It has been reported that I Love Lucy writer Madelyn Pugh Davis has died aged 90 years old.
A veritable pioneer for female comedy writers, Davis was one half of the writing duo behind several of I Love Lucy’s episodes and with Bob Carroll Jr, penned 39 episodes of the series. Davis was essentially the woman behind America’s comic sweetheart Lucille Ball, writing for Ball for more than thirty years. And let’s remember - this was in the 1950s when female comedy writers were virtually non-existent. Davis broke many barriers and was the first woman to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in the writing categories.
A few years ago, I wrote to Davis and in return, she sent me the following letter which I will now treasure in light of her passing.
Thanks for your nice letter. It was great to hear that people are still enjoying I Love Lucy after all this time. My husband and I often watch the show while we are having lunch and I have to confess, I get a kick out of it. I have to admit, I wrote it so long ago that I sometimes forget how we ended the story.
You asked how I started a comedy career. I have wanted to be a writer since I was about twelve years old when I wrote my first little essay. Fortunately I had wonderful teachers who encouraged me. After I graduated from college in Indiana, I came to California and was lucky enough to get a job at CBS. At that time (and I know this is hard for someone your age to believe, but there was no television, so I was writing for radio.) I was partnered with a man named Bob Carroll Jr and one of the shows we wrote for was called My Favourite Husband and starred Lucille Ball.
We wrote for her for a couple of years and TV was just starting to take over, so CBS decided that Lucy should have her own TV show. Luckily Lucy wanted Bob and me to be the writers so that is how we started on I lvoe Lucy. We werote for her for six years and hen did some other shows for her, one being a show called Lucy and Desi which was a series of hours.
You asked what it was like to work with Lucille Ball. Well, I consider myself to be very lucky to write for her. She was terribly talented and best of all, she was willing to do anything we wrote for her. We would get an idea for a script and ask Lucy if she was willing to do this particular thing. We would then tell her what we had in mind. She always agreed to do whatever we could think up. We would ask her, “Do you mind getting your face all covered with chocolate?” Or, “Would you be willing to work with an elephant?” And she always said, “Sure.” She would do anything if she thought it would be funny.
I appreciate your letter and I am glad you are enjoying the show,
Madelyn Pugh Davis
A true TV legend. RIP.