Rain Before Rainbows

You Aren’t Meant for Show Business

As a child, Lucille Ball treasured Saturday nights. That was when she and her grandfather hopped into the family's car and headed into the city to city to see a vaudeville show in Jamestown, New York. Sitting in the dark, the shy brunette watched wide-eyed, wondering if she would get past her own shyness enough to make people laugh. Ball was elated when her mother finally agreed to send her to the John Murray Anderson School for the Performing Arts. Her shyness and awkwardness made her seem hopelessly inept next to the grace and style of her fellow classmate, Bette Davis. Ball barely lasted six weeks before the instructors advised her mother not to waste any more money by sending her daughter back for a second term. Even worse, the head of the school, John Murray Anderson, told the teenager to “try another profession—any other.”

Discouraged but determined, Lucille Ball she decided to try her luck with Broadway. Time after time, directors and casting agents rejected her. A production assistant told her to “go home” because she “wasn’t meant for show business.” She managed to land a few parts in a show chorus, but was fired before the show opened. At twenty two, Ball gave up on New York and decided to start over in Hollywood. She won a few small walk on parts that eventually lead to a few substantial roles in a string of B-movies. Her movie career never really blossomed, but she did gain two major things from Hollywood: a headful of bright red hair and a Cuban husband, Desi Arnez.

By this point, she was nearly forty, which was considered over the hill by Hollywood standards. Not ready to give up on performing, Ball turned her attention to a relatively new medium called television. At the time, she had been doing a radio show, My Favorite Husband, and CBS was transforming it into a television series. She thought it was a good idea but wanted Arnez to play the part of her husband. The network disagreed with her choice and insisted that the public would not accept him as her husband. Exasperated, she reminded them of the truth, “We are married!” The couple had been married for over ten years by then.

Realizing that the network executives were not going to change their minds, she came up with a plan to prove to them that America would accept her marriage to Arnez. Performing at vaudeville theaters, Ball and Arnez made audiences laugh by performing a skit that would eventually become the pilot for their television show. Their success on the vaudeville circuit was enough to convince CBS, and Lucille Ball returned to Hollywood. On October 15, 1951, I Love Lucy aired. Within four months, it was the most popular show in the country. During her lifetime, Ball earned four Emmy awards for her television performances. Today, she is considered one of the all time greatest comedic actors.

Ball quote

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