Still in Love with Lucy

by Thomas Watson

Monday, January 29, 2007

Dear Fellow Lucyfans:

Remembering Bob Carroll, Jr.

Longtime Lucy writer Bob Carroll, Jr., passed away Saturday in Los Angeles, CA., after a brief illness. He was 88.

Bob, of course, was the longtime writing partner of Madelyn Pugh Davis. Together they served as writers not only on I Love Lucy, but of Lucille Ball's radio show, My Favorite Husband, and the various Lucy series that followed: The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show, The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy and Life With Lucy.

Services are pending.

Bob was born August 12, 1918, in McKeesport, PA. When he was three, his family moved to St. Petersburg, FL, where he grew up and attended junior college. In 1941, while confined to bed by a bone disease, he heard about a radio writing contest on local station WSUN. Bob submitted a script -- and won the ten dollar first prize!

Relocating to Hollywood, Bob joined the staff of the CBS affiliate, KNX Radio, as an usher. He progressed from that to head of the mail room, and finally joined the writing staff in 1943. His early writing credits include The People Next Door, Meet the Missus, Hollywood Showcase with Hedda Hopper, The Bill Thompson Show, Montey Wolley, and The Steve Allen Show. He partnered with Madelyn Pugh in 1946 -- and the two wrote together for 60 years.

It was while writing The Steve Allen Show that Carroll and Pugh discovered that Lucille Ball's new radio series, My Favorite Husband, was seeking new writers. They wrote a script "on spec" (meaning they didn't know if CBS would pay them for it or not) -- and the show turned out to be a winner. That first script, "Liz Teaches the Samba," broadcast August 20, 1948, featured a young actor named Richard Crenna. The show was later rewritten as "Young Fans," a first season episode of I Love Lucy.

Speaking of which -- CBS executives were so impressed by the success of My Favorite Husband, and by the comedic talents of Lucille Ball, that they almost immediately started asking the Redhead to turn the show into a television series. Lucy finally agreed -- but insisted her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, be in it with her. Together with head-writer and producer Jess Oppenheimer, Bob and Madelyn scripted the pilot for I Love Lucy.

"We did two pilots that same spring," Bob recalled later. "One with Lucy, one with actor Hanley Stafford, who'd played Daddy in the 'Baby Snooks' show. Privately, we thought that if either of the shows sold, it would be the Stafford show. Which shows how little any of us knew in those days."

Lucy loved the "physicality" of Bob and Madelyn's scripts -- even in radio. "She used to tell us we ought to write for pictures," Bob confessed one day. The move to television was effortless.

Together, Bob and Madelyn co-authored all 180 half-hour episodes of I Love Lucy, working the first five seasons (1951-56) with Oppenheimer, and the last two (1955-57) with Bob Weiskopf and Bob Schiller. With the latter two, they wrote the first 5 of the Lucy-Desi hour shows (1957-58), and served as script consultants on the last 7 (1958-60). Reunited with Schiller and Weiskopf in 1962, they wrote the first two seasons (1962-64) of The Lucy Show, and later contributed scripts to Here's Lucy (1970-74). In 1978, they wrote the "Lucy Phones the President" special, and in 1986 created, co-wrote and served as executive producers of Life With Lucy.

Were that not enough -- Bob and Madelyn also wrote Lucy's "K.O. Kitty" episode of Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (1958), created The Tom Ewell Show, created and co-wrote Desi Arnaz's The Mothers-in-Law (1967-69), produced and co-wrote Mr. T and Tina (1976), and served as executive-producers of CBS' long-running comedy Alice (1977-85), Private Benjamin (1981-83); and Dorothy (1979).

In October, 1981, CBS and Warner Bros. Television hosted a star-studded party celebrating the then 35-year partnership of Bob and Madelyn:

Bob and Madelyn later attended all of our "Loving Lucy" Conventions (1996-2001), participating in panel discussions about their long association with the Lucy series. (In the photos below: left, they pose with Bob Weiskopf and Bob Schiller; right, they pose with original script supervisor Maury Thompson, film editor Dann Cahn, assistant director Jay Sandrich, and Bob Schiller):

In 2005, Bob assisted Madelyn with her autobiography, "Laughing with Lucy: My Life with America's Leading Lady of Comedy." A book-signing event held in October of that year was their final appearance together. (Photo right, Bob and Madelyn are reunited with Dann Cahn and actress Janet Waldo.)

In his younger days, Bob loved to travel -- and Desilu often had to summon him home from Europe to start work on a new season's scripts. He also loved to paint, do wood carvings -- and play a tin flute.

Twice married and twice divorced, Bob is survived by his daughter Christina.


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