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Laughing with Lucy: My Life with America's Leading Lady of Comedy Hardcover – September 1, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fans who have read Geoffrey Mark Fidelman's exhaustive The Lucy Book or Jess Oppenheimer's Laughs, Luck... and Lucy won't find much new material here. The lure of this volume is its amiable and knowledgeable authors: Davis and her longtime writing partner Carroll co-wrote virtually every episode of I Love Lucy and continued to write on all of Lucille Ball's sitcoms through 1986's Life with Lucy. The duo gently clarifies tales that have become exaggerated over the years (e.g., Vivian Vance's contract did not stipulate she weigh 20 pounds more than Ball) and offers amusing examples of script shorthand (e.g., "SPIDER" meant Lucy should make her "eeuh!" sound). They praise Desi Arnaz as a staunch defender of his writers and an unsung behind-the-scenes innovator. Ball was "a beautiful clown" and a perfectionist, but, they cryptically note, "everyone is complicated, and Lucy was more complicated than most." Although tales of working with Ball take up the majority of the book, Davis also offers a fascinating look at being one of the few female comedy writers working on radio and TV in the 1940s and '50s, and lightly touches on her post-Lucy successes writing/producing Alice. (Sept. 30)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher

Lucy fans will love: • How the writers dealt with Lucy’s real-life pregnancy without ever using the "p" word on-air • That elements of Desi and Lucy’s real life were mirrored in the scripts • Details from Davis’s own past and how they made their way into the show (Mertz was the last name of Davis’s neighbors growing up in Indiana) • Nearly 100 photos, from classic moments in Lucy’s TV shows to never-before-seen backstage shots

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Clerisy Press, Emmis Books (September 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578602475
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578602476
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,371,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mark Baker - Carstairs Considers HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
While the name Madelyn Pugh Davis might not be super familiar, almost everyone is familiar with her work. As one of the first women writing in TV, she co-wrote nearly every episode of the classic sit-com "I Love Lucy." This fascinating memoir is a behind the scenes look at her life and work.

Madelyn started out wanting to be a foreign correspondent. But, since this was the 30's, women didn't get those kinds of jobs, and she had to settle for anything she could get. Moving to California, she started working at CBS, first in news, then in entertainment when she started working on a weekly radio comedy program called "My Favorite Husband" starring a comedian named Lucille Ball. It was also during this time that she hooked up with Bob Carroll, Jr., her long time writing partner.

The book spends lots of time talking about "I Love Lucy," starting with the birth of the show. There are many familiar stories here, the network's reluctance to make a show about an interracial couple, Desi's desire to film the show in front of a live audience, the making of the pilot, Lucy's pregnancy in season two, etc. Madelyn also debunks a few myths that have sprung up over the years, such as Vivian Vance's weight being in her contract and Lucy's fake nose catching fire in a season four episode.

The book does talk about other things. Being a memoir, we also get some talk about Madelyn's life. She doesn't spend too long at it, but it continues to entertain. It also gives an interesting view of Los Angeles in the 1940's. It's certainly changed over the years.

Madelyn also talks about her post "I Love Lucy" work, including all of Lucy's other TV shows and the classic "Alice.
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This book is just as the title says: Madelyn Pugh Davis's relationship with Lucille Ball as part of the writing team for several of Lucy's shows. It was easy and fun to read; sometimes reiterating stories I had heard previously, but most often not. Madelyn did a good job of imparting fresh stories without dishing any dirt. A good read, but the book is no doubt for people who really love Lucy - a reader with just a casual interest may get bored.
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Format: Hardcover
Madelyn Pugh Davis tells us upfront that this is no tell-all tome...that to dish on longterm employers Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz would be unfair since they are dead and cannot defend themselves.

She also adds that as the writers of "I Love Lucy," she and her partner Bob Carroll Jr. were in the dark much of the time about personal scandal and gossip.

This is the crux of her book. Desi Arnaz called her the 'Girl Writer' when he wasn't mangling her given name by calling her 'Mallen.' He called Pugh and Carroll 'the kids' or as he pronounced it, 'the kits.'

Pugh's stories of her own beginnings in the TV and radio writing trades would be absorbing enough - but chuck Lucy, Desi and company in the mix and you have yourself a page turner.

Pugh writes with warmth, enthuiasm and energy (qualities by the way in which she admired Arnaz).

Straight out of college, she was turned down for a job as a newsletter writer for a meat-packing company. As she wittily points out, the meat-packing company smelled bad and somebody with the last name of Pugh shouldn't be working in a place like that.

Her adventures up to and including all the incarnations of "Lucy" are absorbing. She dishes in an amusing, professional and tasteful way about hard-headed Lucy and working with gues stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton - and that famous 69 carat diamond ring.

As an ardent Lucy fan,I loved hearing about how Pugh and Bob Carroll jr. drove up to northern Calfornia to meet the North famly whose marrriage and staggering 20 children led to the screenplay for the Ball-Fonda classic, "Yours Mine And Ours." (A Desi Arnaz idea).

There are tons of nuggets here - both professional and private. When Pugh married her college sweetie, Dr.
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Format: Hardcover
How many comedy writers have surrived so long with one performer? The author started with Lucille Ball on the radio series My Favorite Husband. She and her partner Bob Carroll Jr. wrote for the full 6 year run of I Love Lucy. (Jess Oppenheimer, who created the series, left after the 5th season. By the way, this book makes a great companion to his book.) They also worked on the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, and Here's Lucy. In between, they wrote the story for her feature film, "Yours, Mine, and Ours," plus various specials. Sadly, the final series, Life With Lucy, is best forgotten. The author does a good job of dealing with various stories regarding I Love Lucy and its main star. You won't read about the problems that broke up the Ball-Arnaz marriage here. Ditto for the strife between Vivian Vance and William Frawley. There's also no mention of the scare regarding Lucy's onetime registration with the Communist party. Ms. Davis may have wished to protect the now deceased stars. Or she wasn't directly involved in such matters. This book provides a wonderful behind-the scenes look at Lucy's various series. Ms. Davis tried out many of the stunts beforehand. Would a woman be capable of them? While her partner is listed as a co-writer, this is essentially her story. We learn about the struggles she had as a woman comedy writer. There's material on her personal life too. The author writes with great affection for both Lucy and Desi. She notes that his contributions were often overlooked. Ms. Davis and Mr. Carroll later became producers on Alice. I caught one goof in the book. Earl Hamner did create The Waltons. But he wasn't involved in Little House On The Prairie. Still, this is a very good read. Please check it out.
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