When recording commentary for ‘I Love Lucy’ before her death, television icon Lucille Ball put “ridiculous” rumors of ad-libbing on set to bed, citing her esteemed writers as the classic’s true champions.
The life of Lucille Ball came to an abrupt, tragic end in April 1989. The timeless talent suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm at the age of 77. Her death would leave legions of fans devastated alongside her family and friends. Yet before she passed, Ball recorded a series of commentary for her original television classic, ‘I Love Lucy,’ that would be released in 1991 on Criterion’s laserdisc release, ‘Criterion Television Classics: I Love Lucy.’
Within, the star spoke at length to rumors that persisted throughout her career that much of the quippy, banter-esque dialogue on ‘I Love Lucy’ was ad-libbed. While it may seem that way, the reality is just as – if not more – impressive. Chiefly, however, Ball found these rumors wildly discrediting to her writers, with whom she placed the utmost respect. She would forever credit her “kids,” writers Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll Jr., for the roaring comedic success of ‘Lucy.’
“Many times when we would review at the beginning of the season, they would say Viv and I ad-libbed our way through some mediocre writing,” Ball began on her ‘I Love Lucy’ commentary. “They have since found out that that was ridiculous. They know how great our writers are because hundreds of people have copied from them. I have such respect for those kids, my writers I call ‘the kids,’ Bob and Madelyn.”
“We never ad-libbed,” she continued staunchly. “We never ad-libbed on the set when we were putting it together. It was there.”
Lucille Ball Credited Writers, Strong Bonds for ‘I Love Lucy’s Comedic Gold
Within, Ball also spoke to why she thought so many found ‘I Love Lucy’s dialogue to be impossible otherwise. Clarifying this, too, she was quick to credit her bond with life-long friend and co-star Vivian Vance.
Vance and Ball would remain friends for Vivian’s entire life. the ‘Lucy’ star died on Aug. 17, 1979, of breast cancer at 70-years-old. Ball herself passed a decade later on April 26, 1989, at 77.
“Because Viv [Vivian Vance] and I believed, and because we knew what we were going to say and because we were thinking, we were listening to each other, and then reacting and then acting, it came out like may we’d made it up,” she would cite of their original work together.
The commentary, which resurfaced via THR‘s commemoration of Lucille Ball’s centennial birthday, puts to rest any future ‘I Love Lucy’ ad-libbing debates from the most remarkable woman herself.