LUCY: The Real Life of Lucille Ball by Charles Higham
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LUCY: The Real Life of Lucille Ball

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Celebrity biographer Higham has a winner in Lucy, though it is not a work of the same depth and richness as his 1985 Orson Welles. Even so, Lucille Bali's dizzying life makes for compulsive reading. Now 75, she was raised in Jamestown, New York, and by her early teens had been subjected to more frightening accidents, fatal diseases and sudden deaths in her family and among her close friends than most people experience in a lifetime. And the disasters seem never really to have ended, nor even to be outweighed by the towering triumphs Ball earned for herself. She is today the most famous television comedienne alive, is among the very, very wealthiest women ever born, and is now coming out of retirement to present a fourth Lucy series, following I Love Lucy (1951-55), The Lucy Show (1962-68) and Here's Lucy (1968-73), called Lucy. But it was her grim youth that gave her the basis for her style as a clown, a style she was denied while trying to make a name for herself in the movies. She spent decades as a wisecracking dame with snappy exit lines, all of them roles that bored her despite her steely focus on success. Only television allowed her all-consuming, chain-smoking worriedness to bloom. Higham follows her marriage to Cuban fireball Desi Arnaz (seven years her junior), their faltering film careers and then years as pioneering television production executives and actors. Arnaz receives great sympathy here, despite his philandering and deepening alcoholism, and the reader sits back amazed as Lucy hangs onto a marriage that almost from the start should end daily. Her disasters brought to bear a perfectionism on the set and in every aspect of life (she compulsively washes bathrooms on airliners) that is the reverse side of profound insecurity: perhaps her life and all of her wealth can be taken away overnight if every flaw is not polished away. A spellbinder, and likely to be a biggie.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's