I Love Lucy typically focuses on the marriage between Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, played by real-life Hollywood power couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Lucy cooks up wild schemes to sneak into Ricky’s nightclub act, often including her best friend, Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance).
Occasionally, the 1950’s sitcom featured a celebrity guest star. In the show’s fourth season, the Ricardos and the Mertzes travel to Hollywood for Ricky to star in a movie. While there, they meet the biggest names in Hollywood. These episodes are iconic and memorable with fans. The celebrities, including these 10 blockbuster icons, made the episodes timeless entertainment for fans of all ages.
10Tennessee Ernie Ford
In the show’s third season, country music star, Tennessee Ernie Ford, guest-starred in two back-to-back episodes: “Tennessee Ernie Visits” and “Tennessee Ernie Hangs On.” Instead of playing himself, Ford played Cousin Ernie, who visits the Ricardos from Bent Fork, Tennessee. He uproots their lives and quickly overstays his welcome, but his Southern charm is hard to resist.
Later, in the season four episode “Tennessee Bound,” the Ricardos and the Mertzes meet Cousin Ernie in Bent Fork when Lucy ends up in jail. Cousin Ernie does whatever it takes to help his friends. With these three episodes, Ford was the most frequent celebrity to appear on the show. Already gaining success as a musical artist, the guest star appearances helped the singer establish his own variety show, The Ford Show, from 1956 to 1961.
In the show’s fifth season, the Ricardos and the Mertzes travel abroad for a European trip. In “Lucy Meets Charles Boyer,” Lucy meets popular French-American actor Charles Boyer. Known for Gaslight, Love Affair, and several other movies, Lucy is enamored with him.
Upon Ricky’s request, Boyer disguises himself as a fake French actor, Maurice DuBois. Boyer was a romantic, dramatic actor. However, in this episode, he didn’t hesitate to showcase his comedic skills, participating in slapstick comedy acts, including getting ink sprayed in his face, ripping his clothes, and hitting his head on a door.
In the season four episode “The Star Upstairs,” Lucy is determined to sneak upstairs to Cornel Wilde’s penthouse suite. Wilde was a leading man in the 1940s and ‘50s, known for Leave Her to Heaven, The Greatest Show on Earth, and The Big Combo, which was promoted in the episode.
In the episode, Wilde is fun and playful. He’s relaxing in the suite, and it looks like the actor enjoyed the opportunity to be himself for a change.
Despite the season four episode, “The Tour,” being the lowest-rated episode of I Love Lucy, it’s a memorable episode for fans, mostly due to Richard Widmark’s guest star appearance. The dramatic actor, known for his villainous role as Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death, was another Hollywood heartthrob. In fact, Lucy mentions that Widmark is her “idol” and her “dream man.”
Like most episodes, Lucy finds herself in trouble when she’s accidentally trapped at Widmark’s home after taking a bus tour of celebrities’ homes. Ricky had lunch with Widmark and they arrive back at his home. Like other stars, Widmark mentions his upcoming movie release, A Prize of Gold. Of course, Lucy is eventually discovered, and Widmark is casual and even comical as he listens to her story.
The season four episode, “The Dancing Star,” is one of the more popular I Love Lucy episodes set in Hollywood. Featuring actor, singer, and dancer Van Johnson, the episode also highlights Ball’s hidden talent: dancing. Lucy convinces Johnson to dance with her in his nightclub routine at the Beverly Palms Hotel. They perform “How About You?”, first introduced by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in the 1941 musical, Babes on Broadway.
No one could take their eyes off Lucy as she dances with Van. It’s a beautifully choreographed scene, showcasing that Lucy Ricardo is talented. The episode was originally written for The Wizard of Oz star, Ray Bolger, but he was replaced by Johnson, a close family friend of Ball and Arnaz. He starred with Ball in Too Many Girls (also featuring Arnaz), Easy to Wed, and they later co-starred again in the 1968 family movie, Yours, Mine and Ours.
Rock Hudson was perhaps the biggest romantic lead of the 1950s and ‘60s. Because of this, it’s not surprising he guest-starred in the season four episode, “In Palm Springs.” Hudson appears in the final scene, visiting Lucy and Ethel in Palm Springs.
In an elaborate monologue, Hudson tells the story of a husband and wife who argued over a strange habit. When the husband died, it was too late for forgiveness. Hudson is emotional and heartfelt during his monologue, presenting a rare sentimental scene in the sitcom.
As part of the sibling comedy group, The Marx Brothers, Marx guest-starred in the season four episode, “Lucy and Harpo Marx.” Needing celebrities to attend her party to impress her visiting friend, Carolyn Appleby (Doris Singleton), Lucy dresses up as celebrities, including Clark Gable and Gary Cooper.
Ricky convinces Marx to surprise Lucy at the party, even though she’s already dressed up as the mime comic. In his scenes, Marx plays his signature harp and makes audiences laugh with his facial expressions. However, the best part of the episode is Lucy and Marx’s reenactment of the mirror routine first presented in The Marx Brothers’ 1933 movie, Duck Soup. Marx and Ball brilliantly performed the skit together, inspiring one of the most famous scenes in the sitcom’s history.
I Love Lucy needed a celebrity guest star to kick off its sixth and final season. The obvious choice was Ball’s close friend and fellow comedian, Bob Hope. Ball co-starred with Hope in two prior movies, Sorrowful Jones and Fancy Pants. They later co-starred in two other movies: The Facts of Life and Critic’s Choice. Because the two were friends, their on-screen chemistry in the episode “Lucy and Bob Hope” is impeccable.
The episode incorporates Hope’s real-life love for baseball. Not only did part of the episode take place at Yankee Stadium, but Hope, Ball, and Arnaz also performed “Nobody Likes the Ump” at Ricky’s newly re-opened Club Babalu nightclub. Following numerous comedic spectacles between Ball and Hope, the episode concludes with a sentimental version of Hope’s signature theme song, “Thanks for the Memory.” Based on their interactions in the song, it’s obvious Ball and Hope cared for each other as friends.
The show’s fifth season began with two back-to-back episodes about Western movie icon, John Wayne: “Lucy Visits Grauman’s” and “Lucy and John Wayne.” He was perhaps the most famous, well-rounded actor to appear on the show, appealing to all audiences.
After Lucy and Ethel steal Wayne’s footprints from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, they try (and fail) to get Wayne to step into another block of cement and leave his signature before they get in serious trouble. Wayne didn’t realize how many times he would have to help the Ricardos and the Mertzes.
Wayne was a fan of I Love Lucy and requested to be a guest star, in exchange for just $280 and the promotion of his new movie, Blood Alley. To fans, it was surprising to see the tough Duke perform comedy, but that’s what makes the episodes stand out from others. Wayne was an enthusiastic guest star who had fun with his performance.
“I kissed Bill Holden!” That is the iconic line from the high-rating season four episode, “L.A. at Last.” The Ricardos and the Mertzes have just arrived in Hollywood and Lucy, Ethel, and Fred have lunch at the famous Brown Derby restaurant. While at lunch, they encounter William Holden.
In 1954, Holden was the heartthrob of Hollywood, starring in Sabrina, Sunset Boulevard, and others. Being a professional, Holden never breaks character, even when Lucy has trouble eating spaghetti, and later, when she lights her fake nose on fire. In the episode, Holden is classy and resonates with the level of sophistication associated with Hollywood celebrities of the 1950s.
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