Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Memo from Lucy (Lucille Ball)

(This memo was sent out by Desilu's Public Relations Department on September 12, 1966, the start of the 5th season of The Lucy Show. It was headlined, "Lucille Ball Writes About Television." This is probably the first time the text has been seen in more than 40 years! The logo above is the from the actual masthead of the stationary of Desilu Studios. Ms. Ball was then the president of the studio, having bought out from Desi (Arnaz) shares a few years before. She would sell Desilu to Paramount after The Lucy Show's sixth season. Enjoy!)

        What is television?
        Ask ten people that question and you'll get ten different answers.
        It has been defined as the most potent communications device ever invented by man.
        It's the biggest stage in the world.
        It's a supersonic salesman.
        It's a babysitter for a housewife in Dallas.
        It's the bright spot in the day for a lonely, elder citizen.
        It's a classroom for an eager student.
        It's a secret outlet for the super-sophisticate.
        Television is many things to many people. It depends on which side of the set you sit.
        It is a major industry in the nation's economy. Production companies, networks, sponsors, performers, advertising agencies, set manufacturers, retailers, and related services maintain a huge labor force all basically involved in the same objective — entertainment.
        Year after year the industry strives to bring you the best in programming, products, and services — then they turn the results of their combined efforts over to you — the viewer. And the future of each program depends on a quixotic combination embracing program quality, the ever-changing mood of the times, sponsor support, and the tastes and living habits of millions of viewers.
        To answer my own question, I'd say that television is people. The people who create, produce, and perform. The people who broadcast and sponsor. The people who watch and support. All are involved in a vast, complex relationship that keeps changing the face of television, constantly producing hits and misses and criticism — constructive and destructive — from within and without.
        But I'll tell you something. Television, as an infant and now a giant, has given us some great moments in entertainment. Some memorable firsts in visual journalism. We have seen stars born in our living rooms. We have been educated. We have watched history happen. And I know we have been brought closer together.
        I also know that I have learned many things about television and its people. From the days of I Love Lucy to The Lucy Show of today, I have learned about people's loyalty. To a performer, that's a real education. But I wear another hat these days, as president of Desilu Productions, so I have another responsibility, and one which I assume with pride.
        Today, I take an active part in the creative and production phases of our business, and when you realize the almost limitless possibilities that still exist on the television horizon, it's a real challenge. And I like challenges. 

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(This is a little part of two pages of notes Lucy had handwritten on her script for "Lucy Gets Her Diploma," a sixth-season episode of The Lucy Show that aired October 9, 1967. Daughter Lucie Arnaz had a part in this episode as a high-school student (and has some dialogue with her mother), as did an actor named Phil Vandervort. Lucie would date and eventually marry Vandervort, and this is where they met; they married on her birthday (July 17) in 1971, and divorced six years later. Also in this episode: longtime and beloved Lucy co-star Doris Singleton. The plot revolved around Lucy being forced to get her high school diploma when the bank policy is changed to require that all employees have one. Here are her notes, written in a large, very beautiful, curvy script:
        "I expected more comedy from me after I went to school, not just from the jibes of the kids — I think we'll throw away a good opportunity if you don't see me trying hard at something — somehow, I'm too goody-goody doing everything right. Too much preaching from the minute I get there — too soon for preaching. Gotta save it — goof a bit & then get in your sermons — I don't have to be teacher's pet from start to finish & that's why it ain't funny — shmaltzy yes, but not funny. Talk to you later." 

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