[This is the first of a new type of post I call Annotated Press Clips. These will be recurring posts that take a publicity article from Lucy’s career, and examine it as it reflected gossip or the actual truth. My comments, except for the introductory paragraph directly below this, are in brackets. Like these -->]
A bit more than 60 years ago, Lucille Ball was relishing her status at her new movie studio, MGM, often called the Tiffany’s of Hollywood studios. MGM gave Ball a real star build-up, from changing her hair-color to putting her in “A” movies—which her former studio, RKO, rarely had done. But even MGM didn’t know what to do with Lucy, a consummate clo3wn who was also beautiful. Here’s a great article from the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, dated April 26, 1943, just at the beginning of this phase of Lucy’s movie career, credited to Hollywood gossip doyenne Louella Parsons.
Lucille Ball, Titian-Haired Beauty, Is MGM’s Favorite
By Louella O. Parsons
HOLLYWOOD—Last Year, Greer Garson was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s hot favorite. This year it is Lucille Ball, another dazzling redhead. With Lana Turner, the titian-haired glamour girl, out of pictures until fall, Lucille is the top musical comedy girl on the lot, and she’s never been as much of a draw at the box office as she is sure to be when “DuBarry Was A Lady” and “Best Foot Forward” are released.
[Note: “Titian” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “of a brownish-orange color,” which was somewhat accurate regarding Lucy in 1943 after MGM hairstylist Sydney Guilaroff changed her color to flaming red. but I’ve always thought of Lana Turner in the 1940s as a drop-dead blonde. So perhaps the redoubtable Ms. Parsons, who loved to use “big” words like titian in an attempt to make readers think she was classy and educated, should have left it as “Lucille Ball, Red-Haired Beauty…” and maybe her editor might have discovered the mistake in calling Turner as titian-haired as well. Just sayin’.]
“I am grateful,” Lucille said, “that I am not going to do a second-hand “B” at RKO after these two musicals, but Charles Koerner [RKO’s production chief at the time] said he wouldn’t use me in the one picture I owe him until they had something really important.” [Lucille didn’t make a picture for RKO again until 1949’s Easy Living, not an “A” picture and once again a waste of her talents. Koerner had died in 1946.]
Lucille Ball, who fascinated me with her strawberry blonde hair and cerise bandana, sat in my garden while we talked of forming, movies, and soldier husbands. She’ll soon have one, too, for Desi [Arnaz] goes into the Army the twenty-seventh of this month.
“I promised Desi I’d write him every day,” says Lucille, “but letters won’t be a substitute for having him here at home and battling with him. We have so much fun kissing and making up.”
There was a twinkle in her eye when she talked about Desi, who has all the tempestuous emotions of the Latin race. [sic] He is a Cuban, and his real name is Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III. (No, I can’t pronounce it, either. [Careful, Louella, your patronizing 1940s racism is peeking through.]
Lucille and Desi took a farm near Marsons ranch about two years ago, and while the boyfriend is fighting the Japs [sic], she and her mother and grandfather will keep the crops growing. [Parsons’ former home, once part of the 28-acre Marsons Farm in Northridge, Calif., sold in December 2011 for $719,000. The Arnaz ranch was actually a hop, skip, and a jump away from Parson, in nearby Chatsworth.]
“But you needn’t think,” Lucille said, “That I’m going to spend all my leisure time being a farmerette [sic]. I’ve got things to do. I am going to study. I am going to learn Spanish so when Desi comes back I can spin off the lingo a mile a minute, and learn to pronounce his name. I am going to study singing, too. I have never had a chance to improve my voice. I was only 16 when I joined Flo Ziegfeld’s third road-show company, Rio Rita, and I have been working ever since. I even worked [as a model] at Hattie Carnegie’s swank New York shop.
“I was fired from Flo Ziegfeld’s show,” she said, “and I had to go to work for Hattie to keep from starving to death.”
Lucille is one of the most forthright girls I ever knew. She makes no secret of her age. Said she’s well over 25 and that she’s made 25 pictures—even a Western. She is one of the few actresses who admits she’s not a permanent 20. [Lucille was in fact 32 at the time of this interview, and in fact had appeared in more than 60 films by this time, many of them shorts or bit parts made at RKO before 1937.]
I asked about a story that was printed that she and Desi had parted, and which I knew couldn’t be true, for the two of them are madly in love. Two people couldn’t battle as they do and not care. [The Arnazes were already famous for their break-up/make-up battles, just three year into their marriage. And Lucy didn’t try to hide it.]
“The whole thing started,” said Lucille, “when Desi stayed in town one night after a broadcast. He had an appointment early the next morning and decided not to come out to the farm. I know now no matter what appointments we have, neither one of us should ever stay in town all night without the other. It starts too much ‘separation’ talk. We have had lots of battles but on that particular occasion we didn’t even have a cross word.
“I am crazy about Desi,” she said. “You know that I wouldn’t plan to join his church if I thought there was danger of our parting. I wouldn’t take a step like that. It wouldn’t be fair to him, to me or to the church. I am going to take instructions, and when Desi comes back on a furlough, we are going to be remarried—that is, if the church will have me.”
[In the late 1940s Lucy and Desi did remarry in a Catholic church; their first marriage was performed by a Justice of the Peace in Connecticut. Lucy believed the church blessing might hasten their having children. She’d had several miscarriages before Lucie Arnaz was born in 1951, followed by Desi Jr. in 1953. P.S. The photo accompanying this post was taken by Clarence Bull, who became famous for his MGM star portraits in Hollywood's Golden Age.]