Still in Love with Lucy

by Thomas Watson

Monday, June 30, 2003

Dear Fellow Lucy Fans,

Mourning a Legend

The world mourns the passing of Katharine Hepburn, who passed away yesterday afternoon at her home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Miss Hepburn, 96, had been in declining health for several years, and died quietly "of complications associated with aging."

Upon hearing the news, artist Rick Carl quickly prepared a special "goodbye message" (photo left) and placed it on Miss Hepburn's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At least two of the local Los Angeles television stations featured Rick's work on their coverage of her death.

Lucille Ball and Miss Hepburn, of course, were longtime friends, having first met at RKO Studios back in the mid-1930s. Kate, at the time, was one of the studio's biggest stars, Lucy a "promising starlet." They appeared together in Pandro Berman's production of "Stage Door" (1937), which also featured Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden, Constance Collier, Andrea Leeds, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, and (in her screen debut) Ann Miller.

Left to right: Eve Arden, Kate, Constance Collier, Andrea Leeds, and Lucy

Lucy appeared with Hepburn again 8 years later after both had migrated to MGM. The film was "Without Love," which Lucy later described as "the only stinker Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy ever made." Lucy also winced a little everytime she heard the title -- remembering (as her friend Lee Tannen recounts in his book, "I Loved Lucy") that the day the film started production, Lucy filed for a divorce from Desi. (They quickly reconciled.)

Lucy and Kate, while never Lucy-and-Ethel type "buddies," maintained a professional friendship over the years, calling each other occasionally, dropping each other cards and notes on special occasions. Like most people who first met Lucy in the 1930s and '40s, Kate always called her "Lucille."

In 1986, when Lucy was starring in Life with Lucy, husband Gary Morton tried to interest Hepburn in a made-for-television movie Lucille Ball Productions had developed, "My Sheriff, My Grandmother," about a feisty older-woman who decides to do something about street crime in her neighborhood. Kate called Lucy and Gary personally at home to decline the picture. "Are you still living on that corr-ner?" she asked. When Lucy assured her she was, Kate intoned, "I may just stop by one day and ring the bell." Sadly, she never did.

Later, when Kate learned that Lucy's daughter, Lucie, had named her own daughter after Miss Hepburn, Kate again called her old friend. "Katharine Luckinbill," the great actress said whimsically... "Oh, my, what a lot of syllables!"

Although Miss Hepburn was famous for protecting her privacy, she also took some pride in personally answering a lot of her fan mail -- which continued to pour into her home-office long after she had stopped working. In 1983, after co-authoring the book "Loving Lucy," I had the audacity to send her a copy, along with a couple of photos of herself, and asked if she would be interested in collaborating on a photo-study of her own great career.

She quickly dashed me off a note, half-typed and half handwritten, that ends, "I love looking at the books, but working on one -- just too tied up. Good luck."

As Rick said, she will be missed... but remembered... by us all.


In other news...

Columbia House Lucy DVDs - Special Offer

Gregg Oppenheimer advised us last week that Columbia House has agreed to contribute $25 to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation every time someone signs up for the I Love Lucy Collector's Edition DVD series from Gregg's web-site:

Also, if you sign up from that page, the first DVD is now FREE (instead of $4.95), and there is NO commitment to purchase subsequent DVDs (which are now priced at $19.95 instead of the original $24.95).

If you are not already subscribing to this series, NOW is a great time to start!

"Desilu" Documentary Air Date Confirmed

Producer Kurt Fethke has confirmed that his new documentary, "Desilu" -- focusing on the television career of that studio (and of Lucy and Desi) -- will air on Sunday evening, August 24, 9PM (Eastern) on the Bravo cable network. Mark your calendars!

Have a great week, everybody!


Color photos of Katharine Hepburn by John Bryson;
featured in "The Private World of Katharine Hepburn"

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Original materials © 2003 Lucyfan Enterprises. All rights reserved.
"I Love Lucy" is copyrighted by and a registered trademark of CBS Worldwide, Inc.
Images of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used with permission of Desilu, too, LLC.
Licensing by Unforgettable Licensing, Northbrook, Illinois.