Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball is an entertaining, informative, scholarly, and fascinating biography of one of the most revered actresses in television history. Moving beyond the typical celebrity bio, author Kathleen Brady separates the actress from Lucy Ricardo, the antic, enduring character she created on I Love Lucy.
Brady is the only biographer to have spent extensive time in Jamestown, New York, Lucille Ball's hometown, where she interviewed Ball's childhood friends. Other interviews for the book included family, employees, Bob Hope, Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Milton Berle, Maureen O'Hara, Maxine Andrews of the Andrews Sisters, and the late chairman of CBS Bill Paley. Kathleen Brady's definitive biography presents a human Lucille Ball the fans have never known: the would-be showgirl in New York, fired almost as soon as she was hired because she was too flat-chested and mousy; her great love for Desi Arnaz, their tempestuous marriage, the day she thought she had killed him with a hammer, and the incident that ended their marriage; Lucille as head of Desilu Studios, overriding the advice of her most trusted executives and agreeing to green light the pilots of Star Trek and Mission Impossible; and her run-in with the House on Un-American Activities Committee and fears of being black-listed.
Brady reveals that Lucille Ball's life was a roller coaster, going from disaster to victory and triumph to tragedy. As a young woman, Ball believed that she had to work had to make people like and appreciate her. As a star, she felt she had to work hard to maintain her popularity, and was also conscious that what her fans wanted from her was not herself, but Lucy Ricardo.
Of the first edition of this book, published by Hyperion in 1994, critic Molly Haskell wrote: "It's a beautiful portrait of someone with enormous talent as an entertainer and heartbreaking fragility as a woman. In giving Lucille Ball the serious appraisal she deserves, Kathleen Brady has really gotten behind the scenes and the cameras to provide an invaluable chronicle of several areas and eras of show business."
New to this edition of Lucille is an introductory essay focusing on the place of the character of Lucy Ricardo in the history of comedy, going back to the traditions of the Italian commedia dell'arte and forward to the end of the 20th century. In this essay, Lucille Ball is compared to other key female figures in comedy like Mabel Normand, Mae West, Frannie Brice, Gilda Radner, and Fran Drescher. As the author writes, "Lucille Ball was a revolutionary figure because Lucy Ricardo was the first female character to combine the knock-about physical comedy of vaudeville and music halls (and 15th century carnivals) while being beautiful, feminine, and sweetly appealing." This edition also includes many new photographs from various sources.
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Kathleen Brady is also the author of Ida Tarbell: Portrait of a Muckraker. In recognition of this work she was named a Fellow of the Society of American Historians.
She was featured on the American Masters PBS special on Lucille Ball and she narrated the first installment of the PBS series “The Prize.” She also appears on the A&E Biography of the Rockefeller family and has discussed her work on NPR. The 1994 ABC-TV movie, A Passion for Justice, starring Jane Seymour, was based on Brady’s research into the life of Mississippi journalist and civil rights activist Hazel Brannon Smith.
Brady has contributed opinion pieces about New York City to Newsday and Our Town. Her topics included New York City’s flawed bid for the 2012 Olympics, corporate and state hostility toward Gotham’s work force, plus shenanigans that compromise the city’s electoral clout. Her essay on the city’s emergency command center appeared in the anthology America’s Mayor: The Hidden History of Rudy Giuliani’s New York.
Brady was Director of Communications for NYC Employment & Training Coalition. She managed the start-up and reported, wrote, edited, and published the electronic newsletter Workforce Weekly, eight pages of labor market and employment news on city, state, and federal levels.
She is the former co-director of the Biography Seminar at New York University and is a former reporter for Time magazine.
Featured mainly in B-movies in the 1930s at RKO, leading lady in several MGM films in the '40s, Lucille Ball was never a "star," but she became the Queen of TV with I Love Lucy, first aired in 1951. In this evenhanded, serious look at America's beloved comedienne, Brady describes how, under Buster Keaton's tutelage, Ball developed her talents, and how her husband's womanizing led her to conceive the TV series "because it would keep Desi at home." Brady's biography is a narrative roller coaster veering from heartache to terror to triumph as she depicts Ball as actress, wife, mother and producer. The terror occurred during the McCarthy era, when she was investigated-then cleared-by HUAC. Desi Arnaz is shown as an astute businessman who, in tandem with his wife, became successful enough to buy the studio where their series was produced, Desilu Studios. Ball's outrageous behavior after her last series, Here's Lucy, ended in 1974 and her struggle against aging are recounted in doleful detail. Ball died in 1989 at the age of 78 but, as Brady remarks, "Lucy Ricardo" achieved eternal life. Fans will appreciate the profusion of I Love Lucy lore and trivia. Brady is co-chair of New York University's Biography Seminar. Photos.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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