Lucille Ball's minor injuries on I Love Lucy showed her dedication to performing
Image credit: The Everett Collection
Lucille Ball was known for her slapstick humor and physical comedy during her very long and successful career. During the 1950s, it was not common to see very many women doing physical comedy, but Ball had enough bumps and bruises to prove her success in the form.
Ball liked to be realistic both in TV and film. She was best known for her roles in I Love Lucy (1951), The Lucy Show (1962) and Here's Lucy (1968). A great example of Ball's realism and willingness to commit to a bit came from a guest appearance on The Garry Moore Show in 1960. She and Moore had a close friendship during this period and worked on various projects together.
On one particular episode of The Garry Moore Show, Ball interacted with a chimpanzee named Chiquita, which led to some comedic moments between the two, as Ball was known for her ability to inject humor into unpredictable situations that only Lucy could get herself into.
During a 1957 interview with the Richmond-Times Dispatch, Ball explained that the chimpanzee bent her finger during the show, and it hadn't been the same since.
"It's my chimp finger," Ball said. "How many people do you know with chimp fingers? Eight or ten weeks. My finger hasn't been any good since. I soak it in water to make it feel better. And this other finger — I put it in the water, too, so it doesn't feel slighted."
According to the interview, Ball wanted to do all of her own stunts and used very few stunt doubles. Who knew stunt doubles were even needed in the comedy world? But Ball's "chimp finger" proved it — a bit that feels like it's straight out of I Love Lucy.
"Bill Frawley uses a double sometimes because he doesn't drive," Ball said. "But I get all the pies in the face and everything. I enjoy doing all the stunts. A few of them put me in the hospital."
Ball even got pneumonia while filming The Fuller Brush Girl (1950) at Columbia Pictures. She said she was soaking wet from a bit when she slipped and fell 12 feet and threw her back out. She also pinched her sciatic nerve and had to go to the hospital.
Ball said she only regretted using a stunt double for her safety once: She was supposed to be in a helicopter in New York as it descended, but she had to use a double for good reason. Ball wanted to do it all, and her work and dedication to performing paid off.
"We never beat our heads about the ratings and Desi doesn't now either," Ball said. "He's only thinking about great shows. You're looking at a very satisfied actress. I always wanted to do what I'm doing and it's wonderful."
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