Today, there are several words that have practically lost their meanings thanks to overuse. And “legend” is arguably one of these terms, as it’s often bandied about to describe a whole host of different people – some perhaps less deserving of the accolade than others. Even so, there are a few select stars who by any measure live up to the “legend” title.
Lucille Ball could firmly fit legendary status, for example, after she blazed her own trail in comedy back in the 1950s. Yes, following a string of movie appearances throughout the ’30s and ’40s, in 1951 the actress fronted her own television show: the classic I Love Lucy, in which she starred opposite then-husband Desi Arnaz.
Then, after Ball had forged a name for herself on the small screen, she made history again in 1962. In that year, you see, the comedy star took charge of Desilu Productions, thus earning her the honor of being the very first woman to become the head of a prime television network. But that move didn’t signal the end of Ball’s acting career – far from it, in fact.
After all, Ball went on to star in two more sitcoms over the course of the decade, with the second show – titled Here’s Lucy – eventually reaching its conclusion in 1974. And the actress continued to work on the small screen for the next few years before nabbing the starring role in Life with Lucy in 1986. Unfortunately for Ball, though, the new offering didn’t replicate the success of her previous work.
Life with Lucy ran for just over ten episodes, in fact, before its cancellation later that year. Then in April 1989 Ball sadly passed away, with the actress leaving behind two children: Lucie and Desi Jr. And it seems she was able to pass on her spark to the younger members of her family.
And it should be said that Ball’s early childhood was marked by a difficult transition. Alongside her parents, Desiree and Henry, the future star left New York for Montana at a very tender age owing to her father’s career as a tradesman. The traveling didn’t end there, either, as the Ball family then upped sticks again and rooted themselves in Michigan.
Unfortunately for Ball, though, in early 1915 her family went on to be hit by a horrible tragedy: Henry contracted typhoid at that time and passed away. And while Ball was still incredibly young during that period, she later recalled the day of her father’s death with startling accuracy.
“I do remember everything that happened,” Ball said of her dad’s untimely passing, according to the website Biography. “Hanging out the window, begging to play with the kids next door who had measles, the doctor coming [and] my mother weeping. I remember a bird that flew in the window, a picture that fell off the wall.”
Following Henry’s death, Ball and her then-pregnant mom relocated to Jamestown, New York – the city of Ball’s birth. And in 1915 Desiree subsequently delivered her second child, named Fred, ahead of meeting her new partner Ed Peterson. Thanks to this union, however, the next few years proved challenging for the future comedy legend.
You see, Desiree and her new spouse eventually moved away from New York and left Ball and her little brother to fend for themselves. And while young Fred went on to stay with his mom’s parents, Ball ended up in the care of Peterson’s mother and father. Yet despite all this upheaval, the little girl still harbored a lofty ambition.
Yes, Ball had aspirations of becoming a stage actress – ones she carried into her teenage years. And as a result of this dream, the New York native made a bold move. After earning the permission of Desiree, who came back to the city in the early 1920s, Ball joined the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts.
But Ball struggled to make an impression during her time at the school, and she faced down some fierce criticism as a result. Perhaps cowed by her unfavorable experience of the acting world, then, the teen transitioned into modeling under the pseudonym Diane Belmont. And, thankfully, she proved more adept in this arena, securing some notable work for herself. Nevertheless, in time Ball’s career would take a significant turn.
Ball still had the acting bug, it appeared, and so at the start of the 1930s she relocated to Hollywood, California. It was a move that appeared to quickly pay off, too, as the former model bagged her first uncredited role in 1933’s The Bowery. And following this first taste of success, she went on to feature in another three movies that year.
Ball then scored a number of similar roles over the following two years before securing her first real credit in 1935 romantic comedy I Dream Too Much. Taking on the character of Gwendolyn Dilley, she starred alongside the likes of Henry Fonda and Lily Pons.
This big break appeared to herald a very busy period for Ball, too. In 1936, you see, she featured in no fewer than seven films along with four short movies. One of the fledgling performer’s most notable big-screen parts came the following year, however.
In 1937 Ball was cast in the comedy Stage Door alongside big names such as Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn. Then, after the actress had featured in a string of other releases throughout the decade, she met the man who would become her husband. Yes, while working on 1940’s Dance, Girl, Dance, the rising star encountered Desi Arnaz.
Arnaz had been born in March 1917 and had grown up in Cuba alongside his family before moving to America in the early 1930s. Then, in a move that would prove Arnaz to be a versatile performer, he ultimately joined a band named the Siboney Septet, and this musical background would in time lead to some exciting work in New York after a sojourn in Miami. However, the Cuban’s life changed forever in 1940 when he met Ball.
In November of that year, Ball and Arnaz ran away together and got married in secret. And Ball didn’t sacrifice her burgeoning acting career for marriage, either, as she continued to appear in a number of big-screen releases throughout the 1940s. Yet the young woman was far from satisfied; in her mind, the roles she was picking up left a lot to be desired.
At Arnaz’s urging, then, in 1948 Ball moved into radio broadcasting via the lauded comedy My Favorite Husband. And some time after that, she and her husband were recruited by the CBS network, with the pair subsequently making their own show for the small screen. That series, of course, was I Love Lucy.
In 1951 I Love Lucy made its television debut, with Ball and Arnaz both taking on the lead roles. And in addition to starring in this exciting project, the pair were also overseeing the show via their own company Desilu Productions. Happily for the couple, then, the series was a smash hit that went on to inspire several other sitcoms over the next few decades.
Then, after running for six memorable seasons, I Love Lucy eventually came to an end in 1957 after more than 180 episodes. And Ball and Arnaz were ever-present throughout, raising their two children – Desi Jr. and Lucie – along the way. Yet the couple’s television work didn’t stop even after their show left the airwaves.
Later that year, in fact, Ball and Arnaz reprised their roles from I Love Lucy in The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour. That program ran until 1960, at which time it drew to a close after three seasons. And another era also came to an end that same year, as the pair divorced that May – thus concluding a marriage that had lasted for close to 20 years.
Some two years on from the divorce, however, Ball made television history. Yes, in 1962 she became the de-facto head of Desilu Productions after buying the company from Arnaz. And as a result of that move, the comedy star was the first woman to ever take charge of a principal TV production studio.
But Ball’s work didn’t end there, as she subsequently bagged the lead role in another television series. Specifically, the New York native starred in The Lucy Show, taking on the character of Lucy Carmichael. And she went on to appear in over 150 episodes of the program before it ended in 1968.
Ball didn’t have to wait long for her next opportunity on the small screen, either, as following the conclusion of The Lucy Show she was cast in Here’s Lucy that same year. In this particular series, the actress played the role of Lucy Carter – and she may have enjoyed some very special moments during filming, too.
You see, Ball starred alongside her two children – Desi Jr. and Lucie – in Here’s Lucy. And while the youngsters had previously made appearances in their mom’s previous shows, this time the trio were cast together as leads. The show enjoyed a six-year run until 1974, when it finally drew to a close.
But yet again this cancelation didn’t signal the end of Ball’s acting career, as the star went on to appear in a number of television movies over the next few years. And off the back of those films, in 1986 she then launched a new TV show entitled Life with Lucy. Unfortunately for the comedy superstar, though, that series failed to reach the heights of its predecessors.
Indeed, Life with Lucy only lasted for 13 episodes and ended after just one season. And, sadly, the hit-and-miss marked Ball’s last appearance on the small screen, as she passed away in April 1989. Her death came just three years on from that of her ex-husband; Arnaz had succumbed to cancer in December 1986.
Some 30 years after Ball’s passing, however, her legacy and spirit seemed to continue in the form of her great-granddaughter Desiree Anzalone. A former graduate of the University of North Texas, Anzalone was also a talented photographer. And in addition to these accolades, some say that the young woman bore a striking resemblance to her famous relative.
Yet while, like Ball, Anzalone faced hardship, in her mid-20s she embarked on a very different fight to the ones that her great-grandmother encountered. During that period, the photographer was told that she had breast cancer. And Anzalone regularly shared her progress through treatment on Instagram, too.
And in April 2019 The Epoch Times touched upon her fight against the disease in an article about her famous great-grandmother. The piece – which was published on the 30th anniversary of Ball’s death – also spoke of the strong resemblance between Anzalone and the legendary comedian.
Anzalone was presumably delighted with the article, too, as she shared it via her Instagram page. Nevertheless, some of the reactions of other Instagram users towards the story seemed to strike a nerve. So with that in mind, the college graduate decided to defend herself in a lengthy social media post, where she hit back at the criticism.
“Such a nice article [written] about me,” Anzalone wrote on Instagram in April 2019. “And how Lucy and I share the same gumption in regards to my fight with stage four breast cancer, and how proud she’d be of me.” From there, Ball’s relative laid out the types of comments that she’d been reading online.
“However, the outrage from 3,000 comments of people literally yelling [at me] through my phone outweighed the beautiful story the author wrote,” Anzalone continued. “Everyone only focused on the superficial outward appearance of us and about how I LOOK NOTHING LIKE [Ball].” The photographer also provided some examples of the negative reactions to which she’d been subjected.
These comments ranged from “Someone needs glasses” to “No resemblance. Lucy was beautiful.” And unfortunately, the hurtful words didn’t end there, as another user wrote, “Who writes this bull****? They need to go to Specsavers.” For her part, though, Anzalone had a response to the cruel criticism that had been aimed in her direction.
“These comments are so ridiculous and sad, like, calm down people,” Anzalone wrote on the social media website. “I promise it’s going to be okay. No need to get so angry. Too many shallow human beings out there.” And Ball’s great-granddaughter went on to make an interesting observation about her appearance.
You see, Anzalone believed that she didn’t actually look much like Ball; instead, she compared herself to her great-grandfather’s side of the family. “I have acknowledged my entire life [that] I do not resemble my great-grandma but rather have more of the Arnaz genes,” the college graduate continued. “So, thank you all for stating the obvious.”
After that, Anzalone made one last point to wrap up her strongly worded post. “I empathize with actual celebrities who have to read s*** about [themselves] every day,” she concluded. “So sad – so many trolls and mean gremlins on the internet.” And her words certainly struck a chord online, it seems, as Instagram users flocked to offer their support.
In fact, Anzalone’s post earned over 260 likes on the social media website as well as close to 120 comments. In among all the supportive words, though, one message in particular stood out from the rest. “I thought it was a beautiful article,” wrote the Instagram user. “I discovered your page after seeing the article, and I’m so glad I did. You have a beautiful, artistic soul.”
Sadly, though, Anzalone’s fight against cancer ended in tragedy on September 27, 2020. She succumbed to the disease that day while staying at Connecticut’s Smilow Cancer Center. Ball’s great-granddaughter was just 31 years old. And following her passing, her mom Julia Arnaz shared a touching tribute on the People website.
Arnaz said, “[Anzalone] was so special. All our children are special, but this little girl was something else. [She died] peacefully. [But] watching her slip away was just, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. No mother should have to watch that.” Then, the grieving mom made an observation that tied back to The Epoch Times piece.
“[Anzalone] was so beautiful, just so so beautiful inside and out,” Arnaz concluded. “She really, really reminded me a lot of my grandmother, more so than I.” Just as Ball’s work continues to live on through the reruns of her old shows, her relative’s photography can still be viewed on social media.