Lucille Ball loved the look of Clint Eastwood. It’s why the beloved redheaded comedian often called the movie star a “big hunk.”
In fact, when Lucille Ball stepped away from her acting comfort zone, she wanted Eastwood to play her love interest. That was back in 1960, when Ball’s production company, Desilu, decided to finance the Broadway play, Wildcat. Ball played its star, Wildy. The part originally was written for a woman in her late 20s. Ball was pushing 50 when the play started its run.
Because Ball’s company helped finance the play, she also got to choose who would play her romantic interest. She had several ideas, including Eastwood, who was 30. Eastwood was two years into playing Rowdy Yates on Rawhide, the TV western running on CBS.
Lucille Ball also considered Kirk Douglas (he was too expensive to cast) and Gordon MacRae, who was in the musicals Oklahoma and Carousel. Others under consideration were Gene Barry, who starred in the TV show Bat Masterson and Jock Mohoney, who, in 1962, became the 13th actor to play Tarzan.
Keith Andes eventually won the part. He once played Marilyn Monroe’s love interest and, at the time of the play, starred in the TV series This Man Dawson.
Lucille Ball Liked to Name Drop Clint Eastwood in Her TV Show
However, just because Eastwood wasn’t in Ball’s play didn’t mean she’d stop name dropping him. In 1972 and 73, Lucille Ball twice mentioned Eastwood during her series, Here’s Lucy. Ball said that if she was stranded on a desert island, she’d want Eastwood to be there with her. And in another episode, she wanted guys who looked like Eastwood to rent from her.
So, by 1986, Lucille Ball was a hostess of the Variety Club’s TV salute to Eastwood. The show, which was a combo tribute and roast, featured a ton of stars. Ball, wearing a lavender gown, was one of the last stars to speak about Eastwood. She said:
“So far, nobody has mentioned the real reason why Clint is so popular. Ask any woman. She’ll tell you. Clint, you’re such a big star because you’re such a big hunk. These Variety Club parties have always been a gathering place for the stars — real big shot parties. Unless you’re a Variety VIP or a celebrity, there’s no way to get in. I sent out invitations and I ought to know.
“Well, this morning, some friends called to invite Gary (Morton, her husband) and me to dinner tonight. I said thanks, but why don’t you join us for dinner with Clint Eastwood. Well, they were thrilled, so as a courtesy I called the party office and said I’m bring an extra couple. They said no way, there isn’t an empty seat in the house. “
The place was packed because Eastwood invited all the folks who worked with him behind the scenes for the past two decades.
Lucille Ball said: “That says a whole lot about you Clint, a whole lot.”
Then Ball called Eastwood up to the stage, saying “come on up here where I can get a better look at you, you big hunk. “