I think you know you're big if people are paying tribute for your 100th birthday, even though, sadly, you are not here to see the spectacle. That's what we'll be doing today to honor Lucille Ball, the legendary comedian and first female studio runner in Hollywood, who was born a century ago on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, NY. While she is most famous for her television roles, primarily I Love Lucy, a landmark comedy that ran from 1951 to 1957 on CBS, she did enjoy a long career on contract with MGM with mostly comedies. Let's though look towards two of her later classic films for those who may be interested in watching this fine comedienne's skills in rememberance today.
Ball was certainly not well-known for her singing skills, or even being able to hold a tune in a bucket (that was ex-husband Desi Arnaz's job), but she did have the nerve to star in a movie musical, Mame. Based on the hit 1966 Broadway musical, the movie follows an orphan named Patrick (Kirby Furlong for young Patrick and Bruce Davison for his older counterpart) who is sent to live with his eccentric Auntie Mame (Ball). There he is also introduced to Mame's best friend Vera (played by Bea Arthur, who won a Tony for her playing the role in the stage-version), and Beauregard Burnside (a talented Robert Preston). While Ball's comedic talents are used full heartedly, some of her songs are downright painful to listen to. Which is sad since some of the songs, such as "Bosom Buddies" and "We Need a Little Christmas" have become classic musical numbers. Yet, her delightful glee during the foxhunt that finds her Auntie Mame falling in love with Beau is where she shines. It's fascinating to see how even at sixty-two, Ball was still willing to take on a challenge for a good role.
Her other classic film to consider taking a look back would certainly be the family classic Yours, Mine, and Ours. Based on a real-life story; this movie follows widowers Helen North (Ball) and Frank Beardsley (Henry Fonda) falling in love and deciding to make a home for their combined eighteen children (her eight and his ten). From the premise alone of that many people in one house is rife with comedic potential that is fulfilled. While a large portion of the movie follows the step-siblings distaste for each other and antics to break their parents apart, the movie takes some surprisingly poignant and dramatic turns for a seemingly light family comedy. The storyline I refer to is when the North-Beadsley family must send their eldest son to war. It's an eye-opening examination at the pains of bringing a family together, both due to size and circumstance. Yet, thankfully it is also one heck of a comedy that will allow for the entire family to enjoy.
For those interested in looking further into Ball's career, or interested in a tourist spot then please check out the Lucy-Desi Center in her hometown of Jamestown, NY that is dedicated to commemorating Lucy and Desi's legacy as well as the history of comedy. It's a really interesting place for movie and television fans alike. Also it has probably the most extensive collection of Lucy products, particularly the DVDs of her work, you'll probably find anywhere.