On Monday evening, October 15, 1951, a new television show was broadcast for the first time. Little did anyone imagine that night that Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and Ethel and Fred Mertz would become four of the most famous fictional Americans of the twentieth century.
I Love Lucy developed from a confluence of talent, on-screen chemistry, behind-the-scenes skill, and, in the words of the show’s producer, Jess Oppenheimer (1913–1988), “unbelievably good luck.” The idea for I Love Lucy originated when CBS considered transferring its successful radio program, My Favorite Husband, starring Lucille Ball (1911–1989), to the then-new medium of television. Ball’s real-life husband, Desi Arnaz (1917–1986), became her costar.
The writers of the radio show adapted the characters for television, and Vivian Vance (1909–1979) and William Frawley (1887–1966) as Ethel and Fred Mertz became the perfect foils for Ball and Arnaz. The 180 half-hour episodes were created before a live studio audience and captured on film, thus making possible the reruns that have served to assure the show’s lasting fame.
In celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the show’s debut, the Library of Congress presents I Love Lucy: An American Legend. This exhibition explores the show’s history through the Ball and Arnaz family scrapbooks as well as photographs, scripts, printed and manuscript music, and other documents from the Library of Congress.