Left fatherless at the age of four, American actress Lucille Ball developed a strong work ethic in childhood; among her more unusual jobs was as a “seeing eye kid” for a blind soap peddler. Ball’s mother sent the girl to the Chautauqua Institution for piano lessons, but she was determined to pursue an acting career after watching the positive audience reaction given to vaudeville monologist Julius Tannen. Young Ball performed in amateur plays for the Elks club and at her high school, at one point starring, staging, and publicizing a production of Charley’s Aunt. In 1926, Ball enrolled in the John Murray Anderson American Academy of Dramatic Art in Manhattan (where Bette Davis was the star pupil), but was discouraged by her teachers to continue due to her shyness. Her reticence notwithstanding, Ball kept trying until she got chorus-girl work and modeling jobs; but even then she received little encouragement from her peers, and the combination of a serious auto accident and recurring stomach ailments seemed to bode ill for her theatrical future. Still, Ball was no quitter, and, in 1933, she managed to become one of the singing/dancing Goldwyn Girls for movie producer Samuel Goldwyn; her first picture was Eddie Cantor’s Roman Scandals (1933). Working her way up from bit roles at both Columbia Pictures (where one of her assignments was in a Three Stooges short) and RKO Radio, Ball finally attained featured billing in 1935, and stardom in 1938 — albeit mostly in B-movies.
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