On-Set: Calamity Lucy
On-Set: Calamity Lucy
Newsweek - August 22, 1960


At 7:45 a.m. the sleek beige Cadillac came to a halt before Stage 8 of the Desilu Studios in Hollywood. The car was immediately surrounded by seven overweight employees, and the orange-haired boss stepped out and shouted a joyous greeting.

"Who is it," Bob Hope yelled from his dressing room, "Grandma Moses?"

It was, of course, Miss Lucille Ball, back on the set after recuperating from the accident that typified the harassments that have plagued the filming of "Facts of Life," her first movie in more than four years and her third with Hope.

Trying to leap aboard a yacht for a scene, Lucille had fallen into the 3-foot tank and suffered a bump on the head and a black eye, and minor cuts and bruises. After that, the injuries came thick and fast: Hope smashed a finger; director Melvin Frank sprained an ankle on the golf course and was put on crutches; Don Defore, who plays Miss Ball's husband, was plagued by an old back injury and wound up in traction - and publicity chief David Golding came down with the mumps.

On the morning of her arrival back at work, Miss Ball spent two hours with her hairdresser and make-up men, finally emerged - assured that her injuries wouldn't show - and filming began. She put in one solid hour doing a single shot of herself looking first at a bed, then a door, and then a wrist watch. By 11:30 she was legging it to the nearby studio, where some 250 Desilu stockholders were assembled for the annual meeting, with here estranged husband Desi Arnaz presiding. After giving his report, Desi announced to Miss Ball: "You are excused by the chair."

"Where's the chair?" asked Miss Ball.

"Every minute you're here is costing us money," Arnaz complained.

Miss Ball departed, to applause. After a sandwich and a cup of coffee (Lucy to the waitress: "Written many letters with this stuff lately?"), she was back on the set, sitting in an auto, chewing ardenty on a wad of gum.

Hope made his entrance. "All right, everybody out of the pool," he shouted, making his way past the tank into which Miss Ball had taken her tumble. He got into the car with her, and a cameraman interrupted to say that the light in Miss Ball's eyes wasn't right.

"I guess my eyes are too big for the movies," she said.

"I'll tell you one thing," Hope said. "Your eyelashes are keeping me well dusted off."

Kids: The set by now was jammed with visitors from the stockholders' meeting, and, as filming began, a small boy toppled noisily off a ladder, stopping the shot. "Kids are wonderful, but I like mine barbecued," Hope said through clenched teeth.

Director Frank took a position to one side, to show the couple where to look. "I'm a motel sign," he called.

"Then blink on and off," Hope barked.

When the scene was finished, an exhausted Miss Ball headed for her dressing room, muttering: "I wish I could get my adrenaline up."

Director Frank felt fine. "They're perfect together, real professionals," he said happily. "She knows what's going on every minute. When they're in front of the camera you can feel the magic." A few days later a cut on Miss Ball's leg became infected and she had to commute to work from the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. One day as she left the set the confused actress shouted: "How do you get out of this firetrap?" Sure enough: A few nights later the set caught fire and was partially destroyed.

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