Happy birthday, Lucy — we love you!
The world is toasting America's favorite fiery redhead Lucille Ball, who would have turned 100 Saturday. Born in Jamestown, N.Y. on August 6, 1911, Ball is hands-down the most influential comic actress of all time — and indeed paved the way for generations of Hollywood women to come.
When Desi Arnaz and Ball (who was almost six years his senior) tied the knot in 1940, it was socially unacceptable for an older woman to marry a younger man. To avoid controversy, they both listed 1914 as their birthdate. (They divorced in 1960. After being diagnosed with lung cancer, Arnaz passed away on Dec. 2, 1986 at the age of 69.)
Having run for an impressive 156 episodes, I Love Lucy quickly became one of TV's classic sitcoms. The plot consisted of "Lucy Ricardo's" signature antics and "Ricky Ricardo's" musical career, but it also followed the star couple's real-life events too. Such was the case when producers decided to make the birth of their second child, Desi Arnaz, Jr., part of the show's plot. CBS deemed it inappropriate to show a visibly pregnant woman on TV and ruled that the word "expecting" be used in the script instead of "pregnant." (Ball gave birth to Desi Arnaz Jr. at age 41. The couple also had another child, Lucille Arnaz, whom Ball gave birth to at age 39.)
Being the power couple they were, Ball and Arnaz formed Desilu Productions, making her the first woman to be head of a production company. Desilu produced I Love Lucy, its spin-offs, and many other hit television series during the 1950s and 1960s.
It's no secret that Ball had an impressive career: I Love Lucy was followed by The Lucy Show, which ran for 144 episodes, plus multiple spin-offs. She racked up 13 Emmy Award nods and four wins, in addition to being one of the first recipients of the Women in Film Crystal Award.
Ball suffered from a dissecting aortic aneurysm and passed away on April 26, 1989 at age 77.