Sections: Latin Roots/Yankee Roots | The Cast, Crew, and Set | I Love Lucy—On the Move | Theme Songs | Legacy 

In the television adaption of My Favorite Husband, Ball and Arnaz became Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. Vivian Vance, with a distinguished Broadway résumé, and William Frawley, a veteran of more than 100 films, were hired as the Ricardos’ landlords, neighbors, and best friends, Ethel and Fred Mertz.  Keith Thibodeaux (b. 1950), billed as Richard Keith, would later become “Little Ricky.”

My Favorite Husband’s producer and head writer, Jess Oppenheimer (1913–1988), and writers Madelyn Pugh-Davis (1921–2011) and Bob Carroll, Jr. (1918–2007) transferred to the new show; Bob Schiller (b. 1918) and Bob Weiskopf (1914–2001) joined the writing team in 1955. Marc Daniels (1912–1989) was the show’s first director, followed by William Asher (b. 1921) and James V. Kern (1909–1966). Oscar-winning cinematographer Karl Freund (1890–1969) was the director of photography. He and Daniels are generally credited with filming I Love Lucy using the three-camera technique in front of a live audience that subsequently became the standard for situation comedies.

Desilu Productions rented a sound stage for filming I Love Lucy and constructed permanent—and realistic-looking—sets. During I Love Lucy’s first seasons, the episodes took place mostly in the Mertzes’ brownstone apartment building, located at the fictional address 623 East 68th Street—which would actually have been in the East River!

Original concept and receipt for registration of original concept for I Love Lucy, 1951

 

Original concept and receipt for registration of original concept for I Love Lucy, 1951. Page 2. Facsimiles. Jess Oppenheimer Collection, Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (026.01.00a). [Digital ID # lucy0026_01]. Courtesy of Gregg Oppenheimer

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Rehearsal and shooting schedule for Episode No. 1, “Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her,” 1951

 

Rehearsal and shooting schedule for Episode No. 1, “Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her,” 1951. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (032.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0032]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Press releases, 1952

 

Press releases, 1952. Page 2. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (044.00.01). [Digital ID # lucy0044p1]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Arnaz “warming up” the audience prior to filming, 1952

 

Photograph of Arnaz “warming up” the audience prior to filming, 1952. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (035.00.00). All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Scenes from the Series, 1952

 

Scrapbook page featuring Ball and Arnaz with scenes from the series, 1952. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (028.01.00). [Digital ID # lucy0028p1]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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The I Love Lucy Writers, 1954

 

Scrapbook page featuring the I Love Lucy writers, 1954. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (026.02.00). [Digital ID # lucy0026_02]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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“Meet Ethel and Fred,” 1953

 

Scrapbook page featuring article “Meet Ethel and Fred,” 1953. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (036.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0036]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Ball and Arnaz from Episode No. 50, “Lucy is 'Enceinte,' ” 1952

When Ball learned in the spring of 1952 that she was pregnant, she and Arnaz assumed that I Love Lucy would be suspended for a time—or perhaps cancelled entirely. Producer Oppenheimer is credited with the suggestion that the pregnancy be written into the show. Executives from CBS, the Biow Advertizing Agency, and Philip Morris Cigarettes (the sponsor of I Love Lucy’s first seasons) initially opposed the idea. Only with an agreement that a priest, a minister, and a rabbi would approve each of the “baby show” scripts did the executives concede. Still, the word “pregnant” was never used in any of the scripts. This new plot twist only increased I Love Lucy’s enormous popularity. When “Little Ricky” was born on January 19, 1953, more than forty-four million viewers watched.

Photograph of Ball and Arnaz from Episode No. 50, “Lucy is 'Enceinte,' ” 1952. Courtesy of Private Collector (038.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0038]. Use of photo still from I Love Lucy courtesy of CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

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Writing Ball's Pregnancy into the I Love Lucy Story Line, 1953

 

Scrapbook page including cover story about writing Ball's pregnancy into the I Love Lucy story line, 1953. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (037.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0037p1]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Television's Baby

 

Scrapbook page featuring coverage of the birth of Ball and Arnaz's real-life baby, Desi Arnaz, Jr., 1953. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (043.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0043]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC. TV Guide Magazine cover Courtesy of TV Guide Magazine, LLC © 1953

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Popularity of I Love Lucy

By the end of its first season, I Love Lucy had been hailed by TV Guide as “the season’s most popular program.” During its six-year run, I Love Lucy set many records for television viewership. In April 1952, Episode No. 26, “The Marriage License,” became the first television broadcast seen in more than ten million American households. The show was number one in the Nielsen ratings for four of its six seasons, and it was the first television series ever to finish its run at the top of the ratings. I Love Lucy and its cast received twenty-three Emmy Award nominations, winning five times. Ball and Arnaz, already well known in 1951, were lauded as “TV’s First Family” on the April 6, 1953, cover of Life magazine.

“TV’s First Family,” Life magazine, April 6, 1953. Cover. New York: Time, Inc., 1953. Courtesy of Private Collector (049.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0049]. © 1953 Time Inc. LIFE is a registered trademark of Time Inc.

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I Love Lucy's Emmy Awards Celebration, 1954

 

Enlarge

 

Scrapbook page with photographs of Emmy Awards celebration, 1954. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (045.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0045]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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The I Love Lucy Cast, 1956

 

Photograph of the I Love Lucy cast, 1956. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (048.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0048]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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First Comic Book Issue of I Love Lucy

 

I Love Lucy Comics, Vol. 1, no. 1, 1954. Cover. New York: Dell Publications Co., 1954. Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress (092.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0092]

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Sections: Latin Roots/Yankee Roots | The Cast, Crew, and Set | I Love Lucy—On the Move | Theme Songs | Legacy