- STAFF PICKS
- GIFTS + GIFT CARDS
- SELL BOOKS
- FIND A STORE
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ballby Stefan Kanfer
Synopses & Reviews
For more than fifty years Lucille Ball has been television's most recognizable and beloved face. As Lucy Ricardo she was the ultimate screwball housewife, getting herself into and out of scrapes with unmatched comic finesse. Indeed, she was so funny, and so central to the cultural landscape, that we often overlook Ball's role in shaping that turf: as producer of her own show and a cofounder of a major studio, she was a pioneer, rewriting the rules and forging new paths for women in the boardroom and on the sound stage. In Ball of Fire, Stefan Kanfer goes beyond the icon to examine the difficult life and enduring work of the most influential woman in modern American comedy.
Kanfer traces the arc of her career from its unlikely beginnings in a lonely and desolate childhood in upstate New York. There she discovered that making people laugh could ease the pains of a fragmented family life. But she was more than amusing. She was also beautiful, and when Lucy's adolescent attempts to crack Broadway ended in failure, she became a runway model and on a fluke, journeyed out to California to be an extra in one film. That led to another, and another, and another bottom-of-the-bill movie, until she became, in her own words, "The Queen of the B's". Ball of Fire tracks Lucy's pursuit of the superstardom that eluded her on the big screen and follows the actress through a series of disappointing affairs and sorrows until she meets a Cuban conga drummer six years her junior, and falls headlong in love with Desi Arnaz. Working with her husband, Lucille Ball becomes a different kind of comic artist in a program called I Love Lucy, the show that is still running in more than eighty countries around the globe.
Taking us through the development of television both as technology and cultural phenomenon, Kanfer chronicles the difficult birth of the sitcom that changed the world. He details the early executive meetings, the rocky first productions, the shaky first weeks and the unpredicted triumph. We see all of Lucy's behind-the-scenes battles for creative control of the show; her surprising confrontation with the House Un-American Activities Committee when it was discovered that she had once registered to vote as a Communist; her groundbreaking on-air pregnancy; and a series of in-depth analyses of the classic scenes and Chaplinesque slapstick that guarantee her a permanent place in the pantheon of American comedy.
Finally, we see the aftermath of her hard-won fame: the turbulent marriage and painful split from Desi, the man she never stopped loving; her second marriage; and her sad last years out of the limelight and away from the applause.
This is the first biography to examine the legendary Lucille Ball in all her many dimensions: her personal struggles and the torments that forged a comic genius; and, at last, her posthumous influence on television comedy, on feminist scholars and cultural critics, and on the public at large. Ball of Fire is the definitive biography Lucy fans have been waiting for.
"[E]xcellent, compulsively readable....Kanfer's sad, well-written and -researched bio benefits from a wealth of previously published accounts...but her story is still a compelling one." Publishers Weekly
"Kanfer brings a bemused attitude and a keen knowledge of show business to a tale that's becoming as familiar as an I Love Lucy rerun....Entertaining and thoughtful observations bring The Redhead into sharp focus." Kirkus Reviews
"The author of the widely applauded Groucho offers another substantial, riveting Hollywood biography." Brad Hooper, Booklist
"[F]ascinating....Kanfer astutely utilizes...[other bios], melding their material with his own for a compelling overview....[T]he story of Lucy's tempestuous personal life makes for great reading. Kanfer doesn't sugarcoat..." Pat H. Broeske, BookPage
"[S]ketchy and heavily anecdotal. Indeed, some of the humorous anecdotes...have more than a whiff of apocrypha about them....The details...of the glitches and setbacks that befell [the TV show] are fascinating." Roger K. Miller, The Chicago Sun-Times
"The story of their marriage is charming, moving, and ultimately tragic." Mona Simpson, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
From the author of the greatly praised Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx comes the definitive biography of the 20th century's best-loved comedienne. For more than 50 years, she has been one of TV's most recognizable faces. To viewers around the world she remains the ultimate screwball housewife, getting into and out of outlandish scrapes with flawless comedic finesse. Now Ball of Fire looks behind the icon, tracing the comic genius of Lucille Ball to its beginnings in a lonely childhood, when making people laugh was a welcome escape from her fragmented family life. We see her struggle to realize dreams of stardom in a string of bit parts in forgettable movies. And, after a run of disappointing affairs, we see her fall headlong in love with a Cuban bandleader named Desi. Kanfer chronicles the sitcom that finally made Lucy famous, from its rocky first productions to its unthinkable runaway success. And we see the aftermath of her hard-won fame: the painful split from Desi and her last, sad years, away from the limelight and the laughter. Ball of Fire is a moving and entertaining revelation of the most popular woman in television history.
About the Author
Stefan Kanfer's books include The Eighth Sin, A Summer World, The Last Empire, Serious Business, and Groucho. He was a writer and editor at Time for more than twenty years. A Literary Lion of the New York Public Library and recipient of numerous writing awards, Kanfer is currently in the Distinguished Writer program at Southampton College, Long Island University. He lives in New York and on Cape Cod.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like