Happy 100th birthday, Lucy!

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The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has made a thoughtful contribution to the exhibition that opened Thursday at the Hollywood Museum in celebration of the 100th birthday of Lucille Ball and the 60th anniversary of ‘I Love Lucy’ –- five replicas of the Emmys that she received during her impressive career.

Lucy won one as the best comedienne of 1953 and another as the best comedy actress of 1955 while starring in ‘I Love Lucy,’ which won best comedy series twice (1953, 1954). She won best comedy actress two more times (1967, 1968) for ‘The Lucy Show’ and received an honorary Governors’ Award in 1989.


Lucy and her sitcom had a rocky road at the Emmys at first. When she was nominated for best comedian (or comedienne) and best comedy series in 1952, she and ‘I Love Lucy’ lost to Red Skelton and his self-titled program. The crowd at the Coconut Grove gasped in shock when Lucy lost both times. Skelton accepted the first trophy with a hound-dog pout, saying what everyone was thinking privately, ‘I think this should’ve gone to Lucille Ball.’

One year later, the TV academy separated men and women into different comedian/comedienne categories. Again, ‘I Love Lucy’ was nominated for best comedy and Lucy entered the Hotel Statler ‘shaking like a leaf,’ observed Variety gossipmeister Sheilah Graham. Jimmy Durante took home the men’s comedy trophy. When Lucy prevailed as best comedienne, she jumped up and down at the podium cheering, ‘Gee, Desi! We got it!’ They also got the big prize later: best comedy series.

Strangely, throughout the hugely successful run of ‘I Love Lucy,’ Emmy never demonstrated much love for Desi Arnaz. He was never nominated. The cavalier Cuban bandleader took the slight well, though, once commenting, ‘It’s OK. When the Emmys have a category for best conga drum player and I don’t win, then I’ll get mad!’

Read more about the exhibition ‘Lucille Ball at 100, ‘I Love Lucy’ at 60’ at the Hollywood Museum’s website.

-- Tom O’Neil