Gale Gordon: Old Time Radio
When you think of Gale Gordon, you think of Lucille Ball and when you think of Lucille Ball you think of Gale Gordon. Ball and Gordon first worked together in 1938 and 1939 on Jack Haley's The Wonder Show where Ms. Ball was a regular and Gordon was the announcer. Then ten years later the two worked together on her hit radio show, My Favorite Husband.
I LOVE LUCY
After three years on the air, CBS asked Ball to bring her radio show to television. Intrigued by the idea but insisting that she would only do a show with her husband Desi Arnaz, she agreed. After retooling the show, I Love Lucy debuted on CBS in 1951. Originally, Ball offered the parts of Fred and Ethel Mertz to Gale Gordon and his radio wife, Bea Benaderet. Gordon and Benaderet did not take the parts because of contract obligations.
Though Gordon could not take the part on I Love Lucy, Ball made sure to have him guest star as soon as she could. His first guest starring role was as the owner of the Tropicana Club, Alvin Littlefield, where Ricky Ricardo starred with his band. Later, when Lucy and Ricky moved to a house in Connecticut, the format of the show changed from 30 minutes to one hour and the name changed to the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, Gordon guest starred as the judge trying to mediate a disagreement between the Ricardos, the Mertzes and the Williams (Danny Thomas and his family guest starred as the Williams family).
THE LUCY SHOW
The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour ended in 1960. Lucy took some time off to gather herself after her divorce from Arnaz and to star on Broadway. During that time, Lucy was planning her return to television and she wanted Gale Gordon on her show. Unfortunately, Gordon was under contract again in Dennis the Menace. She went on with the show titled The Lucy Show in 1962 but she heard that Dennis the Menace was going to be cancelled and she was planning her move to snatch Gordon as soon as he became available.
Gordon debuted as bombastic Mr. Mooney, Lucy's banker. Lucy was constantly trying Mr. Mooney's patience. In the first show, she immediately got into it with Mr. Mooney, got locked in the bank vault and so much more. It was a show full of everything Lucy. Gordon and Ball played off one another brilliantly. By 1963, they had known one another for over 20 years on a personal and professional level plus having worked together for three years on My Favorite Husband, they understood how to work together and play off of one another.
When Vivian Vance left the show as Ball's sidekick, the show's setting moved from New York City to Los Angeles and Mooney hired Lucy to be his secretary at his bank. No matter what, Lucy was always trying to get one over on Mr. Mooney.
In 1968 the show was completely retooled and introduced as Here's Lucy. Ball, her two real-life children, Lucie and Desi Arnaz, Jr, played Lucy Carter and her children Kim and Craig Carter. Gordon's character owned an employment agency and was named Harrrison Carter, Lucy Carter's brother-in-law. The comedic chemistry between the two continued until the end of the show in 1974.
LIFE WITH LUCY
One last time, in 1986, Ball came out of retirement to star in Life With Lucy and she lured Gordon back to work. Ball's character, Lucy, lived with her daughter who was married to Gordon's son plus he was business partner with Lucy's husband. A very complicated relationship. Even after 12 years, it was like no time passed between the two actors. They were still good together. The show, however, lasted only eight weeks and was cancelled. After this last run, Gordon and Ball both retired...mostly. They both made a few guest appearances but that was it.
For her part, Ball said of Gordon, "I wouldn't know how to do a show without him." Gordon enjoyed working with Ball as well and admired her work ethic. He said "Her attitude has never changed. Every show she ever did was always the most important show of her life. And I think that is the secret of her success."