‘I Love Lucy’: Lucille Ball’s Trademark Red Hair First Appeared in This 1943 Film

by Keeli Parkey

Before she rose to fame as the star of the legendary sitcom “I Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball was just another actress trying to make it in Hollywood.

In addition, she was just another brunette actress trying to make it in Hollywood. Wait, what?

That’s right. Even though she rose to fame as a redhead, Lucille Ball was actually a brunette during her early Hollywood days. And, according to GoodHousekeeping.com, her big break did not come until she was in her 40s.

Before “I Love Lucy,” Lucille Ball had jobs in Hollywood. These included modeling jobs and small parts as an actress. During this time she was making appearances with her natural hair color, which is brown, according to GoodHouseKeeping.com.

So, what made Ball change her color from brown to red? Well, apparently she did so for a movie role. That movie was “Du Barry Was a Lady.”

According to Wikipedia.com, “Du Barry Was a Lady” was released in 1943. The story was first told in 1939 as a stage production. The 1943 movie was a musical comedy that also starred Gene Kelly and Red Skelton. Also, Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra were featured in the film.

Lucille Ball plays the character May Daly. This character also plays Madame Du Barry in her nightclub act. Ball’s character is being wooed by two gentlemen, but she decides to keep them at a distance in order to marry a rich man.

In addition to acquiring her famous redhead look, the “Du Barry Was a Lady” film also gave Lucille Ball something else that would help her during her career. According to Wikipedia, she worked with Karl Freund on the film. He eventually became the director of photography on “I Love Lucy.”

Stylist Discusses History of ‘I Love Lucy’ Star’s Hair Color

According to GoodHousekeeping.com, the red color Lucille Ball used for her hair in “Du Barry Was a Lady” was different than the color she became famous for during her “I Love Lucy” days. One of the people who worked on the show once talked about this. That person is Irma Kusely. She worked as the show’s hairstylist.

According to Kusely, when she began dying Lucille Ball’s hair red she used typical hair dye. However, she eventually switched to henna.

“A lot of people think of it as red — it’s not red at all. She met a very wealthy sheikh and he had heard about her problem (getting the right coloring), he said he would send her a lifetime supply of henna, which he did!” Kusley said.

That hair dye was so important to Lucille Ball and Irma Kusely that they made certain to store it in a very safe place.

“(We kept it) in my garage, locked away in a safe,” Kusely said.