Still in Love with Lucy

by Thomas Watson

Monday, February 16, 2004

Dear Fellow Lucy Fans,

Remembering Elois Jenssen

We are sad to report that Elois Jenssen, costume designer on I Love Lucy (1953-1955), Lucy's motion pictures "Lured" and "Forever, Darling," and scores of other Hollywood films and TV shows, passed away Saturday evening (February 14), at the Motion Picture Home & Hospital, where she had been a patient after suffering a stroke nearly a decade ago. She was 81.

Born in Palo Alto, California, Elois was enrolled at the young age of 13 at the Parson's School of Design in Paris. She finished her training at the Chouinard Art Institute of Los Angeles, and, at 23, received her first screen credit as costume designer for the Hedy Lamarr film, "Dishonored Lady." Her next assignment -- designing an entire wardrobe for Lucille Ball to wear in the movie "Lured" -- impressed the star so much that in 1951, Lucy asked Elois to design her outfits for her new television series.

By then, Elois had won an Academy Award -- for her work on the five-member team that designed costumes for Cecil B. DeMille's "Samson and Delilah." She had also signed a new contract with 20th Century-Fox studios, which had no interest in loaning her services out for television. That contract expired in 1953, and she immediately started designing clothes for Ann Sothern's new television comedy, Private Secretary. Within a few months she had renewed her acquaintance with Lucy, and for the next two years designed the outfits for both Ball and Sothern. Her first Lucy assignment: creating the matching outfits for Lucy and Ethel to "tear apart" while singing "Friendship."

In the months that followed, Elois would design everything from Lucy's outlandish "Charm School" dress to the lovely feathered outfit she wore for her dance number with Van Johnson... She put Lucy in a skin-tight red dress for her Marilyn Monroe imitation, and created her famous black-lace rhinestone-encrusted housecoat... She put her in an old burlap bag for her Phipp's Department Store "surprise," and even created the Irish tweed suit Lucy wore in designer Don Loper's Hollywood fashion show.

After leaving Lucy in 1956, Elois worked with such stars as Eleanor Parker and Julie Newmar; racked up a second Oscar nomination for Disney's "Tron;" spent many years teaching; and worked extensively in various posts with the Costume Designers Guild. In 1988 she became a fashion consultant for the new series of I Love Lucy dolls being created by the Hamilton Company, and was in the process of recreating Lucy's famous blue-dot housedress for a doll when Lucy passed away a few months later.

In recent times, Elois' association with I Love Lucy inspired the upcoming "I Love Lucy Paper Dolls," being published in May by Running Press. According to author Allan Glaser, "Elois never tired of talking about her work with Lucy -- and we have tried to capture some of that magic in the book... Happily, she lived to see the great reproductions Rick Carl did of the outfits. I had lunch with her just a couple of weeks ago, and she was in fine spirits. She apparently died very quietly in her sleep."

Allan reminded us that one of the last things Lucy did before her own death in 1989, was record a special tribute to Elois -- a tape that would be played at an industry fashion show... It is ironic but somehow fitting, then, that the last project Elois was involved with -- the Glaser/Carl book -- was about the Redhead...

Here's a photo (courtesy of Lucyfan Michael Stern) of Elois and Allan, at an April, 1990 party for Lucy's secretary, Wanda Clark:

Happy Birthday, Gale

We Love Lucy member Brock Weir wrote to remind us that Gale Gordon's birthday would have been this coming Friday, February 20.

"For years biographers have had the date wrong," says Brock, who has started a new web site saluting the man. "They always reported it was February 2, not the 20th... Perhaps the first time it was a 'typo,' but it was an error that got repeated over and over... Gale's nephew Richard wanted us to get it right on the web-site, and sent me a copy of Gale's drivers' license to prove the real date."

Gale, of course, was Lucy's longtime co-star in The Lucy Show (1962-68), Here's Lucy (1968-74) and Life with Lucy (1986) -- not to mention on radio's The Wonder Show (1938-39) and My Favorite Husband (1948-51)... He passed away June 30, 1995, at the age of 89.

Have a great week everybody!


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