When you think of Lucille Ball the images that most likely come to your mind are scenes from her iconic sitcom “I Love Lucy.”
There’s her repeatedly tasting Vitameatavegamin. There’s her working in the candy factory with costar Vivian Vance. And, who could forget her out on the ledge surrounded by pigeons?
What you probably don’t think of when you picture Lucille Ball is her playing a homeless woman in a dramatic role. And, while that is difficult to imagine, she played such a character during the mid-1980s.
That rare dramatic role for the actress came in the 1985 made-for-television movie “Stone Pillow.”
So, what motivated the famous “I Love Lucy” actress to take on a role so different than her previous work? Well, she offered an answer to that question during an appearance on “The Tonight Show” in 1985. Sitting in for host Johnny Carson during that episode was Joan Rivers.
“Why did you wait so long to do a dramatic role?” Rivers asked Ball.
“I don’t know. Because I didn’t get a script that I liked. Scripts are kind of scroungy. I had, you know, an image of sorts that I personally liked,” Ball said during the interview. “And, I certainly don’t want to just go out and do anything with four-letter words and things that I don’t dig. I took this script because I wanted to work with a great director and I found one – George Schaefer.”
‘Stone Pillow’ Gave ‘I Love Lucy’ Star a Chance to Play Dramatic Role, As Well as Draw Attention to the Struggles of Homeless People
While working with Schaefer on a project she liked was what motivated the “I Love Lucy” star to join the project, she was still concerned about how her performing in a dramatic role would be perceived.
“And I thought, ‘Well, this is sticking my neck out and I don’t know what my fans will think, but I have to grow up sometime,” Ball said. “… At least this doesn’t have anything I object to. … It’s something close to my heart I have compassion for. …”
According to IMDb.com, “Stone Pillow” also starred Daphne Zuniga as a social worker named Carrie Lange. The “I Love Lucy” star played a homeless woman named Florabelle. Carrie decides to go live on the streets in an attempt to understand what homeless people go through and how they struggle. While there, she and Florabelle become friends.
You can watch Lucille Ball talk about “Stone Pillow” with Joan Rivers on “The Tonight Show’ in 1985 below. In addition to talking about the film, Ball and Rivers also talk about “I Love Lucy.”