Published August 06, 2011
I grew up watching Lucille Ball on our black and white TV and later came to admire her non comedic acting skills playing femme fatals and other roles in black and white movies. Her one Broadway musical, "Wildcat" showed that, like Angela Lansbury, she excelled in many artistic venues.
The 1950s, a decade dominated by the likes of Lucy, Milton Berle, Steve Allen, Red Skelton and so many other funny people, constrained performers from engaging in what was then called "blue humor." In other words, you had to really be funny and not rely on bathroom humor for cheap laughs. In addition, these TV shows were done before live audiences. There was no such thing as a laugh track. If you weren't funny, you didn't get laughs and you died on stage.
People identified with Lucy. Though she desperately wanted a career in show business (a joke in itself because she was already a star in real life) she could never make it. Her TV and real life husband, Desi Arnaz (aka Ricky Ricardo), tried to discourage her, but she never gave up. Lucy had a work ethic we could use more of today.
Even in re-runs, her comedy still works: the Vitameta Vegimin supplement, infused with alcohol, made her drunk, but her drunkeness, far from being crude or a turn-off, was hilarious and still makes me laugh. Same with the scene where she is crushing grapes with her feet in an Italian village, and the time when she and neighbor Ethel Mertz were picking candy off a conveyor belt that suddenly speeds up. Lucy starts shoving chocolates down the front of her shirt. I defy anyone not to crack-up, regardless of their age.
It doesn't seem possible that Lucille Ball would have been 100 years old today. Her preserved work will keep her forever young and forever in the hearts of those of us who grew up with her. Future generations, too, will love Lucy, because she is timeless.
Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated newspaper columnist and a Fox News contributor. For more visit CalThomas.com