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'I Love Lucy's' legacy lives on 65 years later in 'Ghostbusters,' 'Bad Moms' and more

It's been 27 years since we said so long to the amazing Lucille Ball, but time has done nothing to dull our appreciation for the queen of comedy.

On the contrary, in a year of banner films that focus on funny women, we love Lucy — now more than ever.

Oct. 15 marks 65 years since Ball debuted her wildly popular comedy series, "I Love Lucy," and that seems like the perfect occasion to celebrate her and her legacy.

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And what a legacy it is!

Bettmann Archive via Getty Images

When the future legend got her start in the business, there were few women who were best known for getting laughs — and even fewer who got top billing for it.

John Florea / Time & Life Pictures
As a teen, Ball worked as a model, touting everything from designer couture to cigarettes. But at 19, she was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis and couldn't work for two years. Once she recovered, she began working as an actress on Broadway, and a decade and a half later, she was in Hollywood. Here, Ball looks cautiously over her shoulder at the future in this outtake from John Florea's 1942 photo essay on the entertainer, which touted her as being on the brink of fame.

In fact, Ball's screen career began in the 1930s with small parts in a wide variety of B-movie dramas. In time, she found her funny niche in film, on stage and on the radio. And by 1951, she was a talent with her name right in the title of her own successful television show: "I Love Lucy."

Everett Collection

Ball wasn't just a ground-breaker who carved out an important place for herself with her unforgettable antics onscreen. The redheaded star was a bold business woman, too, who worked for herself behind the scenes to ensure she was fairly compensated and headed up her own production company (alongside then-husband Desi Arnaz), which was a first for any woman in television.

CBS photo Archive via Getty Images

She had even more namesake series successes in the decades that followed — "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" (1957 to 1960), "The Lucy Show" (1962 to 1968), "Here's Lucy" (1968 to 1974) and "Life with Lucy" (1986).

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  • Slideshow Photos

    Remembering Lucille Ball

    LIFE.com released the best never-published photos of the legendary comedienne from the magazine's archivesin honor of her 100th birthday on Saturday, Aug. 6.

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    Awaiting her break

    Lucille Ball looks cautiously over her shoulder at the future in this outtake from John Florea's 1942 photo essay on the entertainer, which touted her as being on the brink of fame after a decade of kicking around Hollywood. (This photo, and the next four in this gallery, has never before been published.)

    Life.com: Lucille Ball -- unpublished photos

    Time & Life Pictures / Time & Life Pictures
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    Sailors love Lucy

    Lucille Ball signs autographs for admiring seamen at one of the January 1944 galas celebrating President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 62nd birthday.

    Time & Life Pictures / Time & Life Pictures
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    Primping for the president

    In this outtake from Thomas McAvoy's spread on President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1944 birthday bashes, Lucille Ball prepares to meet luminaries from Hollywood and Washington.

    Life.com: Lucille Ball -- unpublished photos

    Time & Life Pictures / Time & Life Pictures
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    Lucy and a fan

    LIFE's Walter Sanders photographed Ball in costume for the extravagant dream sequence set in 18th-century France at the center of "DuBarry Was a Lady." In this 1943 adaptation of Cole Porter's Broadway hit, hoofer Ball had the lead role as a golddigging nightclub singer, opposite fellow comic Red Skelton and a rising song-and-dance man named Gene Kelly. She was billed in the movie's trailer as "Queen of the Red-Heads."

    Time & Life Pictures / Time & Life Pictures
  • Image: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz

    Remembering Lucille Ball

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    Got some 'splainin' to do

    Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball strike familiar poses as they survey their new empire, the Desilu Studios, in 1958. The camera set-up behind them is actually one of Lucy and Desi's greatest innovations. When they started "I Love Lucy" in 1951, most TV shows were produced live in New York, captured on low-quality kinetoscopes, then re-aired on the West Coast. The Arnazes insisted on working in Hollywood and shooting their show in advance on film.

    Life.com: Lucille Ball -- unpublished photos

    Time & Life Pictures / Time & Life Pictures
  • Image: FILE PHOTO: 100 Yrs Since The Birth Of Comedienne Lucille Ball

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    Born to be funny

    Lucille Ball was born on Aug. 6, 1911 in Jamestown, N.Y. She would grow up to be one of most iconic comediennes of the 20th century, and was a pioneer of television.

    Getty Images Contributor / Getty Images Contributor
  • Image: FILE PHOTO: 100 Yrs Since The Birth Of Comedienne Lucille Ball

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    On the air

    Lucille Ball on the set of "The Phil Baker Show" radio program in 1938.

    Getty Images Contributor / Getty Images Contributor
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    Partners in life and work

    Lucille Ball and her husband, bandleader-actor Desi Arnaz, pose for this 1950s publicity shot.

    Getty Images Contributor / Getty Images Contributor
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    Happy family

    Desi Arnaz snaps a photo of the comedienne and their infant son, Desi Jr., in their California home in January, 1953. The couple collaborated on their hit series, "I Love Lucy."

    Getty Images Contributor / Getty Images Contributor
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    Classic pair

    Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance, right) also seemed to end up in one wacky situation after another on the hit TV series, "I Love Lucy."

    Getty Images Contributor / Getty Images Contributor
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    Iconic moment

    Amanda Milligan, left, was paired with Lucille Ball in the famous "Job Switching" episode of "I Love Lucy." The episode originally aired on Sept. 15, 1952.

    Getty Images Contributor / Getty Images Contributor
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    City girl

    The actress reviews a script in her apartment at the New York Hilton in Manhattan in 1965.

    Getty Images Contributor / Getty Images Contributor
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    Mother and daughter

    Lucille Ball and her daughter, Lucie Arnaz, pose for a portrait on October 27, 1965.

    Getty Images Contributor / Getty Images Contributor
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    Comedy legends

    Lucille Ball and Buster Keaton perform a sketch for the television show "Salute to Stan Laurel" in 1965.

    Getty Images Contributor / Getty Images Contributor

While Ball's career was one of a kind, it opened doors for other actresses and opened minds about leading ladies getting big laughs.

And we're still reaping the rewards of that today.

In 2016, from "Ghostbusters" to "Bad Moms," funny ladies are leading the way at the box office and beyond, and standout stars, like Amy Schumer, are carrying on Ball's small-screen tradition by making a name for themselves by putting their names right in the title of their shows.

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