This biography of the great comedienne spends too many pages on the early Lucy we didn't know and don't care much about. Brady (Ida Tarbell: Portrait of a Muckraker, 1984) traces Bali's life from her somewhat unsettled childhood in upstate New York through her modeling and acting career in Manhattan, her time as a Goldwyn girl, and her television successes, as well as personal and career failures with Desi Arnaz, and her reclusive last years. The biographer leaves few stones unturned in presenting Lucy as a woman who worked hard, loved harder, expected much of those around her, and was never satisfied with the adoration her fans bestowed upon her. Though the book is full of interesting and illuminating materia -- Desi's blatant affairs, the occasional violence of the Arnaz marriage, the complex negotiations that took place behind closed doors to produce ""I Love Lucy,"" in its day the most popular television show in America -- Brady waits far too long before getting to the Lucy of TV that most readers will be able to remember and recognize. In particular, the almosts and could-have-beens of Bell's disappointing movie career receive too much attention; and although the author's access to Lucy's childhood and young-adult friends is impressive, she uses too many of their merely anecdotal stories. To be sure, there are nice moments, including Lucy's single date with Henry Fonda, her fastidious rehearsing of comedy bits, and her 1953 appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee (her grandfather had the whole family register as socialists in the '30s), but there's an overabundance of material that doesn't propel the story or offer significant insight. Too many fits and starts prevent this biography from making Lucy come alive.