HomeEntertainment‘I Love Lucy’: The Evolution of the Opening Credit Sequence

‘I Love Lucy’: The Evolution of the Opening Credit Sequence

by Jennifer Shea
CBS via Getty Images

Here’s something you may not have realized about “I Love Lucy”: The iconic opening sequence that millions of “I Love Lucy” fans came to know was not in fact the original opening sequence.

When the show first started, the opening credits showcased two little animated stick figures representing Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. The Hanna-Barbera animation studio made the sequence for the show.

Watch an earlier opening sequence here:

Then, when the show was in syndication, “I Love Lucy” upgraded to a satin heart logo embossed with the names of the main cast members. Watch here to compare and contrast the opening sequences:

The image that’s so familiar to “I Love Lucy” viewers dates back to daytime rebroadcasts of the show on CBS starting in 1959, according to Groovy History.

And during the first three years of original “I Love Lucy” broadcasts, the opening credits featured an ad for Philip Morris cigarettes. That’s because the tobacco company was the original sponsor of the show.

Philip Morris saved the day when CBS had trouble securing a sponsor, according to Mental Floss. But they weren’t in it for charity’s sake. The stars had to incorporate “Philip Morris” into their dialogue sometimes.

And the tobacco giant wanted them to film in New York, not Los Angeles; their biggest market was on the east coast and they wanted that area to get the best picture quality. Ultimately, they reached a compromise whereby the show could be filmed in California.  

Moreover, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz frequently smoked on the set of “I Love Lucy.” They made a point of promoting Philip Morris cigarettes on their show. But Ball would often plant Chesterfield cigarettes in her packs of Philip Morris cigarettes because she preferred the other brand.

On the 50th anniversary of the show’s premiere, cable channel TV Land tried to restore the very first opening sequence, in which the Lucy and Desi stick figures climb down the side of a pack of Philip Morris cigarettes.

But according to Reason, TV Land said Philip Morris wouldn’t allow that piece of television history to air again.

But even without the original Philip Morris ad, some earlier versions of the opening credits are available online. And as far as generations of “I Love Lucy” fans are concerned, it’s not the opening credits without that satin heart.