Friday, April 22, 2011

TV Writer Madelyn Pugh Passes On

Madelyn Pugh, who wrote on some of the best episodes of I Love Lucy and other sitcoms, passed on 20 April 2011 at the age of 90.

Madelyn Pugh was born on 15 March 1921 in Indianapolis, Indiana. She attended high school with Kurt Vonnegut and wrote for the school newspaper. In 1942 she graduated from the University of Indiana with a degree in Journalism. She began her professional writing career with the radio station WIRE in Indianapolis in 1943. She moved onto the CBS network, where she met her writing partner Bob Carroll Jr. Together they wrote for the radio sitcom My Favourite Husband starring Lucille Ball. When Lucille Ball moved to television with I Love Lucy with husband Desi Arnaz, she took Miss Pugh and Mr. Carroll with her. Together they conceived some of the best remembered moments in the history of  episodic television. It was Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr. who conceived the episode in which Lucy does a commercial for  Vitametavegmin, proceeding to get more and more drunk on the alcohol laden elixir with each take. In another memorable episode by Miss Pugh and Mr. Carroll and others ont the I Love Lucy  writing staff, Lucy tries to get Superman (played by George Reeves himself) to appear at Little Ricky's birthday party, masquerading as the Man of Steel himself when she fears he won't show. In all Miss Pugh worked on 174 episodes of I Love Lucy.

Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr. would go onto work on the series of specials known as The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, and later on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, The Tom Ewell Show, Vacation Playhouse, and The Carol Channing Show. It was natural that the writing team should work on The Lucy Show when it began in 1962 and later on Here's Lucy. They also worked extensively on the Desilu Sixties sitcom The -Mothers-in-Law, an attempt to revive the madcap comedy of I Love Lucy. They wrote the story for the 1968 movie Yours, Mine, and Ours. They would go onto write for Love American Style, The Paul Lynde Show, Sanford and Son. Alice, and Life with Lucy.

There can be no doubt that Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr. masters of writing physical comedy.  In the course of writing I Love Lucy they wrote some of the most extreme bits of physical comedy in the history of television, from being overwhelmed by the fast pace of a conveyor belt at a chocolate factory to titanic loaves of bread emerging from the oven. Mr. Carroll and Miss Pugh often tested the stunts for the show, with Miss Pugh most often being the guinea pig. They were comedy writers who were rarely matched since and never has anyone done better than they have. They were undisputed masters when it came to physical comedy.

1 comment:

The Lady Eve said...

Thank you for posting on Madelyn Pugh's passing. God bless her for her contribution to "I Love Lucy" - absolutely unbelievable that she & Bob Carroll never won an Emmy for it! I imagine she and he have achieved a kind of immortality, tho...words written by them 50+ years ago are no doubt being spoken on TV in some part of the world at any given moment of the night or day...