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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 Considered Carole Lombard A Friend And Mentor

    Ball met Carole Lombard when they both worked for RKO. Lombard made a name for herself as one of the studio's most prominent female stars and was capable of playing comedic roles. Ball saw the woman as a role model, and the two actresses struck up a friendship.

    Ball even insisted Lombard came to her in dreams years after she passed.

  • Buster Keaton Helped Her Develop Her Physical Comedy And Stunts

    Ball's career didn't advance at either RKO or MGM; both studios limited her to minor roles. After leaving MGM, though, Ball found a home with Columbia Pictures thanks to a recommendation from Buster Keaton.

    He saw comedic promise in Ball and helped hone her timing and ability to use props for laughs. Keaton even demonstrated how to perform physical comedy without getting hurt. The informal coach sometimes visited Ball on set, watching her act and then offering suggestions for improvement.

  • She Met Desi Arnaz On A Movie Set And Fell In Love Almost Instantly

    In 1940, Desi Arnaz appeared in a movie adaption of Too Many Girls. Ball also had a role in the film, and the two started a whirlwind romance that led to an elopement only months later.

    Many of the couple's friends believed the relationship wouldn't last. They struggled through very different work schedules, and Arnaz allegedly indulged in alcohol and women. The pair divorced in 1960, but the marriage helped the two stars achieve great wealth and success.

  • She Left The Movies For Radio, Starring In 'My Favorite Husband'

    Ball landed small parts on several radio shows throughout the 1930s and '40s, but turned to radio full time after ending her movie contract with MGM. She landed a part on the radio program My Favorite Husband in 1947. The role lasted for four years and laid the groundwork for her Lucy Ricardo character. The program followed the adventures of a Midwestern banker's free-spirited wife.

    The audio show was so successful that CBS decided to turn it into a television series. Ball agreed to star, but insisted her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, co-star alongside her. The studio doubted a relationship between an American woman and a Cuban man would do well on television, but the married couple disagreed.