I Love Lucy

For several years on radio, Lucille Ball had a successful series called My Favorite Husband, in which Richard Denning played her hubby, a banker. In 1951, a lot of radio shows were being converted to TV programs and My Favorite Husband, because of Ms. Ball’s flair for physical comedy, seemed like a natural. But when the subject was raised with Lucy, she startled everyone by insisting that her real husband, Desi Arnaz, play her spouse in the TV show. This was because she felt it might save a troubled marriage if the two of them were together more often…and it did, but only for a while.

But there was another bonus for the Arnaz couple. Desi couldn’t play a banker. He could barely play what he was…a Cuban bandleader. So bringing in Desi meant abandoning the My Favorite Husband format and creating something new. Which meant that Lucy and Desi could own the new show…which they did, starting a TV empire called Desilu. And so they became Lucy and Ricky Ricardo…and very wealthy.

There are many books out about I Love Lucy, the most often-rerun show in television history. They tell of how Desi (or more likely and accurately, his producers) invented the “three-camera” technique for filming a sitcom like a play; of how Desi became work-obsessive running the studio and that eventually harmed their marriage; of how William Frawley and Vivian Vance were so perfect as the landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz, but hated each other. You can read all that stuff elsewhere.

The above ticket is for a filming on October 21, 1954. This was for an episode called “Getting Ready,” which was about preparations for the Ricardos and the Mertzes to go to Hollywood so Ricky could make his motion picture debut. The finished episode aired on December 13.

The first episode of I Love Lucy aired on October 15, 1951 and the last one aired on May 6, 1957. These were followed by many Lucy-Desi hour long specials, and of course Lucy went on to star in three other series: The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy and Life With Lucy.