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I suppose I'm in the minority on this, but, with all due respect, I think it's unfair and unfounded to blame Hollywood for Lucille Ball's not attaining the top level of stardom on the big screen that so many feel she deserved.

 

It seems to me that Hollywood gave Lucille Ball umpteen chances to become a huge star, much more so than it did other talented performers. For over two decades Ball was cast in everything from screwball comedies and drawing room comedies to musicals to film noir, to "human" dramas to jungle tales. While it can't be denied that she often appeared in "B" films, she had either leading or prominent supporting roles a wide variety of films (e.g., STAGE DOOR, FIVE CAME BACK, JOY OF LIVING, DANCE GIRL DANCE, ROOM SERVICE, THE BIG STREET, BEST FOOT FORWARD, TWO SMART PEOPLE, THE DARK CORNER, ZIEGFELD FOLLIES, WITHOUT LOVE, etc., etc.) that could hardly be considered studio drek. Cast opposite such notable contemporaries as Henry Fonda, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn (twice), Ginger Rogers, The Marx Brothers, Irene Dunne,Maureen O'Hara, Bob Hope and many others, Hollywood offered Lucille Ball literally dozens of opportunities in quality productions and potentially star-making roles to impose herself on the movie-going public in an "A list," top-star manner.

 

Revisiting many of Ball's films during this month-long retrospective, for me, served to confirm my longstanding opinion of her onscreen work: almost without exception she was: professional, deft, poised, intelligent, versatile, and welcome. It's almost always enjoyable watching her onscreen. She also was, especially when given the studio "glamour treatment," a strikingly attractive and sexy woman.

 

However, seeing her in action in many genres, it became abundantly clear to me once again that Lucy simply DIDN'T have that "little something extra" that makes a superstar film attrraction. Whatever that magic element was that makes a Garbo, Grant, Tracy, Hepburn, Dunne or Hope, Lucille Ball simply lacked it on the big screen. It wasn't that she had no presence, but audiences simply didn't respond to her in the way they do to the biggest star personalities of the screen.

 

But I think it's wrong, very wrong, to make "Hollywood" the scapegoat for Lucy's failure to click on the big screen I think it's abundantly clear that Hollywood tried pretty hard, over a lonnnggg period of time to make Lucille Ball into a top star. Hard as it may be to accept, she simply didn't have what it takes in the "star quality" department to get there. But that certainly isn't Hollywood's fault.

 

On that note, I'm also not surprised that when Lucy finally DID attain top stardom on I LOVE LUCY, she did so by playing a wild-eyed, over-the-top, madcap. I suspect that had she been cast in, say a warm family comedy/drama as an intelligent, caring mother, or other more subtle, "realistic" role, she would have received the same reception she did on the big screen: that she was liked and admired.. but not beloved.

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I disagree with what was said that Lucy didn't have what it took to be a top star in hollywood like Bob Hope, Irene Dunne, etc. It was because of her movie roles that she got the part of Lucy on the I Love Lucy show. She was a great comedianne. Recently, I saw her in a musical and she impressed me alot as she had a beautiful singing voice. Even though she was not "billed" as a top star, her acting stands out to me as very memorable.

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Actually, it wasn't so much because of Lucy's movie roles that she got I LOVE LUCY. CBS wanted to transfer a radio sitcom she was doing at the time called MY FAVORITE HUSBAND to television. Lucy, however, insisted that Desi be cast as her husband on a proposed series (she wanted more stability in her marriage to Desi and working on a TV series together would enable him to stop touring with his band). Desi's Latin appearance, accent, etc. would not have fit the all-American character of the husband on MY FAVORITE HUSBAND, so writers concocted the I LOVE LUCY concept of a wacky American redhead married to a successful Latin-American bandleader/entertainer.

 

In any case, I did not say that Lucy lacked the talent to be a star, but that she lacked the onscreen presence, charisma, warmth, whatever that indefinable element of "star quality" required to be one. I stand by that appraisal, so we can "agree to disagree" on this point. However, based on her output for the studios, I don't see how anyone can say Hollywood didn't offer Lucille Ball many, many excellent opportunities to become a star, and that, for whatever reason, she simply didn't "click" with audiences in a "superstar" manner on movie screens.

 

Finally, I believe whatever musical you saw Lucy in, her singing voice was most likely dubbed. Lucille Ball's actual singing voice could accurately be described as pleasant at best (as when she joins in with Desi for an impromptu off-the-cuff rendition of "Breezin' Along With the Breeze" in THE LONG, LONG TRAILER), if not significantly worse, as her performance in MAME and several croaking musical excursions on THE LUCY SHOW and other television appearances amply demonstrated. She often had the showmanship and personality to put over a muscial number, but she didn't have the natural vocal endowment to do so.

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