October 9, 2008
Lucie Arnaz: The Lucy Yearsby Barry Monush
Since Lucie Arnaz will be joining us here at the Center by month's end, I felt it was appropriate to reflect upon her achievements on television. And, because there is no one on staff (indeed, no one I've ever met) who knows more about the Arnaz-Ball family than the Curatorial Department's newest member, James Sheridan, I'm giving this blog space over to him, so that James can tell everything you never knew about the first chapter of Lucie's colorful career:
Recently, Lucie Arnaz donated her vast collection of videos featuring appearances by herself and her mother, Lucille Ball, to the Paley Center. On October 28, the Paley Center will welcome Ms. Arnaz, who will share her memories about some of these programs. Lucie Arnaz has had a highly diverse career, starring in motion pictures (The Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond and Sir Laurence Olivier), on the Broadway stage (They're Playing Our Song, Lost in Yonkers, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), and television, but first came the best possible training she could have hoped for, working alongside her mother.
Contrary to what has been written elsewhere, Lucie Arnaz never appeared on I Love Lucy. Her brother, Desi Arnaz Jr., appeared as an extra in the final scene of the last episode of the series, "The Ricardos Dedicate a Statue," but Lucie was not among the young children present in the scene. When the characters from I Love Lucy continued in an hour long format entitled The Lucille Ball - Desi Arnaz Show, Lucie was briefly seen as an extra in the episode "Lucy Goes to Sun Valley" in 1958 and appeared in a Ford Motor commercial with her brother that aired during the episode, as well. Lucie and Desi Jr. also joined their mother as guests on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar on December 29, 1960.
In 1962, Lucille Ball returned to television in The Lucy Show and Lucie made her first appearance on the series in the third episode, "Lucy Is a Referee," once again as an extra. When the script called for a girl to play Lucy's teenaged daughter Chris's best friend, Lucy asked her own daughter if she wanted to play the part. Eleven-year-old Lucie Arnaz made her official acting debut, playing Cynthia, in the episode "Lucy Is a Soda Jerk" and later in "Lucy Is a Chaperone." Lucie made several other small appearances on The Lucy Show, most notably playing a friend of her mother's in "Lucy and Robert Goulet" when she was only sixteen! Arnaz was also a frequent guest on the game show Password throughout the mid-sixties playing with her mother, brother, and stepfather, Gary Morton.
When The Lucy Show was coming to an end in 1968, Lucille Ball decided to continue in a new series and asked her two children if they were interested in playing her kids on the show. Here's Lucy debuted on September 23, 1968 and, like its predecessors, was a big hit. The series gave Lucie an opportunity to sing and dance and to work with some of the biggest names in show business, including Jack Benny, Helen Hayes, Ginger Rogers, Carol Burnett, Milton Berle, and Dinah Shore. At the conclusion of the program's fourth season, a spin-off series centered on Lucie's character, Kim, was developed, but did not go past the pilot stage. This was just as well because shortly after the pilot was filmed, Lucy broke her leg skiing and Lucie was needed to help take some of the pressure of her recuperating mother on Here's Lucy.
During the production of the sixth season of Here's Lucy, Arnaz announced she would be leaving the series at the end of the season to star in the national tour of the musical Seesaw. Frequent guest Vivian Vance had advised Lucie to get involved in theater and not "get stuck in a television series for the rest of your life." The sixth season ended up being the last. Lucie made several guest appearances on other television series while Here's Lucy was in production, most notably appearing on a Kraft Music Hall hosted by her father, which also featured her brother, Vivian Vance, and Bernadette Peters. Father and daughter performed a number, "We'll Build a Bungalow," that Lucie's parents had done onstage, on I Love Lucy, and for President Eisenhower. This marked Lucie's first and only television performance with her father.
With Here's Lucy behind her, Arnaz was about to prove that she had a great deal to offer beyond working with her famous parents and many of her best television appearances were yet to come.
—James Sheridan, Curatorial Assistant
Qualified only to do jobs that require watching television during working hours, Barry Monush joined the Paley Center in 1996. He is the editor of Screen World and author of The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Screen Actors and the newly released Everybody’s Talkin’: The Top Films of 1965-1969.Interests:
Movies, Motion Pictures, and Films, in that order. Can also be counted on for trivia pertaining to television, theater, and musicals.