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Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  747 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
As a movie actress Lucille Ball was, in her own words, “queen of the B-pluses.” But on the small screen she was a superstar–arguably the funniest and most enduring in the history of TV. In this exemplary biography, Stefan Kanfer explores the roots of Lucy’s genius and places it in the context of her conflicted and sometimes bitter personal life.

Ball of Fire gives us Lucy
...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2003)
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Community Reviews

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Summer Lane
Aug 19, 2012 Summer Lane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lucille Ball is my mom’s idol. She loves that woman. She has every biography, every cookbook and every salt and pepper shaker you can imagine emblazoned with a red heart and two stick figures happily smooching. I Love Lucy is the most famous comedy of all time. I never watched television growing up – modern tv, that is – so I have a deep appreciation for past entertainment that not a lot of people my age do. Therefore, it was only a matter of time until the bug of curiosity bit me and I picked u ...more
Susan
Apr 29, 2009 Susan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I still haven't finished this book, and I don't think I am ever going to do so. Too many other novels are calling my name...maybe this summer, but probably not. I'm giving it between a 2 and a 3, but I'm leaning more toward the 2. How can you make Lucy boring?!
Jack
Nov 27, 2014 Jack rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A rather sad tale of superstardom and the search for happiness. Lucy was the original "type A" personality as well as a "mean girl"! The story of how the original 3 camera sitcom was born with Lucy, Desi and the I Love Lucy show was fascinating. I was also curious about how the kids fared in this environment and it was amazing to see where both ended up today based on the upbringing they had (or didn't have!). A depressing read on most counts and the writer seems not to have found anyone to talk ...more
Amie
Apr 24, 2015 Amie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It wasn't boring per se, but just didn't feel drawn into it. Lucy was an incredibly interesting woman, a study of contradiction. But, as another reviewer mentioned, it felt like the author listed her entire filmography, with co-stars, and that got old. But I did enjoy it. By the end though, I was kind of reading to be done so I could move on to something else.
Becky
Aug 14, 2007 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lucille Ball Fans
Shelves: non-fiction
An avid fan of I Love Lucy, I love bios and I particularly like bios of people I admire. Lucille Ball is perhaps the funniest women in American TV (maybe all TV), but she had some serious issues (hers and that of first husband Desi Arnaz). If you had an entirely positive view of Lucy, this book will tarnish that, so beware.
Michael Rivera
Jul 07, 2007 Michael Rivera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lucy fans
I learned that Lucille Ball was the total opposite of the Lucy character. Not the most pleasant person to work with and quite demanding.
C.S. Burrough
Jun 27, 2014 C.S. Burrough rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
TV comedy mostly irritates the hell out of me, with a few notable exceptions, one in particular being Lucille Ball.

She had that distinct something. I only needed look at her to be triggered into fits of belly laughter. It's a rare gift, we tend to think. But as with so many such greats, Ball's comedic craft was actually the result of decades of hard work. There was little spontaneity in what she excelled at, it was the product of gruelling repetition, so many times did she practice every smalles
...more
Riley
Sep 08, 2010 Riley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As currently on my desire of reading biographies, I jumped back into the entertainment industry. The selection involved seeing the book and thinking, “I bet that would be an interesting read”. A few tid bits I found funny/interesting;

- Desi’s back ground in Cuba was more privileged that one would think. He was no slum kid from Havana. Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III was the son of a prominent and wealthy Cuban Politician. His father was not only the mayor of a major port, he owned three la
...more
Margo Johnson
Dec 09, 2013 Margo Johnson rated it liked it
This book was recommended to me by an avid "I Love Lucy" fan. I was intrigued by her description of a real life woman and her husband as less than ideal. Like the biography I read about Laurence Olivier, I was left with a feeling of disappointment.
Lucille Ball was born on August 6, 1911. She began her career in her mid-teens as a chorus girl and model. Her career started to gain traction in the late 1930s. She began to appear in movies with the Three Stooges, Bob Hope, William Holden and Henry F
...more
Kevin
Aug 28, 2015 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 lif
...more
John
Sep 26, 2012 John rated it really liked it
Quite late did I come to appreciate Lucille Ball. By chance on a recent road trip and overnight stay in Jamestown, New York I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Jamestown was her hometown and where her remains were interred. This is Jamestown, New York not the first English Settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. My wife and I then took the time to visit two homes where she grew up and the modest marker at the family burial plot.

More than 60 years after the beginning of "I Love Lucy" her prog
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Lola
I'm beginning to see a pattern in the lives of all old Hollywood stars. They had troubling home lives (some kind of parental problem), restless childhood and teenage years before pursuing stardom, working hard to be stars, working hard to maintain said stardom, and the stardom eventually being the root cause of their unhappiness. This poses the question: Is fame really worth it? I don't know. If someone were to call Lucille Ball up from heaven or purgatory or wherever she currently is, would sh ...more
K
Sep 08, 2009 K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Melissa
Dec 05, 2011 Melissa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
An interesting look at the ups and downs of life as Lucille Ball

"As a movie actress Lucille Ball was, in her own words, “queen of the B-pluses.” But on the small screen she was a superstar–arguably the funniest and most enduring in the history of TV. In this exemplary biography, Stefan Kanfer explores the roots of Lucy’s genius and places it in the context of her conflicted and sometimes bitter personal life. Ball of Fire gives us Lucy in all her contradictions. Here is the beauty who became a m
...more
Mary
Dec 31, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting look at the life of Lucille Ball. I've never been a big fan of Lucy's, although I respect her greatly as a businesswoman and producer (I mean, she greenlit "Star Trek.")

To his credit, the author pulls no punches in showing Lucy's many contradictions: longing for love yet incapable of expressing it in a healthy way; desperately wanting children yet farming them out for long hours spent in the studio; a pioneering woman in entertainment who wanted to call the shots at every set s
...more
Sarah
Mar 06, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting from beginning to end - both the biography and the star's life. "Ball of Fire" collects from all the works that have come before it and presents a clear and complete history of the world’s favorite comedienne. Kanfer retells not just the glamorous high points of why Lucy is a beloved star, but also the moments of insecurity and brusqueness that were familiar to Hollywood insiders. Kanfer carries this balanced view through the entire book, finishing with a recap of how Lucy affec ...more
Alessandra
Lucille Ball is one of my favorite female comedians of the 1950's. I thought it would be really great to read a biography about her to see how she started out in her road to fame. It showcases her early childhood years all the way until her death. It not only gives her history on her background of fame , but the struggles she had to endure to get where she is today. This books covers detail about her marriages throughout the years, behind the scenes look at what went on behind the cameras which ...more
Angela
Feb 08, 2016 Angela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could not stop reading this book. One night I read for 3 or 4 hours straight. I learned so much and it inspired me to look up certain episodes and rewatch certain parts as well as watch her super password appearances.
Ron
May 02, 2013 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To any child of the forties or fifties, the main character of this book needs no introduction. Perhaps the level of talent behind the persona does, however. I suspect that the author does about as good a job as anyone can in melding an attempt to both separate the two, while at the same time integrating them and coming out with a unified real person. Kanfer's story telling and biographical depiction of Lucille Ball was fun and easy to like. Harder to enjoy is his description of family life at th ...more
Emily
Jan 18, 2010 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting book. I think Lucille Ball is just hilarious; I saw this at the library and just thought it might be fun to learn a little more about her.

The most interesting things I learned in this book were her acting projects before and after 'I Love Lucy'. Of course she had many, I had never heard of them or considered what else she might have done. The author works hard to be unbiased, and often provides us with other biographers' interpretations of events.

Interesting read,
...more
Kimberly
Feb 20, 2011 Kimberly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, anyone, anyone!
Shelves: biographies
Really long, informational book about Lucille Ball! I loved, loved, loved it!! Stefan Kanfer did an amazing job giving you every little detail about Lucy's life. Who was her first date? Where was she born? If you want to know this, read this book! It's amazing and really funny and detailed. I read this book when I was working on a school report about historic women, and I got Lucille Ball. I found it and wasn't sure about it at first, but then I started reading and fell in love!!! Beautiful, det ...more
Lisa
Jan 06, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a sad story. Someone who made so many laugh had a dearth of happiness in her own life.
Amber Bolton
I felt like I was reading more of an index book than a book about her life. It spent more time talking about each movie/show she ever did followed by the year and whoever starred in it. Not much of a personal look into HER. Disappointed.
Puja Sheth
Sep 08, 2010 Puja Sheth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I Love Lucy fans
If you're an avid I Love Lucy fan, this is a great read. You'll delve into how Lucille started off her career in Hollywood, how her relationship with Ricky blossomed over the years (as well as its downfalls) and several other facts about her tumultuous life that you probably never knew about. You'll also go behind the scenes and learn about her friendships with cast members: Ethel and Fred. Overall, after you've finished with this book you'll have a higher degree of respect for this woman that b ...more
Jordan
Aug 06, 2012 Jordan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been watching I Love Lucy for as long as I can remember, and I just adore Lucille Ball! I have always been interested in her and the other shows/movies she has been in, and I was excited to learn more about her. This book provided a vast amount of information, it was pretty detailed and thorough in many places, however, it seemed to lack in the relation of this information. I found it a bit tedious at times, and not as enjoyable as I'd hoped. Overall, the book presented a good deal of inf ...more
Roo
Jul 18, 2012 Roo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If I had to describe this book in one word: tedious. I felt like it was an assignment and that I "had" to read it. It doesn't seem like any detail of Lucy's professional life was missed, but I think the book would have benefitted from "skipping" some of the specifics. EVERY movie and EVERY costar was mentioned. Maybe it's because I was not a part of the Lucy era, and I didn't recognize many of the names. I actually (dare I say it) was grateful for the part of the book where Lucy died because it ...more
Angela
Jun 11, 2014 Angela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like biographies a lot, and somehow I found this one a bit bland. I can't put my finger on why it felt this way. Perhaps it was the lack of actual subject quotes, as there are very few actual statements from Lucille.

However the subject was very interesting, and I stuck with it to learn about Lucille's rags-to-fame tale. You live on in our hearts, Lucy. You set the bar for every woman in comedy.
Ruth Ellen
Feb 22, 2014 Ruth Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
very interesting story. I enjoyed it but it was a slow pace book for me. Glad I stuck with it though.
Wurtsboroboy
Jan 02, 2016 Wurtsboroboy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent biography of Lucy & Desilu
farrah
Mar 29, 2014 farrah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting story, well researched-especially about Desilu. But curiously unpleasant.
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Stefan Kanfer is the author of fifteen books, including the bestselling biographies of show business icons: GROUCHO; BALL OF FIRE (Lucille Ball); SOMEBODY (Marlon Brando); and TOUGH WITHOUT A GUN (Humphrey Bogart). He has also written many social histories, among them THE LAST EMPIRE, about the De Beers diamond company, and STARDUST LOST, an account of the rise and fall of the Yiddish Theater in N ...more
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