Review by C.J. Bunce
Outspoken, champion of equality, actress, studio executive, and comedienne. Known for her beauty, then her humor, then her business acumen, Lucille Ball aka Lucy to her fans is the subject of a new biographical fan book arriving this week, A.K.A. Lucy: The Dynamic and Determined Life of Lucille Ball. Written by Sarah Royal with a foreword by Amy Poehler, this isn’t a traditional biography. What else can be said that hasn’t been written in the many books about the I Love Lucy star and the executive who single-handedly turned Star Trek from pilot to long-lived television franchise? So this book shuffles in anecdotes from her early life to her retirement years, along with commentary from those influenced by her–a fan’s book more than a serious biographical account of the woman. It’s available now in a color, hardcover edition here at Amazon.
Readers will hear from Hollywood insiders today and those contemporary to segments in Lucy’s life as they identify multiple points of impact for Lucy’s place in history. Modern comediennes reminisce about favorite episodes of her shows. The author provides a chronology of key achievements, like signing with RKO Pictures and becoming the so-called “Queen of the B movies” in the 1930s, then signing with MGM, meeting Desi Arnaz, discussions of the pilot for I Love Lucy in 1951, about forming her company Desilu, buying RKO, buying out Desi to become the first woman TV studio owner, and much more.
Peppered with her many appearances in film and on TV, the book doesn’t only focus on her career. Her early years were full of turmoil and chaos, including losing her father to typhoid. Fans of celebrity may find some commonality comparing the account of Ron Howard’s parents in the autobiography The Boys (reviewed here) with Lucy’s tumultuous path to those two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The other parallel readers may not think of as obvious is to Marilyn Monroe. Lucy was a blonde bombshell “it girl” in Hollywood before she took over America’s television sets a few decades later as a wife and mother in a sitcom. And yes, Lucille Ball as Desilu executive made the decision to go forward with the second pilot that “saved” (actually launched) the original Star Trek series even before Harve Bennett and Nicholas Meyer would save it again.
The narrative is a meandering fan account that weaves TV appearance interviews with the historical record, plus scene synopses of TV episodes and landmarks of her career as business mogul. It also has appendices of awards and appearances. The best, most engaging draw of the book is discovering the many lives of Lucy before she donned her signature dyed red hair. Readers will likely find some new vintage films to track down as a result, like Dance, Girl, Dance, with Lucy and Maureen O’Hara.
The photographs alone will be enough for her fans to enjoy. Order A.K.A. Lucy: The Dynamic and Determined Life of Lucille Ball now here at Amazon from Running Press in a colorful hardcover volume. It’s a solid companion to the Running Press TCM Film Library.