Lucille Ball explains 1936 Communist link
Sep. 12, 1953: Actress Lucille Ball laughs as her husband, Desi Arnaz, contemplates an answer during a news conference about Ball’s short association with the Communist Party in 1936. Transcripts on the Ball family investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee were released that day.
This photo accompanied a non-byline Page 1 Los Angeles Times story that reported:
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz faced the press beside the swimming pool of their Chatsworth ranch home yesterday and said they were glad the truth was out about Lucy’s fleeting affair with Communist politics 17 years ago.
The nation’s top television star and her costarring husband were interviewed at home as the House Un-American Activities Committee released the transcript of her secret testimony before it. …
Miss Ball, the red-haired star of TV’s “I Love Lucy.” said she was confident the current stir over her registration as a Communist in 1936 would not damage her career.
“Hurt me?” she said. “I have more faith in the American people than that. I think any time you give the American people the truth they’re with you.” …
As she had in her sworn testimony before the committee, Lucy insisted she knew nothing of politics in 1936 and registered as a Communist only to please her grandfather, Fred Hunt, who was a zealous Socialist.
In a sidebar story the same morning, The Times reported:
A story of a loving, close-knit family that humored the wishes of a doting grandfather emerged yesterday from the transcripts of testimony by the mother and brother of Actress Lucille Ball.
Mrs. Desiree E. Ball and her son, Fred H. Ball, now a salesman in Scottsdale, Ariz., both testified they had registered to vote communist in 1936 as the actress did to please “Grandpa.”
Lucille Ball’s fans overwhelmingly supported her. In s short article on Sept. 14, 1953, The Times reported:
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, comforted by stacks of telegrams from well-wishers, luxuriated in the privacy of their Chatsworth home yesterday, glad that the storm was over….
Desi said that they felt no resentment over their questioning by hordes of newspaper reporters since Lucy’s 1936 registration as a Communist was made public by the House committee.
“We’re lucky this happened to us in America, where newspapermen ask the questions,” Desi said. “In other countries they shoot first and ask the questions later.”
The top image was Page 1 lead art on the Sept. 13, 1953, edition of The Times. The photo below was published on the same day with the jump of the Page 1 story.
Sept. 12, 1953: Television Stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were joined by Miss. Ball’s dog, Pinto, when they met reporters at their home Saturday in regard to the actress’ testimony on Communism. (Original caption published Sept. 13, 1953.) Credit: Los Angeles Times
September 15, 2011, 9:38 am
If I remember correctly, Desi Arnaz ended the press conference with a joke (paraphrased): "The only thing Red about Lucy is her hair. And that's not real either!"
September 15, 2011, 4:33 pm
Thank you for posting this, and reminding everyone about a very disturbing period on American history, when people's constitutional right to free association and free speech was so sorely questioned by those in power.
The fact of the matter is that during the late 1920s and early '30s, the Communist Party was, after the Democrats and Republicans, the third largest political party in the United States. There were a lot of people in the 1950s — certainly more than were ever willing to admit publicly, given the dark persecutorial tone of the times — who in their younger days, like Lucille Ball, had family members who had been Communists, or who had associated with Communists, or who had been affiliated with the Communist Party. While it was no big deal for them in the '30's, it was a starkly different atmosphere 20 years later, thanks in large part to Sen. Joe McCarthy.
September 15, 2011, 7:46 pm
J Edgar was just as bad and a lot more ruthless! Sad!
September 17, 2011, 7:48 pm
The name of the committee was HCUA–House Committee on Un-American Activiities
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