The Madelyn Pugh Centennial

I pen this on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Madelyn Pugh (1921-2011) but the post necessarily incorporates Bob Carroll (1918-2007) as well, as he was Pugh’s writing partner for over 50 years.

Pugh was from Indianapolis (she even went to high school with Kurt Vonnegut, whose own success as a writer would come a couple of decades after hers). Like Vonnegut she wrote for her high school paper. She also worked in local radio, which helped her get her foot in the door at NBC and CBS when her family moved to L.A. She credited the worker shortage during World War Two for helping her crack into the business as a female. At CBS she met and partnered with Bob Carroll. Interestingly, the pair did not get involved romantically; they both married other people. They wrote for the Steve Allen sitcom “It’s a Great Life” before getting to work on Lucille Ball’s radio sitcom My Favorite Husband. This led naturally, to their writing the famous live “vaudeville show” Lucy and Desi toured with prior to launching the television series, as well as all of Lucy’s subsequent TV shows: I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, and Life with Lucy, as well as Lucy’s movies Forever Darling (1956) and Yours, Mine and Ours (1968). They also created and wrote Desilu’s The Mothers-in-Law, and wrote for short-lived sitcoms like The Paul Lynde Show and The Tom Ewell Show. In later years they were the executive producers of Alice, which makes Linda Lavin’s casting as the older Pugh in Being the Ricardos (2021) very special (Alia Shawkat played the younger Madelyne). Life with Lucy (1986) was basically they last project although there was a Polish version of I Love Lucy that used some of the original scripts.

In 1955 Pugh married fellow Desilu employee and future TV impresario Quinn Martin. The pair divorced in 1960, the same year as Lucy and Desi. Her second husband was Richard Davis, a doctor.