To this day, I Love Lucy remains one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, but who was Lucille Ball? She was a comedic genius and a pioneer who paved the way for other comedic women, a lady to whom the likes of Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, and Melissa McCarthy owe a debt. She was a Hollywood power player who, along with her husband, revolutionized the way television was made and viewed. She broke barriers and remains one of the most enduring Hollywood icons of all time.
But did you know she played a part in the production of the original Star Trek series? Or that she hoarded pencils? These surprising facts about Lucille Ball will give you some insight into one of the most important women in Hollywood history – the Queen of Comedy, Lucille Ball.
In one of the show’s most memorable scenes, Lucy stomps on grapes in a giant vat with an Italian woman. That woman was actress and opera singer Teresa Tirelli D'Amico who, according to Ball, attempted to drown her during the scene. Apparently, D'Amico held her down under the crushed grapes for longer than the script directions told her to and Ball got grapes in her nose, which made it difficult to breathe. Although it's not likely that Ball almost met her maker during the filming of the scene, it is likely that the language barrier incited D'Amico to become much more physical than the script instructed.
In 1962, Ball became the first woman to own a Hollywood production company. She took full control of "Desilu," the studio she and her husband Desi Arnaz built together – as well as the first ever independent television production company – after the two divorced. In addition to I Love Lucy, Desilu would go on to produce hits like Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, and That Girl. In 1967, Ball sold the company for $17 million to Gulf+Western. Desilu would eventually become part of the broadcasting company CBS.
It’s difficult to imagine the lines “Lucy, I’m home!” being delivered by someone other than Desi Arnaz, but if CBS and I Love Lucy’s sponsor Philip Morris had had their way, that might have been the case. They didn’t believe the American public would buy a marriage between Lucy, “a red-blooded American girl,” and a "foreigner," even though Ball and Arnaz had already been married for ten years in real life. Luckily, Ball stuck to her guns, insisting that Arnaz be signed on as her co-star, and the network caved.
In 1965, when NBC received the pilot for Star Trek, they initially rejected it because they thought it was “too cerebral.” Ball, who at this point was the sole owner of Desilu, liked the idea of the show so much that she used her considerable influence and money to help Gene Roddenberry make another pilot – this time with an entirely new cast. The second pilot was a hit and was picked up by NBC. Ed Holly, a former studio executive said the following about Ball’s role in the production of Star Trek: “If it were not for Lucy, there would be no Star Trek today.”