Lord, the stage, screen and television actress whose appearances as Kathy
Williams in the mid-century TV comedy series Make Room For Daddy made her a household name, spoke to an audience
of about 70 people in the community room of the South Pasadena Public Library
Thursday night, where she also signed copies of her 2004 memoir, “A Dance and a
Make Room For Daddy (1953-1964) was one of the top TV shows of its time. (The show was so popular that it morphed into a series titled Make Room For Granddaddy in the early 1970s.) Sixty years after the first episode in the series aired, Lord, now 95, still looks stunning and is every bit as witty and charming as the iconic Lucille Ball character she played.
From her 1937 screen debut in the modern-day western Border Café to the 1987 TV movie Side by Side, Lord’s acting career spans 50 years. And yet her memoir, dedicated to working mothers, “is not really the story of an actress’s life—it’s the story about survival as an actress,” Lord told her audience last night.
Contracted into the film business while she was of high-school age, the San Francisco-born Lord slogged for 39 years before achieving full stardom in Make Room For Daddy. “How did I do it?” she said of her long-running acting career. “A lot of it has to do with my faith—in God.”
The last chapter of Lord’s memoir is about her search for what she said is “my real identity.” The past two decades of her life, writes Lord, “seem more like a dream in which someone who resembles me but isn’t really me has washed up on an island somewhere, finding new and wonderful things, but so far from home.”
Claiming her spiritual identity hasn’t been easy for Lord, not least because “society has taken up the worship of sensuality and violence as never before [and] beauty and goodness are not popular.” It’s as if the mainstream media, disseminating “frightening messages of doom and despair, is constantly screaming, “I dare you to be a healthy, happy individual.”
Asked by a member of the audience how she compares today’s television comedies with those of the past, Lord quipped that contemporary comedy is “brazen, fast, quick and loud.” Somebody suggested the word “mean”—and Lord agreed.
“There’s a kind of innocence to these old shows,” said actress Angela Cartwright, who played Lord’s daughter Linda in Make Room For Daddy, and was a special guest during the author’s night. “But there are a lot of lessons to be learned.”
What she loves about working in comedy and drama, said Lord, is that they’re both “healing.” She told the story of a woman who was constantly fighting with her husband and who went to see one of her theater shows, Anniversary Waltz, on the advice of a family member.
“It changed their whole attitude,” Lord said of the couple. “They started laughing at themselves. And that’s what our show did—it showed problems that people get furious about, and you start to laugh at them.”
She added: “So I’ve always believed we’re doing a great deal of good—for marriage and children and all of that.”