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How Lucille Ball Went From Rags To Riches Through Pure Hustle And Red Hair Dye

Updated September 26, 2019 42.7k views13 items

Before I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball encountered many hardships. Neither loss, poverty, nor harsh critique stunted young Lucille Ball, however. She believed in herself and had an unwavering desire to become an actress. Her looks helped her enter Hollywood, but her determination allowed her to flourish.

Ball was born in 1911, and her youthful curiosity sometimes impeded her. In fact, the aspiring star occasionally found herself relegated to the yard and attached to the clothesline so she wouldn't cause trouble. After her father's passing, Ball's mother remarried and moved away, leaving the young child in the care of her step-grandmother.

Ball decided to become an actress and moved to New York City at age 15. Things didn't go quite as planned, but she did find work as a model. This led to other opportunities, including appearances in 72 Hollywood films. Eventually, a lot of hard work and a little red hair dye changed Ball's life. She became a household name and turned her rags into riches.

  • She Moved To Hollywood After Accepting A Small Movie Role

    In 1933, agent Sylvia Hahlo noticed Ball in a Chesterfield ad and thought she'd be perfect as a chorus girl for Samuel Goldwyn. He needed young women with recognizable faces for his next film, Roman Scandals. When one girl dropped out, Hahlo offered her the part. Ball accepted and moved to Hollywood to begin her movie career.

    She soon signed with Columbia Pictures and appeared in small roles in dozens of films over the next two years. Ball's comedic talents set her apart from other actresses who refused to have pies slammed in their faces for comedy. Ball even appeared in a 1934 Three Stooges short, Three Little Pigskins. In it, Ball enthusiastically takes a shot of seltzer up her nose.

  • MGM Urged Her To Dye Her Hair Red

    Shortly after Ball signed with MGM in the early 1940s, studio hairstylist Sydney Guilaroff changed the comedienne's hair from brown to red. According to Stefan Kanfer's Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball, she thought the change was "a nuisance."

    The 1943 film Du Barry Was a Lady debuted her new hair to movie audiences and earned Ball the nickname "Technicolor Tessie." 

  • She Had A Disastrous Audition For 'Gone With The Wind'

    She Had A Disastrous Audition  is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list How Lucille Ball Went From Rags To Riches Through Pure Hustle And Red Hair Dye
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    Producer David O. Selznick started casting for Gone with the Wind in 1936, and many actresses auditioned for the role of Scarlett O'Hara. Ball's studio made her try out, as well. Although she knew she wasn't right for the part, Ball agreed to go through six weeks of Southern dialect coaching. On the day of her audition, a sudden rainstorm flooded the streets and stalled Ball's car. She walked six blocks to the studio, arriving drenched with her makeup and hair color running.

    Selznick's assistant gave the wet actress a sweater and some brandy and placed her in front of a fire in Selznick's office. When the exec arrived, a slightly tipsy Ball cried, "I ain't Scarlett O'Hara. I'm Lucille Ball, and I want to go home." She didn't get the part, but Ball remembered Selznick commenting, "You were very interesting."

  • Ginger Rogers's Mother Became One Of Her Mentors

    Ball met Ginger Rogers while making the 1935 film Roberta. The two women started a friendship, and Rogers even introduced Ball to her mother, Lela. Lela worked for RKO training young actresses and taught Ball about crafting a career in Hollywood. According to Ball, Lela was the first person to see her "as a clown with glamour."

    With the older woman's help, Ball learned more about acting and navigating the system. She grew more confident and eventually earned more significant parts.

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