Dennis McLellan / Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Madelyn Pugh Davis, who with her writing partner Bob Carroll Jr. made television history in the 1950s writing Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s landmark situation comedy “I Love Lucy,” has died. She was 90.
Davis, a pioneering female radio and TV comedy writer whose work with the red-haired queen of TV comedy spanned four decades, died Wednesday at her home in Bel-Air after a brief illness, said her son, Michael Quinn Martin.
The team of Davis and Carroll was writing Ball’s CBS radio comedy “My Favorite Husband,” co-starring Richard Denning, when they and their colleague, writer-producer Jess Oppenheimer, wrote the pilot episode for “I Love Lucy.”
The Emmy Award-winning series about a wacky New York City housewife and her Cuban bandleader husband ran on CBS from 1951 to 1957. It was ranked No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings for four of its six seasons.
“I Love Lucy” has been playing around the world continuously ever since.
When interviewers asked Ball, who died in 1989, what she thought was the secret of her show’s enduring popularity, she had a stock answer: “My writers.”
Davis and Carroll, who were along for the “I Love Lucy” show’s entire ride, wrote a string of classic episodes, such as the ones in which Lucy and Ethel (Vivian Vance) are chocolate candy dippers trying to contend with a fast-moving conveyor belt, Lucy stomps grapes in Italy and she gets increasingly drunk doing a TV commercial for the health tonic Vitameatavegamin.
Davis, Carroll and producer-writer Oppenheimer wrote the first four seasons together — more than 125 episodes. Writers Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf joined them in 1955 and, after Oppenheimer left the show in 1956, Davis, Carroll, Schiller and Weiskopf wrote the remaining episodes.
After writing “I Love Lucy,” Davis and Carroll wrote for “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” “The Lucy Show” and “Here’s Lucy.” They also were on board for Ball’s short-lived comeback series, “Life With Lucy,” in 1986.
Davis and Carroll received two Emmy nominations for their work on “I Love Lucy” and one for “Here’s Lucy.”