Suzan Ball in a press photo
Born in Jamestown, New York, Susan Ball was the second cousin of Lucille Ball. Her family moved to North Hollywood in 1941. Suzie graduated from North Hollywood High in the summer of 1951.
The stunning brunette, who critics have compared to Marilyn Monroe for her shapeliness, was a regular at Bob’s Big Boy Burbank. While filming City Beneath the Sea (1953), she and Anthony Quinn arrived at Bob’s in a top-down convertible.
Suzan Ball and Anthony Quinn
While Susan was of French, English, and Irish descent, she changed her first name to the more exotic-sounding “Suzan” at the start of her film career. She would play the roles of a Middle Eastern harem dancer, an Indonesian princess, a Portuguese countess named Margarita, and the wife of Chief Crazy Horse.
Untamed Frontier (1952) was Suzie’s screen acting debut as the scheming mistress of Scott Brady. As a female menace, she proved very persuasive. That same year, Ball and Brady co-starred again in Yankee Buccaneer (1952) and had plans to marry.
Suzan Ball singing “Handle with Care”
But on her next picture, City Beneath the Sea (1953), Suzie fell for four-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner, Anthony Quinn. Playing a club singer in Kingstown, Jamaica, Suzan Ball sings “Handle with Care” in red lipstick and an off-the-shoulder red sequin gown. She, literally, elicits a growl from Quinn’s character.
Quinn and Ball would star together again in East of Sumatra (1953). While rehearsing a dance number where she was to drop to her knee, she injures her right leg and thinks nothing of it.
Suzan Ball breaks off her love affair with the married Quinn and makes her home with a menagerie of pets in Toluca Lake, right next to Bob’s Big Boy Burbank.
She meets Richard “Big Valley” Long at the Universal Commissary on the set of War Arrow (1953). It was during the filming of this movie she was told that she developed tumors on her right leg. As a sign of support, a Universal Vice President presents her with a brand new 1953 Black Cadillac Convertible. And she becomes engaged to Dick Long.
Suzan Ball and Richard Long
Her right leg is amputated in January of 1954. And only 4 months later, she walks down the aisle wearing an artificial limb in a storybook wedding. Fans lined the streets in Santa Barbara, California. Celebrities in attendance were Bob’s Big Boy Burbank Hall-of-Famer, Rock Hudson, the couple Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Jeff Chandler, and David Janssen.
The director of Chief Crazy Horse (1955) refused to recast the character "Black Shawl," telling the executives, “Its Suzan or no one.” A double was used for her scenes that required walking. In close-ups, she would move her shoulders so it appeared that she was walking.
While rehearsing for a TV series in July of 1955, she collapses, where she is rushed to the hospital only to be told that the cancer has spread to her lungs. What was becoming an illustrious career is cut short. Suzan Ball passes away on August 5th of 1955, only 6 months after her 21st birthday.
“I felt no pity for myself,” she told an interviewer, “Nor have I any feeling of regret. Sometimes I pondered, ‘Why has this happened to me?’ but it was never in terms of a complaint. I sought a real answer. It is not an easy one to find, and perhaps I will never know.”
A tragic Hollywood story