with Richard Denning (Lee Bowman in the pilot). The book has the show as hit or miss early on but notes that it quickly improved. Richard Oppenheimer worked with Lucy and certain comic bits began to be developed by the two and the wife became zany. Oppenheimer also brought on an older couple to play the friends of Lucy and her husband. Also helping the show get better? The decision to start performing it in front of a live audience. That gave Lucy instant feedback and she played well to an audience. The radio show would be a big success and last for 125 episodes. It was so successful that in 1950, CBS decided to turn it into a TV series starring Lucy.
But Lucy said no.
She wanted to do a TV sitcom with her husband Desi. It would take a lot of effort, energy and refusal to be pushed around for Lucy and Desi to get I Love Lucy on the air in 1951. Two years, later, when I Love Lucy was a big hit, CBS would finally get a version of My Favorite Husband on TV (without Lucy) and it would last for three seasons.
While it's largely forgotten today, I Love Lucy is remembered. And I Love Lucy is remembered as one of the classic sitcoms of all time. Audiences -- unlike CBS -- were never concerned or bothered that Lucy was married to a Cuban (in real life and on screen). What had worked on My Favorite Husband was freely borrowed -- except Gale Gordon. He wasn't available or he would have been cast as Fred Mertz. Instead, William Frawley got that role and Vivian Vance was cast as Ethel Mertz.
Vivian and Lucy would become one of TV's early comedy teams.
I Love Lucy was a hit and it revolutionized TV. They wanted to do it in California where they lived but CBS wanted it in NYC as did the sponsor. Instead, Desi decided it would be filmed so that stations all over could have the same version and same visual quality. And that required figuring out how to do a three camera show and to do it in front of a live audience. All sorts of lighting issues arose. And the best sitcoms still use what Desi and Lucy learned.
And it's a real shame that too many idiots don't grasp today that the multi-cam in front of the studio audience is the way to go with sitcoms. Modern Family, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreations, The Office, et al are not that funny. And they don't do well in syndication. Multi-cams with studio audience sitcoms do great in syndication: Friends, Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Big Bang Theory, etc.
Now this point of the book was interesting. But here's where it all changes.
The filming of I Love Lucy. The Aaron Sorkin film starring Nicole Kidman as Lucy? Nothing but lies. Forget that the film tried to turn multiple weeks (and years) into one week of filming an episode, it didn't even get the basic facts right. It lied over and over and I'm glad the movie bombed. Then there's Amy Poehler, another liar, and her documentary about the love of Lucy and Desi.
Desi cheated non-stop. That's why she wanted him off the road and in California and them working together. But I Love Lucy did not stop the cheating. He cheated on her constantly -- and sometimes with prostitutes. She's quoted in the book talking about how she forgave him the first time and the second and the . . . eleventh.
Liars. Lucille Ball's life is more than interesting enough. You don't have to make up lies to have the basics for a feature film or for a documentary. It says a great deal about Aaron Sorkin and Amy Poehler that they both felt the need to lie about Lucy.
I enjoyed the entire book but my favorite part was about Here's Lucy. That's Lucy's third sitcom. Stan, my cousin, loves it too. And it's a good show but I think part of the reason we love it is that we watched it in the 80s with our grandfather who loved Lucy.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
At last night’s Republican presidential debate, former Vice President Mike Pence said, “We’re going to pass a federal ban on transgender chemical or surgical surgery anywhere in the country.” LGBTQ Nation contacted his campaign asking if he intended to outlaw gender-affirming care for all people, regardless of age. His campaign hadn’t responded by the time of publication.
While Pence’s comment also mentioned “protecting” kids from “radical gender ideology,” his response caught the attention of Alejandra Caraballo, a civil rights attorney and clinical instructor at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic. Caraballo posted a video of Pence’s comment on Wednesday night and wrote via Twitter, “They’re going to ban care for trans adults too. It was never about protecting kids.”
Most of the time, GIF-like zingers aside, the debate was really just an exercise in click-bait extremism. Why were college students burdened by so much debt? Well, DeSantis opined, partly because so many colleges were teaching gender studies to their captive students. Why were Americans feeling so much economic pain? Well, said Ramaswamy, in addition to Bidenomics, there was the problem that “the Federal Reserve is an agency that has gone rogue.” Did the candidates agree with Florida’s new education guidelines, championed by DeSantis, for how to teach about slavery? No, said Scott, it was wrong to minimize the atrocities of slavery. But, he continued, perhaps suddenly aware that he had come off as too moderate for the GOP crowd, Black families did indeed survive slavery only to be destroyed a century later by LBJ’s Great Society and its expansion of family-destroying welfare programs. Ramaswamy came up with a novel interpretation of constitutional law that would allow him to instantly end birthright citizenship. Pence advocated a massive increase in use of the federal death penalty.
The candidates were quick to spout nonsense on one issue after the next. Yet on the elephant in the room, most of them had nothing to say: There was a deafening silence on Trump’s myriad malfeasances, such a silence that it was hard to take anything they said about the importance of the rule of law seriously.
Charlotte County Schools Superintendent Mark Vianello and the school board’s attorney, Michael McKinley, were responding to questions from the district's librarians at a July meeting asking whether the bill, officially the “Florida Parental Rights in Education Act,” required the removal of any books that simply had a gay character but no explicit sex scenes.
“Books with LBGTQ+ characters are not to be included in classroom libraries or school library media centers,” the pair responded, according to a district memo obtained under a public information request by the Florida Freedom to Read Project. The nonprofit group, which opposes the law, provided the memo to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
One expert, who works supporting LGBT+ people and has lost count of the number of people leaving Florida for more liberal parts of the country, told the Mirror DeSantis' culture wars is "putting a target'' on their backs.
In August, murals at two LGBT+ centers in Orlando, were defaced with anti-LGBT+ messages and hate symbols. According to the Florida Attorney General, hate crimes based on sexual orientation currently account for 22 percent of all hate crimes
Mr Smith puts the responsibility at the feet of Republican legislators. He said: "When you pass all of these hateful laws as Ron DeSantis has done, it is putting a target on the backs of LGBTQ people. Governor DeSantis and his term coined the term 'groomer' a year ago during the debates around the 'Don't say gay' bill. And that has escalated online attacks against LGBTQ people making baseless accusations about how gay and trans folks are a danger to children."
Like most of his rivals in the primary, DeSantis has offered only tepid and lukewarm criticism of Trump. The Florida governor has made his "anti-woke" agenda a key theme of his presidential campaign, arguing that he is tougher on "wokeness" than Trump. So far, however, that messaging isn't resonating with most GOP primary voters.
DeSantis is also campaigning on his economic record. But according to The New Republic's Tori Otten, DeSantis' "anti-woke" obsession is costing Florida taxpayers a fortune.
Emanuel Pastreich (born October 16, 1964) is an international relations expert who serves as the president of the Asia Institute, a think tank with offices in Washington DC, Tokyo, Seoul and Hanoi. He is also a senior fellow at the Global Peace Foundation where he strives to solve geopolitical tensions in Northeast Asia. Pastreich was briefly an independent candidate for president of the United States 2020. In September 2023, Pastreich officially became a candidate for the Green Party’s presidential nomination in 2024. Trained as a scholar of Asian studies, Pastreich writes on both East Asian classical literature and current issues in international relations and technology in multiple languages.