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1968 began with a bang for Lucille Ball.
On New Year’s Day, she sold her Desilu production company for $17 million ($123 million adjusted for inflation) to Gulf+Western, the parent company of Paramount Pictures. (This was during the studio’s golden era, when G+W chairman Charles Bluhdorn had Robert Evans running operations.)
And then, on May 19 (in those days Emmys were presented in the spring; they didn’t move permanently to the fall until 1977), Ball, then 57, was presented with her fourth and final Emmy at the Hollywood Palladium.
The Hollywood Reporter said host Frank Sinatra “got the show off to a crackling start” by walking onstage singing “Luck Be a Lady Tonight.” THR said this began “one of the fastest-paced Emmy shows in TV Academy history” with over 40 awards presented in one hour and 45 minutes.
Of course, Ball was not nominated for her original I Love Lucy series that ran from 1951 to 1957 but for its follow-up, The Lucy Show. When it launched in 1962, THR said the show had “the type of slapstick that’s her trademark.”
She received a pair of Emmys for each series. When accepting her award, “the usually glib Lucy was tongue-tied,” said THR.
Recalls George Schlatter, who won that year for Laugh-In: “Having Lucy and Frank on the same show was a gift. I don’t think we’ll ever have that kind of combination again at the Emmys.”
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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