At 18 years old, Lucille Ball modeled in New York under the name Diane Belmont—dying her chestnut brown hair platinum blonde.
Ball poses for fashion entrepreneur Hattie Carnegie in the early '30s. By 1933, she would nab a high-profile modeling job as the "Chesterfield cigarette girl."
After moving to Los Angeles, Ball appeared on screen in many small roles while under contract with RKO Radio Pictures.
On the set of Phil Baker's radio show, 1938.
Starring in the 1943 Broadway musical adaptation "DuBarry Was a Lady," Ball played May Daly (after the role was turned down by Ann Sothern).
"I Love Lucy" premiered on October 15, 1951. The series attracted 50 million viewers in its first season and would go on to be the most watched television show in America.
Husband and co-star Desi Arnaz licks Ball between takes of the famous Season Two episode "Job Switching," in which Ethel and Lucy get a job packaging candy on a conveyer belt.
After six seasons in a half-hour format, the show continued in a series of one-hour specials, under the name "The Lucille Ball–Desi Arnaz Show" from 1957 to 1960.
Ball divorced Arnaz in 1960, and the following year she married stand-up comedian Gary Morton. They would remain married for the rest of her life.
After producing "Star Trek," "The Untouchables" and "Mission: Impossible," Ball sold Desilu Productions to Gulf+Western in 1967.
Joan Rivers recalled: "I was working with her one time when she stopped the shot and said, 'The camera angle is three inches off.' They said, 'Oh, no, Lucy, it's not.' And she said, 'Measure.' It was."
After "I Love Lucy" ended, Ball starred in "The Lucy Show" (1962–68) and "Here's Lucy" (1968–74), which featured her real-life children, Desi Jr. and Lucie.
Ball's final TV show, "Life with Lucy," aired for eight low-rated episodes in 1986 before being cancelled.
Ann Sothern: "[Lucy] called me on the phone when she did her last show. She was crying. 'Ann, I've been fired. ABC's let me go. They don't want to see me as an old grandma. They want me as the Lucy I was.'"
Arnaz and Ball in the 1980s, decades after their divorce.
At the end of his life, Arnaz wrote: "Lucy was the show. Viv, Fred and I were just props. Damn good props, but props nevertheless. P.S. 'I Love Lucy' was never just the title."
Ball's final public appearance was at the 1989 Academy Awards, four weeks before her death. She was 77.
Carol Burnett: "I don't think any public figure—politician or movie star—has ever affected the public like this. This was like having someone in the family die. Anybody alive who had TV felt Lucy was part of the family. I don't know if that was or ever will be duplicated."
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