The woman behind the Vitameatavegamin Girl
April 21, 2011 5:53 PM   Subscribe

Madelyn Pugh Davis, one of the three masterminds behind I Love Lucy and a pioneer for women writers in radio and television, has gone on to the great Vitameatavegamin commercial in the sky. She was 90.

Hired during WWII in her mid-20s by CBS Radio as one of the first "girl writers" in the industry, Pugh formed what would be a 50-year writing partnership with Bob Carroll Jr. while they were working on Steve Allen's radio show; together they ultimately wrote about 900 radio and television scripts. Through their work (along with Jess Oppenheimer) on Lucille Ball's My Favorite Husband radio show, they developed the basis for what would become I Love Lucy's pilot episode in 1951.

Pugh and Carroll (often in collaboration with Oppenheimer, who also produced the show) went on to write all 180 I Love Lucy episodes over six seasons, as well as episodes of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (aka The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show), The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy, and (the perhaps better-forgotten) Life With Lucy. Non-Lucy credits include The Paul Lynde Show, Those Whiting Girls, and The Tom Ewell Show, the films Forever, Darling and Yours, Mine, and Ours, and serving as executive producers for Alice. Lengthy interview about her career from the Archive of American Television here.
posted by scody (20 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
And Sol Saks, creator of Bewitched, has died at 100.
posted by clarknova at 6:03 PM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

(Oh, that second link is to the NY Times, which I think might pose problems for some folks. If so, here's a shorter obit from The Hollywood Reporter.)
posted by scody at 6:04 PM on April 21, 2011

My mother was pregnant with me at the
same time Lucy was pregnant with Desi Arnas Jr.
and we were both born at the same time.
The first thing I remember about my early life
was watching I love Lucy with my mother when
2 years old. Madelyn Pugh Davis had a lot of
input on my development.
So goodbye Madelyn, you have marked my brain

posted by quazichimp at 6:31 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Part of their writing process frequently involved Pugh trying out the physical bits they came up with for Lucy to see what worked and what didn't, and often demonstrating the bits for Lucy to help her understand what the script was calling for. Pugh must have been a pretty good comedian in her own right to be Lucille Ball's test pilot.
posted by briank at 6:33 PM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I love Seinfeld, but for me I Love Lucy will also be the greatest sitcom in history.

posted by alaijmw at 6:37 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

. (for madelyn)
. (For sol)

Bad day for old school TV.
posted by jonmc at 6:40 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by IndigoRain at 7:11 PM on April 21, 2011

God damn, that is a lot of quality writing.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:25 PM on April 21, 2011

Honey! I'm hooome!

posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:11 PM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by eriko at 8:31 PM on April 21, 2011


Hey, great post scody.
posted by -t at 8:44 PM on April 21, 2011


I was born in 1969. My first memories of what funny was was I Love Lucy in B&W.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:32 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by inturnaround at 10:22 PM on April 21, 2011

posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:37 PM on April 21, 2011

My father loved both these shows very much. My memories of growing up are family hours watching Bewitched and Lucy in B&W with papa


posted by infini at 12:33 AM on April 22, 2011

Bad day for old school TV

I have to disagree with this.

When one of them dies at 90 and the other at 100 you've got to admit that old school TV sitcom writers possessed some kind of secret of longevity.

The secret to long life is probably just that simple. My husband seems to be cheating on me, but eventually I will learn that it was all a simple mistake. I want to be a star, and I might do tricky things to get into the show, but eventually it will all come out as something silly that happened, and we'll laugh at how my ambitions got thwarted. Friends sometimes appear to be enemies, but that's usually because there was a misunderstanding.

The stress just rolls off my back. Life is pretty funny if you look at it right.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:12 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

While we're celebrating the power team that produced I Love Lucy, it's worth adding that the visual look, lighting, and composition of the show were the product of Karl Freund, who, aside from directing Mad Love, doing a bit part in one of the earliest queer films, and winning an Oscar for his cinematography in The Good Earth, had a big role in creating the look of a little film that had just a wee bit of influence on the way film's looked ever since. Whenever the uninitiated scratch their heads of why Lucy is considered to be such an enduring cultural moment, you just have to point out there's seldom been such a perfect storm of talent in television, before or after.
posted by sonascope at 6:21 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by kuppajava at 6:43 AM on April 22, 2011

I didn't know that about Freund. What scope--the guy went from The Last Laugh to Lucy? Amazing.

Though I'm sorry to see the old guard disappearing, they surely did have a long run. I'd like to think it's due to all the laughter.

posted by kinnakeet at 9:01 AM on April 22, 2011

posted by sharkfu at 4:43 PM on April 22, 2011

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