Looking back at the early career of Lucille Ball in pictures
Two decades before changing television forever, she was a rising Hollywood starlet.
Image: The Everett Collection
It was called I Love Lucy for a reason — its star was impossible to hate. Lucille Ball altered the landscape of television in the 1950s, redefining the sitcom format, trailblazing for women in Hollywood, and blossoming into a true boss mogul. Oh, and she slayed us with laughter along the way.
By the time I Love Lucy premiered, Ball was 40 years old and a seasoned veteran of stage and screen. She worked her way up from cigarette girl in NYC to a contract player at RKO. In the 1930s, she popped up in dozens of films, typically playing dancers, flower girls, nurse or college girl.
By the end of the decade, she was auditioning for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. Imagine if that had happened!
To celebrate this absolute legend, let's take a look back at her first decade in Hollywood, the 1930s.
Hop To It
Ball walks her pet rabbits in the summer of 1938, though the caption notes the bunnies were "studio issued."
Suited for the Summer
Lucy sports a lightweight wool beige pantsuit with brown and yellow trim, hopping into a car in the summer of 1938. You're going to have to trust us on the color; it's a black-and-white photo.
Hair to Stay
Lucy shows off her darker hair in 1938. As you'll see below, she was formerly a blonde.
Ready for the Cover
Lucy poses with costar John Sutton during The Affairs of Annabel, 1938.
Ball stands by her acting coach, Lela Rogers, who just so happened to be the mother of Ginger Rogers. RKO Studios, 1937.
A Rose by Any Other Name
Ball works in a flower shop circa 1936. She often played flower clerks in movies in her early career.
Race to Fame
RKO starlets Lucille Ball and Betty Grable cruise at the auto races in Los Angeles, 1936.
A Fancy Wardrobe
Ball shows off her fashion sense, 1936.
An American Girl in 'Paris'
Ball had a supporting role as a girlfriend in That Girl from Paris, a 1936 picture that tried to turn opera legend Lily Pons into a movie star. It also featured main characters named Whammo, Windy and Hammy. Oh, the '30s!
Ginger and Fred
Lucy landed an early role alongside Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Follow the Fleet, 1936.
Ball shows off her serious side in this striking 1935 selfie.
Fits like a Glove
Ball was dressed for success in 1935.
Fresh Off the Western Air
Lucy steps off a plane in 1935. Welcome to Hollywood, kid!
Ball shows off her fancy do in 1935.
Lucy was a Chocolate Girl, second from the right, in the 1934 flick Kid Millions.
Speaking of chocolate, Lucy looks a lot like Lady Godiva in this 1933 shot.
When in Rome
Lucy landed one of her earliest roles with an uncredited appearance in the 1933 movie Roman Scandals.