Stefan Kanfer is the author of The Eighth Sin, A Summer World, The Last Empire, Serious Business and Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx. He was a writer and editor for Time magazine for more than twenty years. He lives in New York and on Cape Cod.
Although 14 years have passed since Lucille Ball's death-and 52 since the debut of I Love Lucy-the public's fascination with the redheaded star and her show has not waned. Kanfer (Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marks) acknowledges Ball's autobiography, Love, Lucy; the many previous biographies; various web sites; and her ever-available films and TV shows. Yet he asserts that her full story has never been told, and he's right. A fine accumulation of research (including a 21-page bibliography) balanced by Kanfer's insight into what Ball's contribution means in the context of entertainment history, this is the first study to examine all aspects of Ball's life, work, and business acumen. The author reveals that, as the first woman with major economic power in postwar Hollywood (she eventually headed the production company she started with Desi Arnaz), Ball was a reluctant feminist icon. In fact, Kanfer leaves us with the impression that what this complex woman really wanted was a happy marriage and family, which eluded her. This important book is highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/03.]-Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Cty. Free Libs., Salinas, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"'Ball of Fire reveals all about housewife superstar Lucille Ball. She made the top-rated TV show in America before her husband's serial adulteries practically sunk it.' Sunday Herald; 'A wonderful and poignant book... Kanfer portrays Lucille Ball as insatiably anxious and insecure, a woman whose search for a father figure would only ever find the unlikely and unholdable Desi... Kanfer pulls no punches over Lucy the pain in the neck, but he gives a superb picture of how she and Desi changed television.' David Thomson, New Republic; 'Easily the year's best Hollywood biog' Independent on Sunday"
Early in the run of I Love Lucy, Ball gave co-star Vivian Vance a hard time. Vance decided, "If by any chance this thing actually becomes a hit and goes anywhere, I'm gonna learn to love that bitch." She did, and so did the rest of the world. But according to Kanfer's excellent, compulsively readable biography, Ball (1911-1989) was much easier to love from afar (as was Kanfer's previous subject, Groucho Marx). Despite all the laughter the gifted red-headed comedienne produced, her personal life was unhappy. To save their marriage, she and Desi Arnaz produced and starred in I Love Lucy. It revolutionized TV (it was shot on film with three cameras in front of a live audience), but the all-consuming pressure of the show (and other shows produced by their company, Desilu) pushed them apart and made them absentee parents. Although Ball reigned on four consecutive top-rated CBS comedies from 1951 to 1974, Kanfer sees a decline in the quality of her work beginning in the early '60s. Without Arnaz to dominate her and placate others after they divorced, Ball became all-controlling on her shows, and her temper and tactlessness began costing her professional and personal relationships. "She could be very cold," admits daughter Lucie Arnaz, "and although she told me she loved me all the time, I didn't feel loved." Kanfer's sad, well-written and -researched bio benefits from a wealth of previously published accounts (best are Kathleen Brady's Lucille and Geoffrey Mark Fidelman's The Lucy Book), but her story is still a compelling one. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug. 15) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.