Vivian Vance played sidekick to Lucille Ball all through I Love Lucy and partway through The Lucy Show, then bowed out, demanding a salary increase she knew would be rejected.
“I was sure she felt I was deserting her,” Vance wrote. “She had a tremendous fear of rejection, and unless she thought it through, it could seem that I was rejecting her, giving her up after 14 years of closeness and clowning, for a husband and a home I wanted to share with him.”
Lucy had other priorities. “Marriage, motherhood, leisure — all were subordinated to the main concern of putting on a good show and turning a profit for the Desilu stockholders,” wrote Stefan Kanfer in Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball. “Though she determined to get along without her feminine foil, Vivian’s departure did make an enormous difference, not only in the scripts but in Lucy’s outlook. In her view, she had been dropped twice, by her husband and by her closest professional friend.”
|Richard Burton, Lucille Ball and Elizabeth Taylor|
“’On the set, she could be a holy terror,’ said one of the technicians who watched Lucy in action. She summarily fired a New York Method actor who mumbled his lines; intimidated directors and cameramen; and sought confrontations, even when the star was as big as she was.
“When she gave Danny Kaye instructions on how to do humor, he snapped, ‘Just who the hell do you think you are?’ Lucy shot back, ‘You’re full of shit, that’s who I am.’ She was not smiling.
“Joan Blondell, who had known Lucy since their starlet days in the 1930s, had become a first-class film and stage comedienne in middle age. Lucy booked her on the show, then expressed dissatisfaction with the way Blondell read her lines. After one take, her friend Herb Kenwith reporterd, the director yelled ‘Cut!’ and “Lucille pulled an imaginary chain … as if flushing an old-fashioned toilet.’ Blondell turned away but caught the tail end of the gesture. ‘What does that mean?’ she demanded. Lucille said, ‘It means that stunk!’ Joan looked her right in the eye and said, ‘Fuck you, Lucille Ball!’ The studio audience was stunned. You didn’t hear words like that in those days.’ Kaye and Lucy were to make up their differences. Blondell never came back.”
In 1970, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, then the world’s most famous couple, appeared on Lucille Ball’s CBS sitcom Here’s Lucy. Lucy and Liz exchanged increasingly large bunches of roses, but all was not so rosy after Lucy insisted on giving the famous Welsh actor line readings.
Amused, Burton noted that Lucy referred to Liz as “…for the most part as Mrs. Burton or Miss Taylor and occasionally Elizabeth but (she) corrects it to the more formal immediately.” Liz, meanwhile, referred to Lucy as “Miss Cunt.”