The Beautiful Ghost Story Behind "I Love Lucy"

I thought I knew everything about Lucille Ball... until I found out that she believed with all of her heart that her role model, Carole Lombard, visited her on a regular basis, after Lombard's untimely death in 1942 in a plane crash. 

Indeed, Lucille Ball and Carole Lombard were dear friends. In her early days as a struggling actress, Lucy spent a lot of time on the studio lot observing Lombard, trying to mimic her. Rather than be offended or threatened by the fledgling wannabe, Lombard encouraged Lucy along, giving her a few of her biggest breakthroughs in Hollywood. 

In the March 1947 edition of Photoplay, Lucy says to the interviewer that Carole Lombard... "... is my guardian angel.”

“She was?” the interviewer responds. As in, oh, how nice. Her role model helped her along. 

“She is,” Lucy responds. “Has been from the day she saw me gawping at her on a set...I had no confidence. She yelled at me, "...tell the so-and-sos to give you a break, you’ve got something. Tell ’em I said they’re missing the boat again.”

By the time I Love Lucy came along, Carole was no longer with us in this world.... but was she communicating with her protege from another? 

Carole Lombard & Lucille Ball... the Friendship That inspired the iconic show 

You see, when the opportunity to make I Love Lucy came along, it wasn't exactly a slam dunk. In hindsight, it isn't easy to understand why creating arguably the most beloved TV show of all time would even be a question. But TV was un-tested. Who knew if it would every amount to anything?

Then one night, Lucy received a visit from an old friend...

Everyone warned Desi and me that we were committing career suicide, by giving up highly paid movie and band commitments to go for broke on TV... Then I dreamed about Carole Lombard.  She was wearing a very smart suit Carole always dressed very beautifully–and she said, `Take a chance, honey.  Give it a whirl!’   After that, I knew for certain that we were doing the right thing."

A SUPERSTITIOUS LUCY

When I went to Google to find what other information was available about Lucy's dreams of Carole Lombard, I blinked when I saw various headlines that accused Lucy of being a devil-worshipper...  

Whaaaaa...?

I won't post any of those links here, and please don't validate these nincompoops (as I believe Lucy herself might have referred to them!) by Googling it. I will talk about the background that is getting seriously twisted here... it's relevant because it ties back to Carole Lombard, the strange events surrounding her plane crash, and what her mother reportedly told Lucy that changed her life trajectory. 

To begin with, just in case you haven't heard about the great Lucy sculpture debacle, let me give you a primer: in 2015 sculptor Dave Poulin created a sculpture to be placed in her hometown. Locals called it "Scary Lucy"... you can see the original statue and the replacement in this Time magazine article. Pictures speak MUCH louder than words in this case. 

The bloggers behind these Lucy/occultist theories argue that Lucy's visions of Carole Lombard are evidence of something sinister -- they posit that Poulin knew the truth behind America's favorite redhead and recreated her image in accordance. His apology letter certainly didn't mention anything of the sort, but why bother with the facts when dealing with conspiracy theories? 

Anyway, all I can say is: bloggers, go home, you're drunk. 

What Lucille Ball REPORTEDLY Believed

There is some truth to the stories of Lucille Ball's superstitious nature. Reportedly (after all, I certainly wasn't there), Carole Lombard's mother told Lucy the letters "A-R" were very lucky for her numerology profile. From then on, most of the characters Lucille Ball played contained the lucky "A-R" combo, thus, Lucy Ric-AR-do.

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Maybe Carole's mother was onto something with the whole numerology thing... when it was time to come home from the World War II tour selling bonds alongside her daughter, Mamma Lombard wanted to take a train. Carole wanted to take a plane. Mom felt that the flight number was unlucky (TWA flight 3), not to mention the fact that Carole Lombard was 33. All told, she did not want to board the plane that day. 

Soon after taking off from a Vegas airport, the plane crashed into a mountain outside of Vegas, killing all on board. A devastated Clark Gable waited at a nearby bar for word of his wife, only to be told all on board had indeed been killed. You can still hike to the plane crash even today (if you are willing to brave the strenuous 4 hour climb) and some say some of Carole's most valuable jewelry is still to be found. 

 Image Courtesy of Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers

Image Courtesy of Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers

One Step Beyond... to I Love Lucy

To me, the fact that Lucy claims to have seen Carole Lombard throughout her life is beautiful. I wonder... did Carole Lombard help Lucy perfect her trademark laugh? Was she the secret inspiration behind the Vitameatavegamin episode? Was she an invisible friend, frolicking in the grape-crushing barrels of the Italian Movie episode alongside her best pal?

I would sure like to think that the original screwball that had been Lucy's cheerleader when she needed it most was there, a kind of behind-the-scenes ghost of the most beloved TV show ever made. 

Lucy didn't like it when people referred to her as the "Queen of Comedy" ... she felt that honor belonged to Carole Lombard. I, for one, believe the story. And I can't believe anyone would find anything sinister about the story of this beloved friendship. 

How about you? 

I first read about Lucy's encounters with a ghostly/guardian angel Carole Lombard from the book Lucy & Desi: The Legendary Love Story of Television's Most Famous Couple. I highly recommend the book for Lucy lovers!

 

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