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Lucille Ball Net Worth

What is Lucille Ball’s net worth and salary?

We, as experts in the field, are here to provide you with the comprehensive information you seek on Lucille Ball’s net worth. Lucille Ball, a renowned American comedian, actress, model, and businesswoman, had a net worth of $60 million at the time of her death in 1989. Adjusted for inflation, this equates to $125 million in today’s dollars. Throughout her illustrious career, Ball starred in numerous successful films and achieved lasting fame with her iconic television show, “I Love Lucy”. However, her net worth was not solely a result of her acting career. She was also a strategic businesswoman who made groundbreaking moves in the entertainment industry.

In fact, Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz made a brilliant deal that granted them ownership of their own show, “I Love Lucy”. In 1957, they sold their episodes to CBS for $4.5 million, equivalent to $40 million today. With this windfall, they built their own production company, Desilu. In 1962, Lucille bought out Desi’s share of the company for $2.5 million. Later on, she sold the entire company to Gulf+Western in 1967 for $17 million, equivalent to $130 million today. These astute business decisions played a significant role in Ball’s overall net worth.

Early Life

Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, New York on August 6, 1911. Her childhood was marked by frequent relocations due to her father’s work with Bell Telephone, and she was primarily raised by her strict, Puritanical grandparents. Tragically, her father passed away from typhoid fever when she was just three years old. Despite the challenges she faced, Ball developed a passion for performing at a young age and pursued her dream in the theater. She attended the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York, where she crossed paths with fellow student Bette Davis. Unfortunately, her health took a toll, and she had to take a hiatus from acting for two years due to rheumatic fever.

Early Career

In 1932, a recovered Lucille Ball returned to New York City to continue her acting career. She worked as the Chesterfield cigarette girl for Carnegie while securing chorus work on Broadway. However, she faced setbacks and was fired from a chorus role. Ball made her uncredited film debut in 1933’s “Roman Scandals” and eventually made the permanent move to Hollywood, aspiring to become a film star. Throughout the 1930s, she took on small movie roles, including appearances alongside the Marx Brothers and in Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals. In 1936, Ball starred in the play “Hey Diddle Diddle” and even auditioned for the iconic film “Gone with the Wind”. Despite not landing that role, Lucy continued to work in movies and theater throughout the late ’30s and early ’40s, gradually gaining recognition.

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“I Love Lucy”

In 1948, Lucy was cast as Liz Cooper in the CBS radio comedy “My Favorite Husband”. The show’s success led CBS to approach her about developing it for television. Ball agreed but only on the condition that she would star alongside her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz. Initially, CBS executives were hesitant, believing that the American audience was not ready for such a unique pairing. However, Lucy and Desi’s determination prevailed. The pilot episode was not well-received, prompting the couple to take their act on the road as a successful vaudeville show. The tour’s success convinced CBS to air “I Love Lucy”, which quickly became a household favorite.

“I Love Lucy” propelled Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz to stardom and also served as a means to repair their marriage, which had suffered due to their demanding schedules. In addition to her acting success, Ball also made history as the first woman to head a TV production company. She and Desi formed Desilu, which pioneered many techniques still used in TV production today. The show’s popularity led to more opportunities. Lucy and Desi starred in two feature films together: “The Long, Long Trailer” in 1954 and “Forever Darling” in 1956. Desilu went on to produce other popular shows like “The Untouchables,” “Star Trek,” and “Mission: Impossible”. “I Love Lucy” remained the most-watched show in the United States for a significant portion of its 180-episode run from 1951 to 1957. Even after the show ended, modified versions aired for three more seasons, solidifying its status as one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms in television history.

Desilu Productions

In 1950, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz formed their own production company, Desilu Productions. Initially, Desilu was established to produce their vaudeville act, but it quickly expanded into a significant player in the entertainment industry. Ball focused on artistic and creative decisions, while Arnaz handled the business side of the company. Despite his lack of business experience as a Cuban immigrant, Arnaz made ingenious moves that greatly benefited their company. For instance, he requested a season’s worth of production costs upfront for the first episode of “I Love Lucy”, rather than spreading the costs out. By doing so and sticking to the budget, Desilu’s expenses were remarkably lower compared to other contemporary series. Furthermore, Lucy and Desi took the financial responsibility for the first episode, leading to significant cost savings for the show. Arnaz’s most brilliant decision was demanding that the show be filmed for syndication instead of using kinescope, a lower-quality medium. This stipulation led to the couple owning the physical film prints and, consequently, the re-broadcast rights. As a result, they earned a massive fortune when “I Love Lucy” became the most popular syndicated program in history. This deal is still considered one of the shrewdest business moves in TV history.

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In 1957, CBS bought back the rights to the show’s 180 episodes for $4.5 million, equivalent to $40 million today. Despite the steep price, CBS’s decision was a wise one, as the network still generates over $20 million per year from re-runs of “I Love Lucy”. That same year, Lucille and Desi used the money as a down payment on RKO Studios and its 14-acre movie lot, which they purchased for $6 million. With this acquisition, Lucille Ball officially became the first major female production mogul.

Desilu continued to flourish, producing hit shows like “The Untouchables” and “The Ann Sothern Show”. Their studio lot also became the production home for popular shows like “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, “The Andy Griffith Show”, and “My Three Sons”. In 1958, Desilu went public with over 800 employees and more than $20 million in annual revenue. Despite their divorce in 1960, Lucille and Desi remained close friends and collaborators. In 1962, Lucille purchased Desi’s shares in Desilu for $2.5 million, approximately $20 million in today’s dollars. She then focused on the production and creative side of the business and played a pivotal role in the success of shows like “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible”. In 1967, Lucille Ball sold Desilu to Gulf+Western for $17 million, equivalent to $130 million today. This sale marked a successful chapter in her career, as Gulf+Western transformed Desilu into the production offshoot of Paramount Pictures.

Life after “Lucy”

Finding herself at a crossroads, Lucille Ball explored various avenues in the entertainment industry as her career continued. She starred in the Broadway musical “Wildcats” in 1960 but had to end the show prematurely due to a virus. From 1964 to 1965, she hosted the CBS Radio talk show “Let’s Talk to Lucy”. Ball made several movie appearances and enjoyed success with her subsequent sitcoms, “The Lucy Show” from 1962 to 1968 and “Here’s Lucy” from 1968 to 1974. During these years, she also headlined numerous comedy TV specials until 1980. In 1979, Ball became an assistant professor at California State University, Northridge, where she taught comedy courses.

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In the mid-1980s, Lucille Ball made attempts to revive her TV career. She starred in the dramatic made-for-TV movie “Stone Pillow” in 1985, portraying an elderly homeless woman. Unfortunately, her sitcom comeback in 1986, “Life With Lucy”, produced by Aaron Spelling, was canceled after less than two months on ABC. Ball’s final public appearance took place one month before her death at the 1989 Academy Awards telecast. She and Bob Hope, her fellow presenter, received a standing ovation. Lucille Ball passed away on April 26, 1989, at the age of 77, from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm following unrelated heart surgery.

Personal Life

Ball filed for divorce from Desi Arnaz in 1944, but the couple reconciled shortly after. They welcomed their first child, Lucie, in July 1951 and their second child, Desi Arnaz Jr., in January 1953. Although they divorced in 1960, Lucille and Desi remained close friends and frequently expressed their fondness for each other. Ball visited Desi a week before he passed away in 1986. In 1961, Lucille married Gary Morton, her second husband, and their marriage lasted until her death in 1989.

All net worth calculations are based on publicly available data. We make our best efforts to ensure accuracy but acknowledge that the information provided is an estimate. We welcome any corrections or feedback regarding the figures provided.

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