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Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball

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For more than fifty years Lucille Ball has been television's most recognizable and beloved face. As Lucy Ricardo she was the ultimate screwball housewife, getting herself into and out of scrapes with unmatched comic finesse. Indeed, she was so funny, and so central to the cultural landscape, that we often overlook Ball's role in shaping that turf: as producer of her own sh For more than fifty years Lucille Ball has been television's most recognizable and beloved face. As Lucy Ricardo she was the ultimate screwball housewife, getting herself into and out of scrapes with unmatched comic finesse. Indeed, she was so funny, and so central to the cultural landscape, that we often overlook Ball's role in shaping that turf: as producer of her own show and a cofounder of a major studio, she was a pioneer, rewriting the rules and forging new paths for women in the boardroom and on the sound stage. In Ball of Fire, Stefan Kanfer goes beyond the icon to examine the difficult life and enduring work of the most influential woman in modern American comedy. Kanfer traces the arc of her career from its unlikely beginnings in a lonely and desolate childhood in upstate New York. There she discovered that making people laugh could ease the pains of a fragmented family life. But she was more than amusing. She was also beautiful, and when Lucy's adolescent attempts to crack Broadway ended in failure, she became a runway model and on a fluke, journeyed out to California to be an extra in one film. That led to another, and another, and another bottom-of-the-bill movie, until she became, in her own words, "The Queen of the B's." Ball of Fire tracks Lucy's pursuit of the superstardom that eluded her on the big screen and follows the actress through a series of disappointing affairs and sorrows until she meets a Cuban conga drummer six years her junior, and falls headlong in love with Desi Arnaz. Working with her husband, Lucille Ball becomes a different kind of comic artist in a program called "I Love Lucy," the show that is still running in more than eighty countries aroundthe globe. Taking us through the development of television both as technology and cultural phenomenon, Kanfer chronicles the difficult birth of the sitcom that changed the world. He details the early executive meetings, the rocky first productions, the shaky first weeks and the unpredicted triumph. We see all of Lucy's behind-the-scenes battles for creative control of the show; her surprising confrontation with the House Un-American Activities Committee when it was discovered that she had once registered to vote as a Communist; her groundbreaking on-air pregnancy; and a series of in-depth analyses of the classic scenes and Chaplinesque slapstick that guarantee her a permanent place in the pantheon of American comedy. Finally, we see the aftermath of her hard-won fame: the turbulent marriage and painful split from Desi, the man she never stopped loving; her second marriage; and her sad last years out of the limelight and away from the applause. This is the first biography to examine the legendary Lucille Ball in all her many dimensions: her personal struggles and the torments that forged a comic genius; and, at last, her posthumous influence on television comedy, on feminist scholars and cultural critics, and on the public at large. Ball of Fire is the definitive biography Lucy fans have been waiting for.


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For more than fifty years Lucille Ball has been television's most recognizable and beloved face. As Lucy Ricardo she was the ultimate screwball housewife, getting herself into and out of scrapes with unmatched comic finesse. Indeed, she was so funny, and so central to the cultural landscape, that we often overlook Ball's role in shaping that turf: as producer of her own sh For more than fifty years Lucille Ball has been television's most recognizable and beloved face. As Lucy Ricardo she was the ultimate screwball housewife, getting herself into and out of scrapes with unmatched comic finesse. Indeed, she was so funny, and so central to the cultural landscape, that we often overlook Ball's role in shaping that turf: as producer of her own show and a cofounder of a major studio, she was a pioneer, rewriting the rules and forging new paths for women in the boardroom and on the sound stage. In Ball of Fire, Stefan Kanfer goes beyond the icon to examine the difficult life and enduring work of the most influential woman in modern American comedy. Kanfer traces the arc of her career from its unlikely beginnings in a lonely and desolate childhood in upstate New York. There she discovered that making people laugh could ease the pains of a fragmented family life. But she was more than amusing. She was also beautiful, and when Lucy's adolescent attempts to crack Broadway ended in failure, she became a runway model and on a fluke, journeyed out to California to be an extra in one film. That led to another, and another, and another bottom-of-the-bill movie, until she became, in her own words, "The Queen of the B's." Ball of Fire tracks Lucy's pursuit of the superstardom that eluded her on the big screen and follows the actress through a series of disappointing affairs and sorrows until she meets a Cuban conga drummer six years her junior, and falls headlong in love with Desi Arnaz. Working with her husband, Lucille Ball becomes a different kind of comic artist in a program called "I Love Lucy," the show that is still running in more than eighty countries aroundthe globe. Taking us through the development of television both as technology and cultural phenomenon, Kanfer chronicles the difficult birth of the sitcom that changed the world. He details the early executive meetings, the rocky first productions, the shaky first weeks and the unpredicted triumph. We see all of Lucy's behind-the-scenes battles for creative control of the show; her surprising confrontation with the House Un-American Activities Committee when it was discovered that she had once registered to vote as a Communist; her groundbreaking on-air pregnancy; and a series of in-depth analyses of the classic scenes and Chaplinesque slapstick that guarantee her a permanent place in the pantheon of American comedy. Finally, we see the aftermath of her hard-won fame: the turbulent marriage and painful split from Desi, the man she never stopped loving; her second marriage; and her sad last years out of the limelight and away from the applause. This is the first biography to examine the legendary Lucille Ball in all her many dimensions: her personal struggles and the torments that forged a comic genius; and, at last, her posthumous influence on television comedy, on feminist scholars and cultural critics, and on the public at large. Ball of Fire is the definitive biography Lucy fans have been waiting for.

30 review for Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball

  1. 4 out of 5

    Summer Lane

    Lucille Ball is my mom’s idol. She loves that woman. She has every biography, every cookbook and every salt and pepper shaker you can imagine emblazoned with a red heart and two stick figures happily smooching. I Love Lucy is the most famous comedy of all time. I never watched television growing up – modern tv, that is – so I have a deep appreciation for past entertainment that not a lot of people my age do. Therefore, it was only a matter of time until the bug of curiosity bit me and I picked u Lucille Ball is my mom’s idol. She loves that woman. She has every biography, every cookbook and every salt and pepper shaker you can imagine emblazoned with a red heart and two stick figures happily smooching. I Love Lucy is the most famous comedy of all time. I never watched television growing up – modern tv, that is – so I have a deep appreciation for past entertainment that not a lot of people my age do. Therefore, it was only a matter of time until the bug of curiosity bit me and I picked up a biography on the famous redhead herself. And what I discovered was as equally tragic as it was incredible. Lucille Ball fought her way to the top. An aspiring actress, she wanted to do drama but her talent was positioned squarely in the slapstick genre. After marrying a handsome Cuban musician named Desi Arnaz, her life went from interesting to intense. Desi was a brilliant showman and producer and from the second they met, they fell instantly in love – and never fell out of it. However, their marriage was incredibly strained, and it seemed as if every moment of their life was filled with heartbreak, struggle, violent fighting and tears. On the flipside, they loved each other so much that they could not live without the other. When they started I Love Lucy things almost didn’t get off the ground because they did not want to cast a Latin American man (Desi) as an American husband on a sitcom. Nobody would believe that a white woman was married to a Cuban, they said. You could say that they ate their words. I Love Lucy has endured for over 50 years. The story of Lucille Ball’s life, though, is somewhat less sparkling. She was terribly unhappy, mainly because her marriage to Desi was chaotic beyond all reasonable belief. They divorced after the Lucy show ended, but they loved each other to the end. However, she never got over the divorce and she carried the stress of losing Desi and her marriage with her for the rest of her life. Lucy’s story is one that is terribly sad, yet incredibly inspiring. She was a pioneer for women in show business, becoming the first woman CEO of a studio, and she was one of the few women of the 30s and 40s who supported her family on her own – an independent woman if you ever saw one. It’s best to focus on the positive when it comes to her personal life. But to me, she will always and forever be Lucy Ricardo, that crazy redhead that we all know…and we all love.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I still haven't finished this book, and I don't think I am ever going to do so. Too many other novels are calling my name...maybe this summer, but probably not. I'm giving it between a 2 and a 3, but I'm leaning more toward the 2. How can you make Lucy boring?!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eva

    How can it be that Lucille Ball had this lively magnetism and energy and yet this book, devoted to her story was so long, boring, and dull? I love biographies, I love Lucy, ergo I should love this, but this was painful just terribly long and boring. Somehow the author was able to wipe all the sheen of Lucy's life and bog it down, making it long and tedious, it's like behind the music where you see the nitty gritty except I wasn't riveted. Good thing is you can continue to Love Lucy without readin How can it be that Lucille Ball had this lively magnetism and energy and yet this book, devoted to her story was so long, boring, and dull? I love biographies, I love Lucy, ergo I should love this, but this was painful just terribly long and boring. Somehow the author was able to wipe all the sheen of Lucy's life and bog it down, making it long and tedious, it's like behind the music where you see the nitty gritty except I wasn't riveted. Good thing is you can continue to Love Lucy without reading this book, it literally adds nothing to her story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    An avid fan of I Love Lucy, I love bios and I particularly like bios of people I admire. Lucille Ball is perhaps the funniest women in American TV (maybe all TV), but she had some serious issues (hers and that of first husband Desi Arnaz). If you had an entirely positive view of Lucy, this book will tarnish that, so beware.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Early in the run of "I Love Lucy, Ball" gave co-star Vivian Vance a hard time. Vance decided, "If by any chance this thing actually becomes a hit and goes anywhere, I'm gonna learn to love that bitch." She did, and so did the rest of the world. But according to Kanfer's excellent, compulsively readable biography, Ball (1911-1989) was much easier to love from afar (as was Kanfer's previous subject, Groucho Marx). Despite all the laughter the gifted red-headed comedienne produced, her personal lif Early in the run of "I Love Lucy, Ball" gave co-star Vivian Vance a hard time. Vance decided, "If by any chance this thing actually becomes a hit and goes anywhere, I'm gonna learn to love that bitch." She did, and so did the rest of the world. But according to Kanfer's excellent, compulsively readable biography, Ball (1911-1989) was much easier to love from afar (as was Kanfer's previous subject, Groucho Marx). Despite all the laughter the gifted red-headed comedienne produced, her personal life was unhappy. To save their marriage, she and Desi Arnaz produced and starred in I Love Lucy. It revolutionized TV (it was shot on film with three cameras in front of a live audience), but the all-consuming pressure of the show (and other shows produced by their company, Desilu) pushed them apart and made them absentee parents. Although Ball reigned on four consecutive top-rated CBS comedies from 1951 to 1974, Kanfer sees a decline in the quality of her work beginning in the early '60s. Without Arnaz to dominate her and placate others after they divorced, Ball became all-controlling on her shows, and her temper and tactlessness began costing her professional and personal relationships. "She could be very cold," admits daughter Lucie Arnaz, "and although she told me she loved me all the time, I didn't feel loved." Kanfer's sad, well-written and well-researched bio benefits from a wealth of previously published accounts (best are Kathleen Brady's "Lucille" and Geoffrey Mark Fidelman's "The Lucy Book"), but her story is still a compelling one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    A rather sad tale of superstardom and the search for happiness. Lucy was the original "type A" personality as well as a "mean girl"! The story of how the original 3 camera sitcom was born with Lucy, Desi and the I Love Lucy show was fascinating. I was also curious about how the kids fared in this environment and it was amazing to see where both ended up today based on the upbringing they had (or didn't have!). A depressing read on most counts and the writer seems not to have found anyone to talk A rather sad tale of superstardom and the search for happiness. Lucy was the original "type A" personality as well as a "mean girl"! The story of how the original 3 camera sitcom was born with Lucy, Desi and the I Love Lucy show was fascinating. I was also curious about how the kids fared in this environment and it was amazing to see where both ended up today based on the upbringing they had (or didn't have!). A depressing read on most counts and the writer seems not to have found anyone to talk to except all the fights Lucy had with Hollywood stars.??

  7. 5 out of 5

    Amie

    It wasn't boring per se, but just didn't feel drawn into it. Lucy was an incredibly interesting woman, a study of contradiction. But, as another reviewer mentioned, it felt like the author listed her entire filmography, with co-stars, and that got old. But I did enjoy it. By the end though, I was kind of reading to be done so I could move on to something else.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    Book club book for March 2019; came from a list of recommended books to read for Women's History Month (from Penguin publishers?) Interesting but not super readable. Many sections contain seemingly random details and very much have the feel of having been cut and pasted from other sources. The promised purpose of the book, to focus on Lucille Ball as the CEO of Desilu, is noticably thin, with few insights (other than she was miserable and ill-suited to the role). The final chapter, about her cont Book club book for March 2019; came from a list of recommended books to read for Women's History Month (from Penguin publishers?) Interesting but not super readable. Many sections contain seemingly random details and very much have the feel of having been cut and pasted from other sources. The promised purpose of the book, to focus on Lucille Ball as the CEO of Desilu, is noticably thin, with few insights (other than she was miserable and ill-suited to the role). The final chapter, about her continued legacy, is by far the most interesting. Though it is rather poignant, knowing how unhappy she was, especially in later years. Overall, a sad story about yet another successful person who gained little satisfaction from their success.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Rivera

    I learned that Lucille Ball was the total opposite of the Lucy character. Not the most pleasant person to work with and quite demanding.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Margo Johnson

    This book was recommended to me by an avid "I Love Lucy" fan. I was intrigued by her description of a real life woman and her husband as less than ideal. Like the biography I read about Laurence Olivier, I was left with a feeling of disappointment. Lucille Ball was born on August 6, 1911. She began her career in her mid-teens as a chorus girl and model. Her career started to gain traction in the late 1930s. She began to appear in movies with the Three Stooges, Bob Hope, William Holden and Henry F This book was recommended to me by an avid "I Love Lucy" fan. I was intrigued by her description of a real life woman and her husband as less than ideal. Like the biography I read about Laurence Olivier, I was left with a feeling of disappointment. Lucille Ball was born on August 6, 1911. She began her career in her mid-teens as a chorus girl and model. Her career started to gain traction in the late 1930s. She began to appear in movies with the Three Stooges, Bob Hope, William Holden and Henry Fonda. Somewhere around 1939 she met a Cuban performer by the name of Desi Arnaz. They married on November 30,1940. Around 1948 Lucille was performing a radio serial "My Favourite Husband". This eventually led to the TV show "I Love Lucy". The show's success was a combination of Lucille's mix of glamour and slapstick and Desi's business acumen. Although the show was based on the real life couple of Lucille and Desi reality did not match the screen presentation. Lucille Ball carried a great deal of insecurity about her talent and her beauty. Desi Arnaz liked to party and enjoyed the company of other women which was not helpful to his wife. When "I Love Lucy" ended Lucille tried to capture the magic of that show in other sit-com endeavors without Desi. She was unable to do so. Her prevailing attitude is summed up by the following quote: "The encroachments and reminders of age were too painful for Lucy to contemplate, and too close too ignore." She became increasingly bitter and unpleasant to work with. Her whole life had been devoted to her career and she was eventually forced into retirement which she regarded as "a living death". What I found particularly sad was how the careers of Lucille and Desi effected the lives of their children: Lucie and Desi Jr. "...A normal childhood...for Desi Jr. and Lucie, it was impossible. Not only were their parents celebrated, rich and divorced, their father was an alcoholic and their mother a deeply conflicted figure...". It seems the only togetherness of mother and children occurred when they appeared on the show "Here's Lucy". According to the author Lucille "thought mostly in terms of career rather than motherhood. Desi Jr. became an addict and had troubled relationships with older women. Lucie moved out when she was 18. She soon married but the marriage didn't last. They both managed to weather their stormy upbringing as Lucie became a successful actor in her own right and Desi Jr. became sober. The book was interesting. The author stayed away from sleazy details. Although it seems that he was some what critical of Lucille Ball in reality, he does not come across in a mean spirited way.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Riley

    As currently on my desire of reading biographies, I jumped back into the entertainment industry. The selection involved seeing the book and thinking, “I bet that would be an interesting read”. A few tid bits I found funny/interesting; - Desi’s back ground in Cuba was more privileged that one would think. He was no slum kid from Havana. Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III was the son of a prominent and wealthy Cuban Politician. His father was not only the mayor of a major port, he owned three la As currently on my desire of reading biographies, I jumped back into the entertainment industry. The selection involved seeing the book and thinking, “I bet that would be an interesting read”. A few tid bits I found funny/interesting; - Desi’s back ground in Cuba was more privileged that one would think. He was no slum kid from Havana. Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III was the son of a prominent and wealthy Cuban Politician. His father was not only the mayor of a major port, he owned three large ranches. Desi’s maternal grandfather was a co-founder of Bacardi Rum Company. Political instability and revolt lead them to the US. - Desi had a childhood friend whose father was Al Capone. He later sued for defamation when Desilu produced the series “The Untouchables” based on catching Al Capone - On “I Love Lucy” when they story line was moving to Lucy having a baby, the network’s rules prevented them from actually saying the work “pregnant”. They could say “expecting” or “with child”. The solution was to bring in a priest minister and would give the approval of the local clergy to ‘bless’ the shows that they were inoffensive! - Desilu, when relinquished to Lucy’s control, was responsible for green lighting Mission: Impossible and Star Trek. Knowing limited details, I had set high hopes for this book that didn’t quite reach my expectations. I may be a bit too harsh for me to say that I found the writing style very loose and expanded upon in areas that may not have needed it, while not focusing on areas that could have used some more discussion. It may not be as much the writing, but the fact that 1) Lucille Ball’s life may have lead to that feeling and 2) this book covers multiple points of view of her life. Such different perspectives include personal struggles, career frustrations, comic genius, romance, marital difficulties, hard business woman, Desi’s infidelity, and the struggle to remain relevant in her later years. It was the comic genius and business woman that I woman that I would have enjoyed reading more about. However, I must admit surprisingly one of the most interesting parts for me was the telling of her early starts, restarts, and retries of moving to and from Jamestown from modeling, and her early entertainment career. Wonderful insight into her determination and drive. A salesman once knew when Lucy had reached a new nation of Africa or Asia by finding babies named “Lucy”. Truly a great comedienne who changed the world of entertainment.

  12. 4 out of 5

    C.S. Burrough

    TV comedy mostly irritates the hell out of me, with a few notable exceptions, one in particular being Lucille Ball. She had that distinct something. I only needed look at her to be triggered into fits of belly laughter. It's a rare gift, we tend to think. But as with so many such greats, Ball's comedic craft was actually the result of decades of hard work. There was little spontaneity in what she excelled at, it was the product of gruelling repetition, so many times did she practice every smalles TV comedy mostly irritates the hell out of me, with a few notable exceptions, one in particular being Lucille Ball. She had that distinct something. I only needed look at her to be triggered into fits of belly laughter. It's a rare gift, we tend to think. But as with so many such greats, Ball's comedic craft was actually the result of decades of hard work. There was little spontaneity in what she excelled at, it was the product of gruelling repetition, so many times did she practice every smallest detail for a any scene or sketch - frequently driving her fellow cast members to despair. Such is the requisite professional devotion shared by illusionists, mime artists, circus performers, speciality dancers and great singers. It brightened my week immensely reading about this fascinating, committed artiste who, in my toddlerhood, was portrayed by a tiny carrot-headed marionette dancing across my screen in sequins and high heels, in the opening credits. She was the only screen persona guaranteed to have me rolling around the carpet. Watching blurry old reruns still has the same effect on me, so timeless is the joy she invokes in the human psyche. Her apprenticeship involved learning on the job, on the pre-TV big screen, in supporting roles to legends like the Marx Brothers. As an adult I've had passing opportunity to catch up on even her earlier work, which I'd missed out on watching her as I was growing up. It was therefore great to read the backstory of this entertainment history-making trailblazer, dubbed in an earlier Hollywood incarnation "Queen of the Bs". A thorough, well written biography with great photographs.

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

    Quite late did I come to appreciate Lucille Ball. By chance on a recent road trip and overnight stay in Jamestown, New York I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Jamestown was her hometown and where her remains were interred. This is Jamestown, New York not the first English Settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. My wife and I then took the time to visit two homes where she grew up and the modest marker at the family burial plot. More than 60 years after the beginning of "I Love Lucy" her pro Quite late did I come to appreciate Lucille Ball. By chance on a recent road trip and overnight stay in Jamestown, New York I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Jamestown was her hometown and where her remains were interred. This is Jamestown, New York not the first English Settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. My wife and I then took the time to visit two homes where she grew up and the modest marker at the family burial plot. More than 60 years after the beginning of "I Love Lucy" her programs are still being broadcast in reruns and she must certainly be considered the most famous and popular entertainer to have ever lived. She was way ahead of her time. Both Lucy and Desi Arnaz reached the top of their art form, remained there but paid the price with many sacrifices along the way. We also learned that Jamestown, New York was the hometown of Roger Tory Peterson, one of the worlds preeminent naturalists, artists and birders. This little town produced two remarkable giants and Peterson even received a mention in this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    I'm beginning to see a pattern in the lives of all old Hollywood stars. They had troubling home lives (some kind of parental problem), restless childhood and teenage years before pursuing stardom, working hard to be stars, working hard to maintain said stardom, and the stardom eventually being the root cause of their unhappiness. This poses the question: Is fame really worth it? I don't know. If someone were to call Lucille Ball up from heaven or purgatory or wherever she currently is, would sh I'm beginning to see a pattern in the lives of all old Hollywood stars. They had troubling home lives (some kind of parental problem), restless childhood and teenage years before pursuing stardom, working hard to be stars, working hard to maintain said stardom, and the stardom eventually being the root cause of their unhappiness. This poses the question: Is fame really worth it? I don't know. If someone were to call Lucille Ball up from heaven or purgatory or wherever she currently is, would she say it is worth it? I doubt it. Fame cost Ball so much: her marriage, her children's childhoods, various friendships, etc. It's almost sad to read Ball of Fire because no one wants to believe such an icon was so miserable in her personal life. May her soul rest in peace. Not recommended unless you have an interest in Lucille Ball or I Love Lucy. I don't, but I do like old Hollywood. This was somewhat disappointing. I should stick to the movie stars.

  15. 5 out of 5

    K

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book brought tears to my eyes several times throughout the course of reading it. Kanfer starts out with a honorary ceremony for six people at the White House, five days after Lucy's famous ex-husband, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III, had died. Just within the first 2 pages, one can see the warmth and insight the author has expressed for Ms. Ball's legend of a life. The author then moves back about 77 years to around the time Lucy was born, gave a brief history on her ancestors, and This book brought tears to my eyes several times throughout the course of reading it. Kanfer starts out with a honorary ceremony for six people at the White House, five days after Lucy's famous ex-husband, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III, had died. Just within the first 2 pages, one can see the warmth and insight the author has expressed for Ms. Ball's legend of a life. The author then moves back about 77 years to around the time Lucy was born, gave a brief history on her ancestors, and proceeded to enlighten the reader on the beginning of Lucille's struggles, failures, and victories. Telling of her ups and downs, good times and bad, Kanfer tells Ms. Ball's story with respect and dignity. Anyone who loves Lucy should read this book. It is a beautiful depiction of America's best-loved comedienne in all her goofiness and glory.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    An interesting look at the ups and downs of life as Lucille Ball "As a movie actress Lucille Ball was, in her own words, “queen of the B-pluses.” But on the small screen she was a superstar–arguably the funniest and most enduring in the history of TV. In this exemplary biography, Stefan Kanfer explores the roots of Lucy’s genius and places it in the context of her conflicted and sometimes bitter personal life. Ball of Fire gives us Lucy in all her contradictions. Here is the beauty who became a m An interesting look at the ups and downs of life as Lucille Ball "As a movie actress Lucille Ball was, in her own words, “queen of the B-pluses.” But on the small screen she was a superstar–arguably the funniest and most enduring in the history of TV. In this exemplary biography, Stefan Kanfer explores the roots of Lucy’s genius and places it in the context of her conflicted and sometimes bitter personal life. Ball of Fire gives us Lucy in all her contradictions. Here is the beauty who became a master of knock-down slapstick; the control freak whose comic alter ego thrived on chaos, the worshipful TV housewife whose real marriage ended in public disaster. Here, too, is an intimate view of the dawn of television and of the America that embraced it."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Very interesting look at the life of Lucille Ball. I've never been a big fan of Lucy's, although I respect her greatly as a businesswoman and producer (I mean, she greenlit "Star Trek.") To his credit, the author pulls no punches in showing Lucy's many contradictions: longing for love yet incapable of expressing it in a healthy way; desperately wanting children yet farming them out for long hours spent in the studio; a pioneering woman in entertainment who wanted to call the shots at every set s Very interesting look at the life of Lucille Ball. I've never been a big fan of Lucy's, although I respect her greatly as a businesswoman and producer (I mean, she greenlit "Star Trek.") To his credit, the author pulls no punches in showing Lucy's many contradictions: longing for love yet incapable of expressing it in a healthy way; desperately wanting children yet farming them out for long hours spent in the studio; a pioneering woman in entertainment who wanted to call the shots at every set she worked on, yet who disdained feminism. I noted with interest that even the author seems to have a tough time explaining what makes Lucy such a legend. His final hypothesis may seem a bit weak, but I certainly can't think of a better one.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This was a really interesting book. I think Lucille Ball is just hilarious; I saw this at the library and just thought it might be fun to learn a little more about her. The most interesting things I learned in this book were her acting projects before and after 'I Love Lucy'. Of course she had many, I had never heard of them or considered what else she might have done. The author works hard to be unbiased, and often provides us with other biographers' interpretations of events. Interesting read, This was a really interesting book. I think Lucille Ball is just hilarious; I saw this at the library and just thought it might be fun to learn a little more about her. The most interesting things I learned in this book were her acting projects before and after 'I Love Lucy'. Of course she had many, I had never heard of them or considered what else she might have done. The author works hard to be unbiased, and often provides us with other biographers' interpretations of events. Interesting read, certainly for a Lucille Ball fan. Don't know that I'd recommend it to someone with limited reading time unless they're a die hard Lucy fan.

  19. 4 out of 5

    ...

    Lucille Ball is one of my favorite female comedians of the 1950's. I thought it would be really great to read a biography about her to see how she started out in her road to fame. It showcases her early childhood years all the way until her death. It not only gives her history on her background of fame , but the struggles she had to endure to get where she is today. This books covers detail about her marriages throughout the years, behind the scenes look at what went on behind the cameras which Lucille Ball is one of my favorite female comedians of the 1950's. I thought it would be really great to read a biography about her to see how she started out in her road to fame. It showcases her early childhood years all the way until her death. It not only gives her history on her background of fame , but the struggles she had to endure to get where she is today. This books covers detail about her marriages throughout the years, behind the scenes look at what went on behind the cameras which may be surprising to some, her interaction & relationships with her co-stars, her husband, & her children etc, etc. For I love Lucy fans I definitely recommend this.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    To any child of the forties or fifties, the main character of this book needs no introduction. Perhaps the level of talent behind the persona does, however. I suspect that the author does about as good a job as anyone can in melding an attempt to both separate the two, while at the same time integrating them and coming out with a unified real person. Kanfer's story telling and biographical depiction of Lucille Ball was fun and easy to like. Harder to enjoy is his description of family life at th To any child of the forties or fifties, the main character of this book needs no introduction. Perhaps the level of talent behind the persona does, however. I suspect that the author does about as good a job as anyone can in melding an attempt to both separate the two, while at the same time integrating them and coming out with a unified real person. Kanfer's story telling and biographical depiction of Lucille Ball was fun and easy to like. Harder to enjoy is his description of family life at the Arnaz's. His depiction of the tragic side of things seemed to this reader to be fair and believable. I look forward to reading more from his pen.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Very interesting from beginning to end - both the biography and the star's life. "Ball of Fire" collects from all the works that have come before it and presents a clear and complete history of the world’s favorite comedienne. Kanfer retells not just the glamorous high points of why Lucy is a beloved star, but also the moments of insecurity and brusqueness that were familiar to Hollywood insiders. Kanfer carries this balanced view through the entire book, finishing with a recap of how Lucy affec Very interesting from beginning to end - both the biography and the star's life. "Ball of Fire" collects from all the works that have come before it and presents a clear and complete history of the world’s favorite comedienne. Kanfer retells not just the glamorous high points of why Lucy is a beloved star, but also the moments of insecurity and brusqueness that were familiar to Hollywood insiders. Kanfer carries this balanced view through the entire book, finishing with a recap of how Lucy affected society and is remembered posthumously, both negative and positive. Absolutely worth reading.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Roo

    If I had to describe this book in one word: tedious. I felt like it was an assignment and that I "had" to read it. It doesn't seem like any detail of Lucy's professional life was missed, but I think the book would have benefitted from "skipping" some of the specifics. EVERY movie and EVERY costar was mentioned. Maybe it's because I was not a part of the Lucy era, and I didn't recognize many of the names. I actually (dare I say it) was grateful for the part of the book where Lucy died because it If I had to describe this book in one word: tedious. I felt like it was an assignment and that I "had" to read it. It doesn't seem like any detail of Lucy's professional life was missed, but I think the book would have benefitted from "skipping" some of the specifics. EVERY movie and EVERY costar was mentioned. Maybe it's because I was not a part of the Lucy era, and I didn't recognize many of the names. I actually (dare I say it) was grateful for the part of the book where Lucy died because it meant the end of the book was NEAR!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    I have been watching I Love Lucy for as long as I can remember, and I just adore Lucille Ball! I have always been interested in her and the other shows/movies she has been in, and I was excited to learn more about her. This book provided a vast amount of information, it was pretty detailed and thorough in many places, however, it seemed to lack in the relation of this information. I found it a bit tedious at times, and not as enjoyable as I'd hoped. Overall, the book presented a good deal of inf I have been watching I Love Lucy for as long as I can remember, and I just adore Lucille Ball! I have always been interested in her and the other shows/movies she has been in, and I was excited to learn more about her. This book provided a vast amount of information, it was pretty detailed and thorough in many places, however, it seemed to lack in the relation of this information. I found it a bit tedious at times, and not as enjoyable as I'd hoped. Overall, the book presented a good deal of information about Lucille Ball in a rather generic manner.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jaime

    This was a decent account of Lucille Ball's fiery life. What I liked about this biography is that it touches on her personal struggles, demons and victories. Always the rebel, Ms. Ball set her own path to success in front of the camera and behind the executive desk. I also enjoyed that the novel provided a perspective of what is was to be Lucille Ball, a bigger than life persona with a heart and a sharp mind It was a solid read that will satisfy her fans.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    I like biographies a lot, and somehow I found this one a bit bland. I can't put my finger on why it felt this way. Perhaps it was the lack of actual subject quotes, as there are very few actual statements from Lucille. However the subject was very interesting, and I stuck with it to learn about Lucille's rags-to-fame tale. You live on in our hearts, Lucy. You set the bar for every woman in comedy.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    An avid lover of I Love Lucy, I chose this book because I wanted to lean more about the woman behind the famous red hair. Ball of Fire is an interesting read, with a view into Lucy's private world. At times, the names and places can seem unfamiliar to someone who does not have a vast knowledge of Hollywood's movers and shakers from her time, but all in all, Ball of Fire was a good read and I would recommend it for anyone wanting to know more about Lucy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eli Martinez

    I LOVE LUCY! Lol, there's a reason why they chose to name the show that. It's very detailed, if you're into that sort of thing (and I am!) It goes a little into the early life of Ball, but focuses mainly on her rise to fame and snips of her subsequent life after show-biz. It's a must read for Lucille Ball fans.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shay

    It was interesting but I did like Love, Lucy better. I especially didn't like the last chapter of this book b/c I felt like it really wasn't needed. I felt like this book dropped a lot of names and most of who I didn't know who they were and it wasn't like they were really needed to be mentioned but were. I would have liked to see more photos through the years then the ones that were shown.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary

    ... novelist Jane Smiley remembered a childhood of reruns that entered her house in the morning: "I associate it with the feeling of being pleasantly not at school. Perhaps I saw the small screen (which did not seem at all small to me, since I was sitting cross-legged right in front of it) as a window through which I could look at what people did 'at work' where my mother was. p. 307

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Mikita

    Extremely well researched, there were many bits I had not heard before so I enjoyed that. The one complaint was that in describing several of the episodes throughout the book he often got plots wrong which seems very strange and had me wondering if the author was an actual fan of hers and if he ever watched the shows.

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