Madelyn Pugh Davis, 90, who with her writing partners for the classic sitcom "I Love Lucy" concocted zany scenes for the harebrained Lucy, died Wednesday.
Madelyn Pugh Davis, who, with her writing partners for the classic sitcom “I Love Lucy” concocted zany scenes in which the harebrained Lucy dangles from a hotel balcony, poses as a sculpture or stomps and wrestles in a vat full of grapes, died Wednesday at her home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. She was 90.
Clever turns of the phrase were not grist for the comedy mill that Ms. Davis, along with Bob Carroll Jr. and producer Jess Oppenheimer, began running out of a studio back office in 1951.
With Ms. Davis clacking away at the typewriter and her partners pacing around her, the basic premise was to come up with ludicrous physical predicaments for the show’s star, Lucille Ball, to get herself into, to the eternal consternation of her husband, played by her real-life husband, bandleader Desi Arnaz, who was also one of the show’s producers.
In one famous scene, Lucy’s oversized bread loaf swells from the oven and backs her across her kitchen. In another, she guzzles a 46-proof health tonic, Vitameatavegamin, in a commercial, and is soon mumbling and stumbling.
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Visual comedy is what the team, joined by Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf in 1955, considered its playful work. “We weren’t doing joke jokes … as much as we were setting up physical situations for her,” Ms. Davis said in a 1993 interview for the Archive of American Television.
Viewers certainly loved Lucy, and still do. For four of its six seasons, “I Love Lucy” was the most popular show on television; it never ranked lower than third in any of those seasons. It received two Emmy Awards for best situation comedy and two nominations for best comedy writing. The show’s 179 episodes — all of which Ms. Davis and Mr. Carroll were involved in writing — remain rerun regulars.
“It’s still hard for me to grasp it when people tell me, ‘I’ve seen every episode dozens of times,’ ” Ms. Davis said in 1993.
Ms. Davis and Carroll went on to write for all of Ball’s later television endeavors: “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” “The Lucy Show,” “Here’s Lucy and “Life With Lucy.”
In an interview last year, Ms. Davis recalled some of the many wacky situations she helped devise for Ball: standing on stilts, coping with a house overrun by baby chicks, wearing a beard and — a classic — overwhelmed by a warp-speed conveyor belt in a chocolate factory.
“Lucy would do anything we suggested,” Ms. Davis said.