Thursday, October 05, 2006

More About I Love Lucy: The Movie!

You loved "Lucy" then — you'll love her again
By Greg Hernandez, Staff Writer

When Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were riding high in 1953 as the stars of "I Love Lucy," they decided to capitalize on their show's popularity by signing to do the movie "The Long, Long Trailer."

What is not widely known is that the release of the movie in 1954 about a couple on a rocky honeymoon meant pulling the plug on "I Love Lucy: The Movie," a feature film version of their sitcom that had already been completed.

MGM, the studio releasing "Trailer," balked because they felt that having the "Lucy" movie in theaters would interfere with the film's marketing.

Desi strikes back

"Desi saw that all the studios that Lucy had done movies for were re-releasing all her movies because she was the biggest name in Hollywood all of a sudden," said Greg Oppenheimer, producer of the "I Love Lucy" DVD series. "But they weren't given any money for (the re-releases) and Desi said, 'Why shouldn't we benefit from it? Let's put out our movie!' "
Ball had starred in more than 45 films prior to the series' 1951 debut, including "Fancy Pants" and "Sorrowful Jones" opposite Bob Hope; "The Big Street" with Henry Fonda; "Room Service" featuring the Marx Brothers; and "Too Many Girls," the 1940 feature that also starred Arnaz, who Ball would marry that year.

Sitcom's 55th anniversary

She and Arnaz then teamed up for the classic sitcom "I Love Lucy," which had its first airing 55 years ago this week. To mark the occasion, the Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills will screen the long-lost movie Friday during an evening hosted by "Will & Grace" star Debra Messing.

"We had heard about how three episodes were adapted into a movie, and it was something we were always curious about and had been looking for," said Ron Simon, the museum's curator. "We're really fortunate that it was located. It's really one of the missing pieces of Lucy's career, and we're awfully glad to have it."

The evening will also include a panel discussion that will include Dann Cahn, the sitcom's original editor, and Oppenheimer, whose father, Jess Oppenheimer, was producer of the show (as well as a writer with Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh Davis).

"I Love Lucy: The Movie" had a successful test screening in Bakersfield before it was shelved, then lost for many years, before being located in a CBS vault by Cahn, one of the handful of people who had been looking for it.

Best of friends

The movie was actually three episodes of the sitcom, "The Ballet," "The Benefit" and "Breaking the Lease," which were linked together with 12 minutes of specially shot footage featuring Ball, Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley — who made up the classic quartet of Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel.

The movie was a behind-the-scenes look at "I Love Lucy," which began with two audience members waiting in line for the show and then shows Arnaz warming up the studio audience and introducing the cast.

As part of Friday's program, Oppenheimer will also screen the unfinished opening credits featuring stick figures of Lucy and Desi as well as some never-before-seen color footage of the "I Love Lucy" set and cast that was secretly taken by an audience member.

"Lucille Ball was so close to the museum and did quite a few seminars for us before she died," Simon said. "We always wanted to have as complete a "Lucy" collection as possible."

That footage as well as "I Love Lucy: The Movie" will be included in a DVD boxed set of 13 one-hour episodes of the show that aired from 1957-60. They will be released as seasons seven, eight and nine, but in a single DVD package. It is set to be released in early 2007.

Where: The Museum of Television & Radio, 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills.
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Tickets: $25, $15 for members. Can be purchased online at or by phone at (310) 786-1019 from noon to 5 p.m.

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