Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Important people in Lucille Ball's life: Vivian Vance, Henry Fonda and Bob Hope

Vivian Vance and Lucille Ball shared a special and complex friendship that could never be destroyed. When Vivian first went to Desilu studios to meet Lucille, she was so terrified because she was going to be playing second banana to the legendary movie star, Miss Ball. Of course, she wore formal clothes as she thought that Lucille would dress like that, and she wanted to give Lucille a good impression.

Everyone could remember their first meeting. There was sophisticated looking Viv, and there was Lucille, who dressed in her normal oversized blouse and black slacks. Lucille had worn a scarf that covered her red hair, and her face was bare. Basically, she looked like anything but a great movie star.

Lucille looked at Viv up and down and asked, "what part will you be trying out for?"
"For the landlady, honey," Desi said.
"She doesn't look like a landlady. She looks glamorous. Her hair's the same color as mine," Lucy stated.
"I can dye it. I don't care. It doesn't matter to me."
"I don't know. I want a dumpy, peroxide-blonde with curlers in her hair and a terry cloth robe and fuzzy slippers. That's what I want."

"You got her. I look just like that in the morning when I get out of bed."

The next day, Viv came to the studio with her hair in curlers, wearing an old dress and she was wearing fuzzy slippers. When Lucy saw her, she laughed, she had worn her respect. 
When rehearsals officially started, the two girls discovered that they had so much chemistry. That was the start of their enduring friendship. They enjoyed rehearsing so much that they they had a ball. "Lucy and I were just like sisters. We cried together, we laughed together. She and I had so many laughs on 'I love Lucy' that we could hardly get though filming without cracking up. We used to watch out own shows and rock with laughter at we'd done on camera" - (Vivian)
"I'm not going to try alone now what I've done with my partners in the past. My partners (Desi, Vivian and Bill) are in heaven. No one could take the place of Vivian Vance in my life. She was the greatest partner anyone could ever have."(-Lucy) 

Lucy and Henry Fonda

They ones dated back in the 30s, but no romance brewed and they moved on. They met again when they were doing a movie together, The Big Street in 1942, a funny fact is that Desi felt so insecure about leaving the both of them alone together that he often pop by in the movie sets to keep an eye on his lovely wife and a handsome actor, and his paranoid self made the director so exasperated that he finally banned him from being 10 feet near. Henry hinted that there would have been Fondalu and not Desilu if they got married

So Henry and Lucy were very good friends. Jane Fonda even claimed that her father, was deeply in love with Lucy that the two were "very close" during the filming of 'Yours, Mine and Ours' in 1968, but that Lucy wasn't in love with him
Shirlee Fonda ( Henry's late wife) said: "She (Lucy) was always calling or coming over to see him when he was ill. And after he died, she was one of the ones who always included me in social gathering. When I gave that first party after Henry's death, I said, " Lucy, you have to be there and help me get though this." And she was there for me, for 100%"

Lucy and Bob Hope
Lucy and Bob Hope were more than occasional co-stars, they were close personal friends. "I first got to know Bob during the War," Lucy recalled during rehearsals for the Birthday special.  "He was such a role model for all of us."  Indeed, Bob's devotion over the years to entertaining the military earned him the title, "Mr. USO," and made him one of the world's most beloved entertainers.
Bob said: "Lucy was really my best friend. whenever I needed female advice, she would gladly offer me some. she was great to work with, she had a soft heart, and it helped that she looked beautiful. I love Lucy." 

"Bob recalled,(about the movie 
Fancy Pants)
  "I played an English butler and she a rich frontier girl.  I got stepped on by a real horse and thrown by a mechanical one, which laid m up with a bad back.  Still, I thought making pictures with Lucy could be a pleasant long- term habit.  Then a little thing called television got in the way."
On set photo with Bob Hope from “Lucy Meets Bob Hope” episode (1956). and "Fancy Pants"
On set photo with Bob Hope from "Lucy Meets Bob Hope" episode (1956).
In 1960, Lucy was sent a script for a film entitled "The Facts of Life."   The plot concerned two middle-aged married friends who, bored with their lives, decide to run off together.  Their romantic tryst proves disastrous, however, and both return to their original spouses.  
"Who do you see as the male lead?" Lucy asked.
"Bob Hope," the producer replied.
"Fine.  If you can get him, I'll do it."
Lucy not only  co-starred in the film,  her Desilu company put up part of the financing and provided production facilities.
"As we prepared for a kissing scene," Bob recalled later, "I broke Lucy up by telling her this would be the first time I had ever kissed a studio boss--face to face."

Hope and Ball agreed they had to submerge both their own personalities and their television persona if the serio-comic film was going to succeed.  "I remember how concerned she was lest she slip back into her television character," Bob recalled. "After every take she'd rush over to the director and ask, 'Was I Lucy? Was I Lucy?'" 
As writer William Robert Faith reported, "Almost without exception, the critics found the picture 'a cut above' what either of the two comedians had been doing lately, and it was a box-office winner."

Throughout the following twenty-five years, Lucy and Bob appeared together whenever possible.  Once her weekly series ended in 1974, she made almost annual visits to his specials, and when she did a 90-minute spectacular for NBC of her own  in 1979, Bob was the first star signed.  "It was pure joy working with her," Bob recalled.  "The only problem was getting the audience to quiet down when she appeared on stage.

On March 29, 1989, Lucy and Bob were co-presenters on the 61st Annual Academy Awards.  "We walked out onto the stage," Bob recalled, "and the audience at the Shrine Auditorium rose to its feet.  What an  ovation!  Lucy stood there beside me, beaming in her black and gold gown.  Gently, she squeezed my hand, as if to say, 'Look...we've still got it.'


  1. I've loved laughing at Lucy's fiascos for 60 years, best comedian ever!

  2. I've truly loved watching I LOVE LUCY for over 50 years! I love all 4 of them Lucy Ricky Ethel & Fred - still watch them every morning - wish todays sitcoms could mimic this on screen comedy and chemistry but I L L is and always will be a ONE OF A KIND show. Thank you Lucy & Desi!

    Cindie (Jersey Shore)

  3. Vivian Vance was, according to her friends, quoted in her biography, "The Other Side of Ethel Mertz: The Life Story of Vivian Vance," by Frank Castellucio, at the mercy of Lucille Ball at the beginning of I Love Lucy. As the series began, and Viv Vance began getting large laughs (well deserved)and huge applause, Lucille Ball stormed to Desi Arnaz she wanted Viv Vance fired. Desi stood behind Vivian, only calming enraged Lucy by reasoning she couldn't "carry the show, every scene" by herself. Lucille was vicious to Vivian after that---until the day Vivian had enough of her continuous nastiness and told Lucille off, backstage, waiting for their entrance. Even later in life, Vivian decided to make sure young Lucie Arnaz wasn't used as a "crutch" for Lucille, whom she referred to as "Big Red" and introduced Lucie Arnaz to all her Broadway contacts. Vivian launched "little" Lucie's Broadway career. I wish you people would NOT perpetuate silly, over sentimentalized inaccuracies! Get your facts straight please! Lucy was very, VERY demanding to ALL who knew & worked with her. THAT is WELL documented. Most demanding of all: Desi Aranz.

  4. I LOVED the truth shared by anonymous