“Desi [Arnaz] was a charmer. We used to call him the Cuban arm because he would put his arm around you and say “Listen amigo” and you were done for.” –Madelyn Pugh Davis
While Madelyn Pugh didn’t get much time in front of the camera, she made a notable career behind it. Working as a television writer for one of the best sitcoms in television history, Pugh–sometimes credited as Madelyn Pugh Davis, Madelyn Davis, or Madelyn Martin–made her mark as an exceptional off-screen talent.
Pugh was born on March 15, 1921, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to housewife Louise B. Huff and banker Isaac Watt Herbert Pugh. Pugh also had two older sisters named Audrey and Rosalind.
Pugh was extremely involved in extracurricular activities as a high school student, including a stint as co-editor of the school newspaper alongside classmate Kurt Vonnegut. She attended Shortridge High School, where she was also vice president of the senior class.
Pugh would go on to attend Indiana University, studying journalism. She would soon secure her first professional writing job, crafting radio skits for the WIRE radio station in Indianapolis. She continued her work in radio when her family relocated to California.
In her new home, Pugh found work at NBC and CBS, where she would meet longtime writing partner and close friend Bob Carroll Jr. Typically, she was the sole female writer on staff.
Carroll and Pugh wrote roughly 400 television scripts and 500 radio scripts together, including writing for The Steve Allen Show and, later, for Lucille Ball in My Favorite Husband. The duo would go on to write for Ball’s radio show for over two years.
When CBS looked to transition My Favorite Husband to television, paving the way for I Love Lucy, Pugh and Carroll helped to craft a vaudeville act for Ball and Desi Arnaz. Pugh, Carroll, head writer Jess Oppenheimer, and additional writers worked together to write the 39 episodes per season for the duration of the show. In addition, Pugh and Carroll helped flesh out the Lucy character, which served Lucy well for the remainder of her career. The duo would also write for The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, and Life with Lucy. Outside of their work for Ball, they also wrote for The Paul Lynde Show, The Mothers-in-Law, Alice, and many more.
During this time, Pugh married producer Quinn Martin. The couple would have a son named Michael. Married in 1955, the couple would divorce in 1960. Pugh would marry again to Dr. Richard Merrill Davis and would remain with him until his passing in 2009.
Pugh passed away on April 20, 2011, in Bel Air, California. Her ashes were interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery’s Chapel columbarium. She was 90 years old.
Today, few locations of relevance to Pugh continue to exist. Her alma mater, Shortridge High School, stands at 3401 N Meridian St. in Indianapolis, Indiana. Indiana University remains an renowned institution with many exceptional degree programs.
Her family’s 1920s home at 1446 Fairfield Ave. in Indianapolis no longer stands and is now an open field. Her family’s 1930 home at 5301 Central Ave. in Indianapolis does remain and is pictured here:
In 1940, the family moved to 1509 Maple Rd. in Indianapolis, which has since been razed.
By the 1950s, Pugh had moved to Los Angeles, California, though her residences at 320 N Kenmore St. and 10620 Wilshire Blvd. no longer stand.
Her memoirs, Laughing with Lucy were co-written with Carroll and are available for purchase.
Pugh is best remembered through her writing and the value it added to many beloved comedies.