August 5, 2021

Star Trek might not exist if it weren’t for a woman

By Alberto Cano.- Today his name does not resonate with the same force of yesteryear, but long before the times of #MeToo, Lucille Ball It was a pioneer who accomplished the unthinkable in a time when women were invisible in the entertainment industry. All those who remember his figure will have in mind mythical series such as I Love Lucy, but it is likely that they do not know that behind it lies a story of fierceness and impetus to break barriers, reach high and achieve the unthinkable, a story that also contains the origin and success of fictions such as Star Trek.

Lucille Ball (1911 – 1989) en 1955 (Photo by Weegee(Arthur Fellig)/International Center of Photography/Getty Images)

Ball began her modeling career under the stage name of Dianne Belmont, gradually gaining a foothold in Hollywood through roles in RKO Radio Pictures’ B-movies. His success came in the 50s, when after his participation in the radio series My Favorite Husband of CBS the chain asked him to develop a similar fiction for television that would be known as I Love Lucy.

Years before, Lucille Ball had married the Cuban conductor Desi Arnaz, whom he met during the filming of the film Too many girls by George Abbot. Both started the production company Desilu Productions, with which they launched the assignment that CBS had proposed to them. However, Ball insisted the network work alongside her on-screen husband on I Love Lucy, decision by which CBS decided not to go ahead with the series due to persistent racial prejudice at the time. In addition, the pilot they had produced was not to the taste of the network.

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But Lucille Ball didn’t sit idly by. Together with her husband, she toured throughout the United States representing the roles that both would play in the project, an action that was a success and that convinced CBS to begin broadcasting the series. And apart from becoming tv’s first interracial couple, were pioneers in filming with live audiences and in the use of various cameras and sets, a milestone on television.

Also, when Ball got pregnant in the middle of production, decided to incorporate pregnancy into the script, a decision for which they also had to fight with CBS since until that moment no pregnant woman had been seen in a television series. But after fighting tooth and nail, he finally got his way. Of course, with the limitation of having to use the word “expecting” (waiting) instead of “pregnant” (pregnant).

The incorporation of pregnancy into the plot of I Love Lucy It also managed to make this a national event of great relevance, leading to the fact that after giving birth, the image of your son will be on the cover of the magazine TV Line in January 1953. An unprecedented event so far.

But Lucille Ball’s true consecration as a Hollywood feminist icon came in the 1960s, when became the first woman in history to lead a large studio. After her divorce with Desi Arnaz, she bought all her shares in Desilu Productions and began to act as president, which allowed her to carry out mythical series such as The Untouchables, Mission Impossible O Star Trek. Although also having to claw to achieve it, especially in the case of galactic history.

And is that sin Lucille Ball Star Trek probably never existed, since after presenting the project to CBS it initially rejected the series. After the insistence of the actress, they reconsidered and gave the green light to a pilot, although this science-fiction production continued without curdling among the directors of the chain, who preferred to develop a more familiar series such as Lost in Space by Irwin Allen. But taking advantage of the recorded material, Ball approached NBC and introduced them to the project, which was not to his liking either.

However, Lucille Ball knew she had an important project on her hands and decided to produce a new pilot by herself, putting the solvency of Desilu Productions at risk. But the effort was not in vain. NBC would end up giving the green light to the series and it would become one of the greatest television fictions of all time, gathering an unparalleled legion of fans and managing to keep the flame of the franchise alive to this day with countless movies, spin -offs and merchandising.

Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock and William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in the first episode of Star Trek, released on September 8, 1966. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images)

Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock and William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in the first episode of Star Trek, released on September 8, 1966. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images)

Although, as shown in the documentary Inside Star Trek: The True Story, the board of directors of Desilu Productions took a position against the risk Ball was taking with the series, so they voted to cancel Star Trek after the green light from NBC. But at the time Lucille Ball was serving as president of the company and had the power to overturn the board’s decision. Something that, in those years where there was hardly room for female figures in positions of power, set a benchmark.

This woman ahead of her time and mother of two children who followed her footsteps in the entertainment world, died on April 26, 1989 of an aortic dissection at the age of 77. A part of his story will be made into a movie in Being the Ricardos, a biopic written and directed by Aaron Sorkin with Nicole Kidman as Lucille. The film has already been shot and is in post-production, although its release date is still unknown.

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