Lucille Ball the Communist: Why the FBI Kept Tabs on the ‘I Love Lucy’ Star
Lucille Ball was one of the most beloved stars of her time. And she is still deeply adored today. While Lucy Ricardo got up to all sorts of hi-jinx in I Love Lucy, Ball lived a relatively quiet life. But the actor did raise a few eyebrows in 1953 when she found herself involved in an investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee where she admitted that she’d registered to vote as a Communist in 1936.
Why Lucille Ball registered to vote as a Communist
During the 1953 investigation, Ball admitted that she had indeed registered as a Communist in 1936. But she said she only did so to appease her ailing socialist grandfather. She said she was never actually an active member of the party.
The committee forgave her and Ball’s millions of fans, as well as CBS, understood. So everyone moved on. Everyone except J. Edgar Hoover.
The FBI continued to keep an eye on Lucille Ball
According to a 1989 Washington Post article, The FBI director continued to collect evidence about Ball. Though, the FBI claims it never officially investigated her.
The Post obtained the FBI’s secret file on Ball and her then-husband, Desi Arnaz. In the file, there are memos that are marked “confidential” and addressed to Hoover with the memo, “pursuant to your request.”
The FBI’s findings include The Daily Worker, a communist newspaper, alleging in 1951 that Ball was on a list of celebrities that had, at one time, “been vocal in their opposition to [Sen. Joseph] McCarthy but then later kept their mouths shut.”
In 1946, Arnaz performed in a show sponsored by the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, an organization the FBI claimed was a communist front. Information regarding Arnaz’s appearance was included in the file.
Additionally, in 1973, a Hollywood writer said they attended a Communist Party membership meeting at Ball’s house. But Ball wasn’t there.
J. Edgar Hoover called Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz some of his ‘favorite stars’
In Hoover’s requested file on Ball and Arnaz’s possible involvement in the Communist party, he also kept a clipping of an Associated Press article about Arnaz being arrested in 1959 for public drunkenness. The Post notes that “Hoover was notorious for collecting ammunition against his enemies to use for future face-offs.”
It’s no secret that Hoover wasn’t a fan of The Untouchables, a series produced by Ball and Arnaz’s Desilu Studios that praised Treasury agent Eliot Ness for accomplishments achieved by the FBI. The Post reports that Hoover “had his G-men monitor the show for mistakes.”
And yet, in a 1956 interview, Hoover said that Ball and Arnaz made his list of “favorite stars.”
One of Hoover’s fans didn’t appreciate the FBI director’s interview answer and wrote him a letter telling him so. The letter is included in the file.
“I’m wondering if there is not a mistake or misquote of some kind since it lists Lucy and Desi among your favorite entertainers who you think set a good example for the youth of America,” read the letter.
Of course, today, Ball is not remembered for her involvement in McCarthy’s communist witch hunt, but her contribution to the world of entertainment. She died on April 26, 1989. Her death was felt around the world.