"Little Ricky Turns 50!"
Yes, believe it or not, it was 50 years ago this week -- on Monday, January 19, 1953 -- that Lucy Ricardo gave birth to Little Ricky! The program, "Lucy Goes to the Hospital," episode #56 of I Love Lucy, had been filmed by Desilu two months earlier. It concluded a seven-episode "story arc" chronicling Lucy's pregnancy -- so much a TV first that they were not even allowed to use the word "pregnant" on the air!
Little Ricky -- perhaps TV's most famous child -- would be played over the years by five young men, including two sets of twins. (Twins were cast because California labor laws restricted the number of minutes a baby could work.) Up first were Richard and Ronald Lee Simmons, who made their debuts in "No Children Allowed," and were featured for the balance of the 1952-53 season.
Photos above: (left) Lucy introduces the studio audience to baby Richard Lee Simmons; (right) A nurse holds brother Ronald, and the babies' real-life mother, Bernadene Simmons, holds Richard.
With the start of the fall season, however, Little Ricky was advanced in age within the storylines, and the Simmons twins were replaced by Joseph and Michael Mayer, who would portray the Ricardo youngster for three seasons, 1953-1956.
In 1956, the writers again advanced Little Ricky's age, and young drummer Keith Thibodeaux (aka Richard Keith) joined the series. Keith's musical abilities made it possible for him to join in the shenanigans, both at home and in Ricky's nightclub. Keith would stay with the show through the end of the Lucy-Desi specials in 1960.
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