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I Love Lucy

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox television

I Love Lucy is a classic and most popular American sitcom from the 1950s, starring comedienne Lucille Ball, her husband Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley. The series ran from October 15, 1951 to May 6, 1957 on CBS (180 episodes, including the "lost" Christmas episode). Keith Thibodeaux (credited as "Richard Keith") played "Little Ricky" in the last two seasons.

Based on a radio show starring Lucille Ball and Richard Denning called My Favorite Husband. Denning was enthusiastic to continue his role as Ball's husband, but Ball wanted her real life husband, Cuban-born musician Desi Arnaz, to play her onscreen husband. Studio heads were worried that American audiences would not find such a "mixed marriage" to be believable, and were concerned about Arnaz's heavy Cuban accent. But Ball was adamant, and they were eager to have her in the part. To help sway their decision, Ball and Arnaz put together a vaudeville act featuring his music and her comedy, which was well received in several cities.

Contents

The show

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"Oh Ricky, you're wonderful!"

Set in New York City, I Love Lucy is centered around Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball), a housewife, her husband Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) who is a singer and bandleader, and their friends and landlords Fred and Ethel Mertz (William Frawley and Vivian Vance). Most episodes take place in the Ricardo's modest brownstone apartment at 623 East 68th Street - which in reality would be in the middle of the East River - or at the downtown "Tropicana" nightclub where Ricky is employed, and sometimes elsewhere in the city. Later episodes took the Ricardos and the Mertzes to Hollywood for Ricky to shoot a movie, and later they all accompanied Ricky while he and his band toured Europe. Eventually the Ricardos and the Mertzes moved to a house in the rural town of Westport, Connecticut.

Lucy Ricardo is a loving if somewhat naïve housewife who has a knack for getting herself into trouble through her ambitious character. In particular, she is obsessed with joining her husband in show business. Fred and Ethel are themselves former vaudevillians, which only strengthens Lucy's resolve to prove herself as a performer. Unfortunately, Lucy Ricardo cannot so much as carry a tune - nor play anything other than an off-key rendition of "Glow Worm" on the saxophone - and evidently has no other artistic talent. Yet Lucy is determined to show everyone around her that she is much more than an ordinary housewife. A typical I Love Lucy episode involves one of Lucy's ambitious but hare-brained schemes, whether it be to sneak into Ricky's nightclub act, find a way to associate with celebrities, show up her fellow woman's club members, or simply try to better her life, usually she ends up in some comedic mess, often dragging in Ethel as her reluctant companion. "Lucy! You got some 'splainin' to do!" became a famous cry of Ricky Ricardo.

Innovative techniques

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"It's so tasty, too!"

At the time, most television shows were shot in New York City, and a low-quality 16mm kinescope print was made of the show. But Ball was pregnant at the time, and she and Arnaz therefore insisted on filming the show in Hollywood, California. The duo, along with co-creator Jess Oppenheimer, then decided to shoot the show on 35 mm film in front of a live studio audience, with three cameras (this technical innovation is now standard for sitcoms). The result was a much sharper image than other shows of the time, and the audience reactions were far more authentic than the "canned laughter" used on most sitcoms.

Highlights

Jess Oppenheimer, Bob Carroll, and Madelyn Pugh, writers of Ball's radio show, scripted the series. One of the most memorable episodes was titled "Lucy Does a Commercial", filmed during the first season (episode 30 of 35) on March 28, 1952, and first aired on May 5 of that year. In this episode Lucy manages to get a role as the "Vitameatavegamin girl" and is tasked with trying to sell the public a tonic that has healthy amounts of vitamins, meat, vegetables, minerals - and the less than healthy dose of 23% alcohol. During a number of rehearsals, Lucy has to drink some of the dreadful-tasting tonic and makes grimacing facial expressions while saying, "It's so tasty, too. Just like candy!". But due to the high alcoholic content Lucy begins to get drunk and slur her lines (especially the pronunciation of "Vitameatavegamin"), but also begins to find the taste more palatable. By the time she goes live with the commercial, her lines "Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular?" become "Do you pop out at parties? Are you un-poopular?" and then she chugs the Vitameatavegamin bottle to the roaring laughter of the studio audience.

In November of 2001, fans voted this episode as their all-time favorite during a 50th anniversary I Love Lucy television special. Other memorable Lucy moments mentioned in the vote were: Lucy and Ethel working in a chocolate factory, the birth of Little Ricky (see below), Lucy stomping grapes in Italy and Lucy making an extremely long loaf of bread.

On January 19, 1953 68% of all United States television sets were tuned in to I Love Lucy to watch Lucy give birth. The next month on February 18 Ball and Arnaz signed an $8,000,000 contract to continue I Love Lucy through 1955. After the end of the weekly series, the actors reunited for monthly one-hour specials under the title The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.


Trivia

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"Speed it up a little!"
  • Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet were originally approached for the roles of Fred and Ethel, but neither could accept due to previous commitments.
  • At various times, Ethel's middle name was Mae, Roberta, and Louise.
  • The Mertz's kitchen was never shown except in the episode, "Never Do Biz With Friends".
  • Lucille Ball liked naming supporting characters after real-life people. Carolyn Appleby was one of her teachers, and Marion Strong was a friend in Jamestown, New York.
  • Kathryn Card, who played Lucy's scatterbrained mother, first appeared in the series as a slovenly housewife who mistakenly believes Ricky Ricardo has invited her to join him on a date at the Tropicana.
  • Barbara Pepper, later featured as Doris Ziffel on the series Green Acres, frequently had one or two lines in a crowd scene. Her friendship with Ball dated back to the film Roman Scandals, in which both appeared as Goldwyn Girls.
  • Many true facts about Ball and Arnaz made it into the series. Like Ball, Lucy Ricardo attended high school in Celeron, New York, and the Ricardos were married at the Byram River Beagle Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, just as the Arnazes had been.
  • Reportedly, the longest laugh in any sitcom ever - 65 seconds - was heard in the episode Lucy Does the Tango, during which Lucy - her jacket filled with raw eggs - slams into Ricky and breaks them while rehearsing a tango routine for the PTA show.
  • Ball and Arnaz capitalized on the series' popularity by starring in Vincente Minnelli's 1953 film The Long, Long Trailer as Tacy and Nicky Collini, two characters very similar to Lucy and Ricky.
  • I Love Lucy is commonly spoofed, including on an episode of The Fairly Oddparents, in which Cosmo and Wanda go into a TV and star in a fictional show called I Love Wanda and a recent episode of the That '70's Show feature
  • Ethel Mertz née Potter is originally from Albequerque, New Mexico
  • Ethel Mertz and Betty Ramsey, the neighbor from the later seasons, were childhood friends.
  • Kathryn Card who played Lucy's mother also appeared in an early episode as Minnie Finch, a woman Lucy suspected was having an affair with Ricky.

Memorable Quotes

  • "Marion, stop cackling. I've been waiting ten years for you to lay that egg." ~Lucy
  • "Well, I'm your Vitameatavigivac girl! Are you tired, run down, listless? Do you pop out at parties? Are you un-poopular? Well, are you?" ~Lucy (drunk)
  • "Lucy, you have some 'splainin' to do." ~Ricky
  • "And as I recall, it was till death do us part. That event is about to take place right now!!" ~Ricky

Cast Credits

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Lucy the kleptomaniac
  • Lucille Ball .... Lucille 'Lucy' Esmeralda MacGillicuddy Ricardo
  • Desi Arnaz .... Enrique 'Ricky' Alberto Ricardo y de Acha III
  • Vivian Vance .... Ethel Mae Roberta Louise Potter Mertz
  • William Frawley .... Frederick 'Fred' Hobart Edie Mertz I
  • Kathryn Card .... Mrs. MacGillicuddy (1955-1956)
  • Mary Jane Croft .... Betty Ramsey (1957)
  • Jerry Hausner .... Jerry, Ricky's agent (1951-1954)
  • Bob Jellison .... Bobby, the Hollywood bellboy (1954-1955)
  • Keith Thibodeaux .... Ricky Ricardo, Jr. (1956-1957) (as Little Ricky)
  • Joseph A. & Michael Mayer .... Ricky Ricardo, Jr. (baby) (1953-1954)
  • Frank Nelson .... Ralph Ramsey (1957)
  • Elizabeth Patterson .... Mrs. Mathilda Trumbull (1953-1956)
  • Richard & Ronald Lee Simmons .... Ricky Ricardo, Jr. (baby) (1954-1955)
  • Doris Singleton .... Caroline Appleby (1953-1957)

References

  • Joe Garner, Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgetable Moments (Andrews McMeel Publishing; 2002) ISBN 0-7407-2693-5
  • Bart Andrews, The 'I Love Lucy' Book (Doubleday & Company, Inc.; 1976)
  • Coyne Steven Sanders & Tom Gilbert, Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (William Morrow & Company, Inc.; 1993)

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