Lucy at the Movies

We knew her as television’s redheaded spitfire. As Lucy Ricardo, she accomplished what most of us only conjure. But the gifted comedienne in Lucille Ball was preceded by another kind of wonder. She was much more, and always had been. In Lucy at the Movies, author Cindy De La Hoz unravels the early career of the multi-talented legend.

This visually stunning book is a 368-page testament to the woman who was born Lucille Desiree Ball in August 1911. A great deal of Lucy’s childhood was spent in the company of her grandparents while her mother DeDe sought employment. The reader is introduced to those challenging times in a biography that opens the hardcover volume. Weaving through her adolescence, teenage years and into early adulthood, Lucy took modeling jobs while trying to find work in the theater. When she finally broke into motion pictures at age 22, her roles were minor but nonetheless great for real-life experience. She would make a good amount of B-pictures, including 1939’s Beauty For The Asking where she played a witty, yet depressed woman who becomes a cosmetics giant.

De La Hoz examines all of Lucy’s films with a synopsis, notes, movie stills and other interesting pieces of trivia. Quite impressive is the staggering amount of photographs throughout the book. In addition to promotional shots, the pages are full of candids, lobby cards, posters and rare photos collected from a variety of professional resources. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of Lucy at the Movies is a section titled “A Few That Never Were”. Here, De La Hoz outlines those films that Lucy tested for or was slated to appear in, but which were never produced. All in all, there are eight unrealized films discussed, including 1941’s Ball of Fire (which would star Gary Cooper & Barbara Stanwyck) and the 1962 thriller The Manchurian Candidate with Frank Sinatra. Sinatra himself opted for Lucy to play the mother of Laurence Harvey, though Angela Lansbury was considered and subsequently cast before Lucy was given the option.

One other feature of note is the “Short Subjects” segment. The reader is given a look at the obscure shorts that Lucy filmed during the 1930s, including A Night at the Biltmore Bowl with Betty Grable. De La Hoz includes a synopsis (when available) and tidbits for each. For the enthusiast, this is nothing less than a huge bonus, as it sheds light on the lost work in Lucy?s resume.

Lucille Ball has long been identified as a queen of comedy. But, comedic ability aside, she was a gifted dramatic actress and a genuine amalgamation of talent. Lucy at the Movies is a book that should find a hero’s welcome among the countless biographies and character studies that have been done in the past. It?s a strong look at a fresh angle and a beautiful way to remember the blue-eyed Jamestown, New York native.

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