While the mere mention of legendary comedic actress Lucille Ball conjures memories of smiles and laughter for so many of us, it turns out the American icon’s career took a most unhappy turn near the end. A former costar revealed that while the star “I Love Lucy” maintained her desire to perform even into her final years, the well-versed actress hid from fans the difficult challenges that she endured on set during her 1986 series “Life with Lucy”.
“I Love Lucy” Legacy Spurs “Life With Lucy”
Fox News reported that Ball was 75 years-old when she took the role of Lucille Barker on the show, which chronicled how a grandmother managed to get into comedic predicaments while living with the family of her daughter.
“The ‘I Love Lucy’ legacy allowed ‘Life with Lucy’ to happen, but it was a terrible burden,” explained Thomas Watson, Ball’s former publicist. “The show was written by the same people that worked on the original ‘I Love Lucy,’” he continued. “They were still writing for that Lucy, instead of a ‘Golden Girls’ kind of character or grandma.”
Ball was so optimistic about the project that the negative reviews it received had a deeply negative impact on her.
“They were so bloody,” recalled Ann Dusenberry, who played Ball’s daughter on the show. “So bad and disrespectful. I was hurt for her. They showed no regard that she was an icon.”
“Life With Lucy” Cancellation Devastated Ball
Though “Life With Lucy” was scheduled to run for 22 episodes, ABC cancelled it after only 8.
“It was so sad and disappointing,” Watson said.
Ball’s good friend Michael Stern saw how devastated Ball was by the news.
“After an hour, I walked out with her,” he said. “She started bawling.”
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Though Ball was offered many roles after ABC cancelled”Life With Lucy”, it was her last project. She died in 1989 at the age of 77 without ever acting onscreen again.
After the show’s cancellation, Ball devoted herself to being a doting grandmother. Her granddaughter Kate Luckinbill-Conner recently recalled some fond childhood memories of her superstar grandmother.
“My grandmother was a regular girl from upstate New York,” Luckinbill-Conner said. “She didn’t set out to be anyone’s icon.”
Ball Was “A Really Good Grandma”
She went on to describe Ball as “a really good grandma.”
“I remember her giving me these incredible bubble baths,” Luckinbill-Conner remembered. “She loved to wrap me up in towels and do my hair and makeup. She’d dress me in these silk pajamas and let me take a nap on her California king-size bed — it was just the most expansive, largest thing I’d ever seen in my life!”
She added that like any good grandma, Ball made everything all about her granddaughter.
“She would make a whole adventure happen for me,” said Luckinbill-Conner. “Did I want to go out and swim? Did I want to play in the playhouse outside? Did I want to eat? It felt like my world and she was just living in it.”
To this day, Luckinbill-Conner still takes the lessons that Ball taught her into account in her daily life.
“She wanted to be a mom, and she wanted to be a wife,” she said. “She also wanted to be an actress and a comedian, and she was determined to do it all. She was humble and she was a real person who just didn’t take no for an answer.”
It’s sad to learn that Ball’s final show was such a disappointing experience for her. However, we’re comforted to know that she found fulfillment through her grandchildren in her final years.
There really will never be anyone else quite like Lucille Ball.
Here’s a classic scene from one of Lucy’s most iconic moments: