- CHARITY BENEFIT
No. Lucy has never been nominated for an Academy Award. She was nominated for an Emmy Award thirteen times, and won four times. In 1977, she was among the first recipients of the Women in Film Crystal Award. She was the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1979, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986 and the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1989.
Lucille Ball’s Movie and Film Career started while she was doing modeling jobs in New York City. She was discovered when she appeared as the Chesterfield Girl and her face was posted on billboards throughout the city. Coincidently, it was not her modeling that got her discovered, but her determination to succeed in New York.
To earn extra money, Lucy posed at nights and weekends for commercial illustrators. One of these paintings was sold to Chesterfield cigarettes and overnight, her face was all over New York City where a theatrical agent took notice. Sylvia Hahlo told Lucy that Sam Goldwyn needed a dozen well-known poster girls for a new Eddie Cantor movie, Roman Scandals.
Lucy signed on as one of the Goldwyn Girls and her movie career began. She went on to star in approximately 81 films and became known as “Queen of the B’s.” It was while at RKO in 1942, that she went to her vibrant shade of Technicolor “Tango Red” for which she became known.
The list of movies with Lucy is extensive but I’d like to pay tribute to Lucy by bringing a bit more attention to one of her better, but lesser-known, big-screen vehicles, the best she ever made after the world had come to know her as Mrs. Ricardo. The Facts of Life (1960), directed by Melvin Frank and written by Mr. Frank and Norman Panama, is also the best of the four films that Lucy made with Bob Hope. The first two, Sorrowful Jones (1949) and Fancy Pants (1950), appeared pre-I Love Lucy (1951-57), at a time when it looked as though true stardom had eluded Lucy once and for all; the final one, Critics’ Choice, arrived in 1963. Though The Facts of Life won five Oscar nominations (and won in the black-and-white costumes category), it isn’t a movie that is much talked about today.
The fresh and funny premise here is that it can be damned hard to commit adultery, even when both parties are willing. Lucy is married to Don DeFore, Bob is married to Ruth Hussey. Can Lucy and Bob get their “affair” in motion, or will the challenging mechanics of arranging adultery simply wear them out? One of the pleasures of this grown-up picture is that it never feels like a Bob Hope movie or a Lucille Ball movie, just a strong middle-aged romantic comedy with two very good roles for two very fine comic actors. Both stars are excellent, easygoing, warm, honest, with their laughs arising effortlessly. In fact, it’s a consistently relaxed film, relying more on charm and likability than on punch lines or shtick, which comes as a surprise considering the stars’ reputations as treasured clowns.
The Facts of Life delivers more than expected, becoming an unusually smart and bittersweet comedy. Lucy is not Lucy Ricardo here, not by a long shot. Pushing fifty, she is still a knockout, but the beauty of her performance comes in its softness, its yearning, its maturity. Yes, there are big laughs, notably a drive-in fiasco when the stars won’t unlock their lips out of fear of being seen together, or when Bob drives all over town because he can’t remember at which motel he deposited Lucy for their rendezvous.
The Facts of Life proved that zany Lucy could still be taken seriously as an actress, a subtle and intelligent player, and a seasoned artist who had worked her way up from the chorus and was by now in a class by herself. As much as anyone, I love Lucy in the chocolate factory and stomping on grapes, but I also love the shrewd, knowing, and unexpectedly sensitive actress of films like Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), The Dark Corner (1946), and, yes, The Facts of Life.
Lucy’s last public appearance, just one month before her death, was at the 1989 Academy Awards telecast in which she and, fellow presenter, Bob Hope, were given a standing ovation.