I Love Lucy was first aired on October 15th, 1951 and it’s success was beyond what anyone could have imagined. The TV series would become everlasting. The received love was due to an incredible mixture of creative filming methods, the determined faultless performance of Lucille Ball, the excellent and positive outlook of the production team as well as the canny entrepreneurship of Desi Arnaz. Over the six seasons, I Love Lucy collected numerous Emmy Awards and hit the top of the Nielsen ratings list four out of six times. The two principal characters (Lucy and Desi) were married for 20 years off the screen and although they divorced in 1960 their friendship was never broken, lasting as long as the triumph of the series. Desi once announced that “I Love Lucy was never just a title” and that he would love her for all time.
1. Only The Wife Could Tease Ricky About His English
It was never set in stone but became a silent. Regardless of how funny the joke was about Ricky’s broken, only Lucy laughed- the audience never did.
2. Lighting Up A Cigarette Was Mandatory
Due to a lack of sponsorship, CBS was saved by the bell, when Philip Morris signed on to be a patron. This meant that there was plenty of smoking the infamous Philip Morris cigarettes and even quite a bit of dropping his name into the act.
3. 65 Seconds Of laughter
Ricky and Lucy dancing the Tango with eggs hidden in her blouse caused not only a mess but also made the audience laugh for 65 seconds. It lasted so long that some of it had to be edited out.
4. In Order to Persuade CBS, Lucy And Desi Had To Go On Tour
At the time, Arnaz was touring with his rhumba band. Lucille decided that having him as her onscreen husband would keep him at home more. Both the network and the sponsors needed a sign that they could work together, so they took to the road in 1950. The audience laughed so much, they not only proved they could work together but also that they were a believable couple.
5. Calling “Cut” Was Limited
It was generally thought that calling “cut” in front of a live audience would spoil the atmosphere. For this reason you might spot the odd blooper, or a subtly covered up mistake.
6. Family Support In The Audience!
No matter how old you get, your mom will always make gasps and utterances when they see their child about to get themselves into a pickle. The “uh-oh” you can often hear is the sound of Dede Ball, Lucille’s mum.
7. No Love Between The ‘Mertzes’
There was a 22-year age gap between Vance and Frawley and this didn’t go down well. Names such as “old poop” and “sack of doorknobs” were some of the tamer insults however this frosty relation was a well kept secret and they both remained professional. Not even the other actors were aware.
8. Keeping It Real, Regardless Of The Price Or Effort
Arnaz firmly believed that the more believable and realistic things were, the funnier it would be. So the eight foot long loaf of bread was custom made for “Pioneer Woman” and the fish Lucy and Ethel caught were tunas bought from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
9. The Big Dipper Who Was Bored On Set
In the episode “Job Switching”, Lucy and Ethel are filling their faces with chocolates, which had been prepared by a real life dipper (Amanda Milligan) in the scene before. Apparently putting swirls on chocolates was more interesting than the I Love Lucy set.
10. Lucille Was Under Pressure And She Was Unable To See The Jokes
‘Vitameatavegamin’ is a mouthful for even the most skilled actor. Ball was so concerned about repeatedly getting the word out that the stress took over, even resorting to cue cards; which were never used on the show.
11. Advancing Cinematography Because They Didn’t Want To Move To New York
Back in the day, TV couldn’t be broadcasted as far away as it can today. You had to record it from another camera pointed at the screen so that it could be mailed to other stations- not the best quality! I Love Lucy was the first TV show to be filmed using three cameras. A special set was built, although this cost Desi and Lucille, they went on to become the first TV acting millionaires.
12. Harpo Max Throwing Lucille Off Her Feet
Harpo Max was so used to performing his act that he felt he didn’t need so many rehearsals. Lucille never liked leaving anything to chance and liked everything well practiced. She found it difficult to copy his moves as they were never the same twice. The scene had to be (unusually) re-shot once the audience had left.
13. Lost In Translation
In the infamous episode of “Lucy’s Italian Movie”, the extras were Italian and some speaking no English. Teresa Tirelli, who struggled with Lucille in the grape vat, was misinformed by the translator and actually did hold Lucille’s head under the grapes, almost drowning her.
14. Growth In The Family Both On And Offset!
It was not common to see a pregnant working mum as an actor. In fact, when Lucille fell pregnant she was only the second woman to be obviously pregnant on a series. It caused panic among the production team but eventually removing the (then) ugly word ‘pregnant’ and replacing it with ‘expecting’ seemed to encourage the writers to include the pregnancy in the story line.
15. Booster Seats And Heels!
Lucille was 5”7 and Arnaz was 5”9 (although he would claim to be 5”11!). When Lucille wore her heels on set she was somewhat taller than Arnaz, giving him a bit of a complex. The solution was to insert four-inch lifts into his shoes and a well-hidden cushion on his chair.
16. Who To Fill Ethel’s Role?
Barbara Pepper was the perfect choice for Ethel Mertz’ character in terms of age and body type but unfortunately was also a fan of the bottle. The combination of Pepper and Fawley was too risky so finally Vivian Vance was selected.
17. From Rags To Riches
Arnaz and his family fled Cuba with very little. His first job was as a birdcage cleaner. He worked hard, believed in the system and chased the American Dream. So when the saw an episode involving Ricky cooking the numbers in his tax returns he said he wouldn’t do it!
18. Double Birthday Celebrations!
Lucille was due to give birth by caesarean, which were normally penciled in for Mondays. The episode of I Love Lucy, when little Ricky made his appearance, coincided with the Monday of Desi Arnaz Jr’s birth. And yes, they were both boys!
19. Lucille Had Other Ideas For The Part Of Fred Mertz
Lucille was keen for Gale Gordon to play the role of the neighbor and landlord but Gordon wanted too much money. CBS and Philip Morris didn’t want to contract William Fawley because of his enthusiasm for alcohol but Arnaz was a fellow drinker and offered him the job providing he never missed a day of filming due to the drink
20. The Inconceivable Marriage
Before I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball was the host of her own radio show My Favorite Husband. CBS contacted Lucy, suggesting it was turned into a TV show but Lucille would only go along with this is her actual husband would play the part of her partner. They resisted this idea as nobody would believe that the character was married to someone with such an accent, despite them being married for more than 10 years in real life.