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I Love Lucy: We Have Some 'Splainin To Do...


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#1

TudorQueen

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Posted Jan 17, 2004 @ 11:12 PM

Ok, I've seen some Lucy-hate on other threads, the occasional bit of Lucy-love, but to my great surprise there is no thread in Sitcoms for what is generally considered to be one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. Love it or hate it - and I imagine there's a fair division here - it's hard to deny that "I Love Lucy" was highly influential and broke all kinds of ground: First comedy filmed like, well, a film, and in such a way that the rerun was virtually created. First on-screen pregnancy. A format that became one of the standard issue structures of the genre. And more.

And I stand by the opinion that it was very funny. The vineyard sequence in 'Lucy's Italian Movie' [aka The One With The Grape Stomping] is not only my favorite Lucy moment, it's probably my overall favorite sitcom moment ever. I also loved the candy factory scenes in 'Job Switching' - the chocolate fight perhaps a little more than the famous assembly line scene - and almost every episode where Lucy crashed Ricky's nightclub act, but ironically, I'm less fond of the "Viteameatavegamin" sequence than most Lucy fans.

I'd love to see some discussion of "I Love Lucy" here, and can certainly handle dissenting opinions.
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#2

Blake

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 8:39 AM

I love it. Okay, sadly, it's been a few years since I've seen it, but I did love it and I imagine I still would.
There's an interesting discussion of the show here. Among other things, the article suggests that "the tranquil status quo that begins and ends each episode is less an act of submission than a sly joke; the chaos in between reveals the folly of ever trying to contain Lucy."

Edited by Blake, Jan 18, 2004 @ 8:40 AM.

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#3

RainIsBeautiful

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 12:04 PM

Lucy hate? Really? Who on earth could hate Lucille Ball?

I bought her autobiography, "Love, Lucy" several years ago, and have read it many times since then. It's an amazing story of her childhood and rise to stardom, and ends right after her marriage to Gary Morton. Speaking of Desi, he may have had a problem with the D's (drinking and dames), but I still think he was uber-hot. :)
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#4

TudorQueen

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 2:58 PM

Lucy hate? Really? Who on earth could hate Lucille Ball?


You'd be surprised. Check out the "TV Potluck" sections - "TV's Funniest Moments" and "TV's Most Embarrassing Moments" both have pockets of Lucy-hate.

I bought her autobiography, "Love, Lucy" several years ago, and have read it many times since then. It's an amazing story of her childhood and rise to stardom, and ends right after her marriage to Gary Morton. Speaking of Desi, he may have had a problem with the D's (drinking and dames), but I still think he was uber-hot. :)


Not only was he hot, but he was brilliant. Lucy always said that he was a production genius and many of the things that made "I Love Lucy" unique were either his idea, or something that evolved from his suggestions. He also allegedly had an unerring instinct for what was funny - she said she never did - and what material suited her. Even after their divorce she turned to him for career advice. And until the alcohol and other problems exhausted him, he did a heck of a job running Desilu.

Stefan Kanter has just come out with a first-rate biography of Lucy called "Ball of Fire" that is exhaustive, entertaining and reasonably objective. I recommend it highly.
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#5

cmkrcwi

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 3:07 PM

I've seen every episode many times yet they're still as funny now as they were when I first saw them. Same thing goes for many of the other 50's and 60's era sitcoms -- DICK VAN DYKE, ANDY GRIFFITH, The HONEYMOONERS, etc.

I do find that younger people tend not to like I LOVE LUCY and the main bone of contention seems to be that they find her character silly and childish and if she wanted to get into show business why didn't she just go out and audition and get a job?

I always liked the episode where they decide to live like they would have at the turn of the century especially when Ethel and Lucy bake a loaf of bread and the episodes featuring John Wayne. But I think every episode is funny. Some are funnier than others -- I'm not a big fan of the European tour story line -- but they're all funny.
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#6

RainIsBeautiful

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 3:20 PM

TudorQueen, ITA on Desi's brilliance. Is there anyone even comparable today?

cmkrcwi said:

...especially when Ethel and Lucy bake a loaf of bread...

One thing that was great about that episode is that the huge loaf that came out of the oven? Was real bread. It was a 10-foot long loaf of rye that fed the crew for weeks afterwards.

I just ran up on a funny exerpt in her book that I thought y'all would like to hear...

In addition to the production company, we also had a merchandising business.  It was possible to furnish a house and dress a whole family with items carrying our I Love Lucy label.  Red Skelton did a hilarious TV skit poking at this.  As he walked into his house, his wife shouted, "Don't track mud on my I Love Lucy rug!"  As he started to sink into a chair, she added, "Don't mess up my I Love Lucy chair!"  He finally shoots her, and she moans, "You shot a bullet through my I Love Lucy blouse!"

Hee. I loved Red Skelton. (And I'm only 23, so I guess I'm the exception to the "young people don't like/get Lucy".)

Edited by RainIsBeautiful, Jan 18, 2004 @ 3:20 PM.

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#7

TudorQueen

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 3:35 PM

Blake, thanks for that link! Christopher Andersen - who has written frequently and well on other tv matters, particularly soap operas - does a good job in the essay of explaining some of the ways in which the show set up 'tensions' that are effective to this day. I also appreciate the credit he gives to Desi and Lucy for the way things were developed, and the peek at that process.
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#8

BewareThePhog

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 4:44 PM

Being thirty-(mumble,cough,mumble), while I'm older than RainIsBeautiful, I Love Lucy was still well ahead of my time - but I still love it to this day. Among the other things that Desi doesn't get credit for is his acting. I liked watching his reactions as much as I did seeing Lucy's hijinks.

One time on Wings there was an episode where Antonio comes into the airport talking about the great show he saw on TV the night before.

Antonio: "It's about this funny couple named Fred and Ethel..."
Helen: "Oh, you were watching I Love Lucy..."
Antonio: "Lucy? Oh, right...the neighbor...."

It may not be the height of wit, but that bit always cracked me up.
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#9

TudorQueen

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 5:03 PM

Desi doesn't get credit for is his acting. I liked watching his reactions as much as I did seeing Lucy's hijinks.


Oh, yeah, his reactions were always wonderful, and impeccably timed. I still remember the last scene from the episode where they're returning from Europe and Lucy has smuggled the cheese, and another passenger 'informed' on her, so customs is waiting, and no cheese, no sign of it. So a reporter asks Ricky if the band can play something and they try, but no sound comes out, and that's where the cheese is, stuffed in the instruments. Ricky and the customs guy advance menacingly on Lucy, who starts a rapid fire explanation. When she gets to the part about how hard the piccolo was, Ricky can't help it, he just starts laughing. [Desi had a great laugh!] "You mean you're not mad at me?" Lucy asks, astonished. "Honey, being married to you may be crazy, but it's never boring," he assures her, and kisses her.

I read somewhere that Desi wanted the 'European trip' to be the end of the regular series, and go from there to the irregularly scheduled 'Lucy/Desi Comedy Hour'. I honestly think if they had done it that way, that that final scene would have been the perfect end of the series.

One time on Wings there was an episode where Antonio comes into the airport talking about the great show he saw on TV the night before.

Antonio: "It's about this funny couple named Fred and Ethel..."
Helen: "Oh, you were watching I Love Lucy..."
Antonio: "Lucy? Oh, right...the neighbor...."


Well, first of all, I think Vivian Vance and William Frawley were a key part of the show's success, and their characters were carefully constructed. Secondly, this joke is a perfect example of how each character in any successful piece is important - and could conceivably be a lead in another context. And third... Tony Shahloub, who played Antonio, RULES!
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#10

valny

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 5:24 PM

I've seen every episode many times yet they're still as funny now as they were when I first saw them.

That's the test of a truly great show IMO. They never get old. It's amazing how I Love Lucy has held up and will continue for years to come; probably forever.

I don't know exactly how I got into the show when I was a kid but I'm pretty sure my Mom always watched it(reruns) so it got passed on to me. I really remember watching more of the Here's Lucy and the Lucy Show on CBS with her than ILL. Not as classic as ILL but they also had some pretty funny stuff in them every now and then.
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#11

stoneyburke

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 7:24 PM

Well, my folks didn't get a teevee until 1954, but it's safe to say I've been watching 'I Love Lucy' ever since then. How's that for old???

I am always interested in all the documentaries on Lucille Ball. Obviously the product of a dysfunctional family, she found her niche in television. It's amazing to me how someone as lovely as she wasn't a big name in the movies, but considering the male dominated star system, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Lucille was obviously a strong woman, presumably wasn't very good at mothering, and was excellent in business. When she met Desi, she met her match. BOY were they in love in the beginning....you have seen the color home movies, right? I mean Carrie and Big, you ain't got nothin' on Lucy and Desi.

And he was as savvy in business as she was. He pioneered the three camera system, right? His timing and willingness to give the others the laugh always impressed me. And I loved hearing him laugh offstage at Lucy.

Yup, an indelible part of television history. However, I don't believe Lucille Ball was ever realllly content with what she had accomplished. I could be wrong. I've read the same about Rod Serling, another television genius.

Oh, and I hated Red Skelton. Too saccharine for me.
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#12

Blake

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 7:43 PM

It's amazing to me how someone as lovely as she wasn't a big name in the movies

I guess once the show started it was just impossible to imagine her as anyone else. She had some movie work before, though. I just saw her in Stage Door a while ago. I always find it interesting that the basis for "Lucy" was Lucille's radio show, "My Favorite Husband", considering that she's often considered a mainly physical comedian.

Glad you found the essay interesting, TudorQueen.
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#13

stoneyburke

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 7:49 PM

Sorry, Blake, I meant her movies in the 1930s and 1940s. I especially liked her in 'The Dark Corner' from 1946. She just never seemed to get beyond the 'B' movies. Although personally I loved the 'B' movies from these two decades.
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#14

TudorQueen

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 7:51 PM

Several biographies trace her film career and she was, in fact, considered a major 'B-Movie' figure, and appeared in several major films, often working with important figures like Tracy and Hepburn, or Henry Fonda, but never made the transition to the front ranks of film stardom. Some have theorized that she was hard to classify at a time when film stars were encouraged to maintain a particular image and type of role. She was notable for her willingness to take on just about any role, and for attacking the good roles she got with enthusiasm and commitment. [Ironically, she and Ginger Rogers started out in Hollywood at about the same time, and Lela Rogers, Ginger's mom, who ran a film acting school, took Lucy under her wing, but Lucy never attained the same level of stardom as her friend/rival.]

Her later film career was uneven - "Mame" was a disaster for all concerned, but "Yours, Mine and Ours" was commercially and critically successful and holds up pretty well today - but there are some real gems in her earlier work. Check out "Dance, Girl, Dance", "The Big Street" and "The Dark Corner" for a Lucy who is decidedly not Lucy Ricardo.

edited to say: You and I crossed posts, stoneyburke [great name, btw] but I think Lucy's better films need all the promotion they can get!

Edited by TudorQueen, Jan 18, 2004 @ 7:52 PM.

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#15

Blake

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 8:17 PM

Wait, I forgot to ask if anyone knows the story about her trying out for Scarlett in Gone with the Wind. I think she did the entire thing sitting down on the floor without noticing, or something like that.
stoneyburke, now I'm going to have to check out that movie because of you. ;)
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#16

cmkrcwi

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 8:23 PM

I loved the two movies she did with Desi during the I LOVE LUCY years -- THE LONG LONG TRAILER and FOREVER, DARLING. Neither is exactly CITIZEN KANE but they're great escapist fun.

I've read that one of her main assets during her movie career was that she was tall and wore clothes well. In fact, I once read a magazine article from around the time I LOVE LUCY started where they do talk about how viewers tuned in not only to see her slapstick antics but also to see her wardrobe.

From what I've read and seen in various documentaries about her and her family, she loved and wanted her children desperately and loved being a mother. The actual mechanics of being a mother, that was a different story. Both Lucie and Desi Jr. have pretty much said they were raised by servants.

Here's some trivia: She was the original choice to play the mother in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE.
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#17

TudorQueen

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 8:29 PM

I've read that one of her main assets during her movie career was that she was tall and wore clothes well. In fact, I once read a magazine article from around the time I LOVE LUCY started where they do talk about how viewers tuned in not only to see her slapstick antics but also to see her wardrobe.


After being 'asked to leave' drama school as a teen, and other unpromising starts, she actually launched her career - and became the main support of her family - as a top model for dress designer Hattie Carnegie. This led to some photographers hiring her as a model, which led to a huge Chesterfield cigarette billboard, which led to her film debut as a Goldwyn Girl in the film "Roman Scandals" with Eddie Cantor.

As for her clothes, she had, on "I Love Lucy", a wonderful costume designer named Eloise Jensen who not only designed the 'trick costumes' [such as the dress Lucy wore when she fell into the starch vat at the laundry] but 'ordinary' clothes that Lucy felt properly represented a relatively middle-class housewife, to the point that, as Lucy pointed out in interviews, Lucy and Ethel frequently wore the same clothes over and over, because that was what 'real' housewives did.

It was a small point that nevertheless added greatly to viewer identification with Lucy Ricardo and her outlandish schemes, I think.
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#18

Albanyguy

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 10:29 PM

the story about her trying out for Scarlett in Gone with the Wind. I think she did the entire thing sitting down on the floor without noticing, or something like that.


I've read that several times and it's apparently true. She was never a serious contender for the role, but every actress in Hollywood read for Scarlett O'Hara at some point. Only a few got past the reading to a screen test and I don't think Lucy was one of them. The best part of the story is that she did the reading for David O. Selznick (sitting on the floor because she was so awed by him that she forgot to stand up) in his office. Years later, Desilu purchased the Selznick Studio and Selznick's old office became Lucy's. She must have enjoyed sitting at her big desk and looking down at the place on the carpet where she did her reading so many years before.

Lucy was a class act, fiercely loyal to old friends and family. I've always admired how she never, ever said a bad word about Desi after their break-up. Whatever bitterness she harbored over his failings as a husband, she always gave him full credit for his production genius and his role in making her TV's biggest star.

I also read someplace that she was initially cold towards Vivian Vance during the first season of I Love Lucy, perhaps feeling insecure in her new medium. Vance reportedly told a friend "This show is turning out to be a much bigger hit than anyone thought. If I stick it out, I'll be set for life. So, I'm going to learn to love that bitch if it's the last thing I do!" After a while, Lucy calmed down and she and Vivian did learn to love each other. They became as close IRL as Lucy and Ethel. William Frawley was another story. Apparently he was one of the meanest, most disliked men in show business.
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#19

TudorQueen

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 10:41 PM

William Frawley was described by Lucy as 'irascible' and 'brilliant'. He was an alcoholic whose career, once promising, had fallen when Desi Arnaz decided on him as Fred Mertz. The two men made a pact - Frawley could do what he liked in his off hours. If he was drunk on the job once, Desi would let it pass. A second time, they'd work around him. A third time and he'd be out for good. Frawley was never, ever drunk on the set. He and Vivian Vance were not the first choices for the Mertz's - Lucy wanted Gale Gordon and Bea Benederet, both of whom she had worked with and liked before, both of whom were attached to other shows. They each guest starred on "ILL", and of course Lucy got her wish to co-star with Gordon on all her subsequent series.

It was evidently well known that Frawley and Vance disliked each other, though many felt that actually added to their on-screen believability [one rule of the writers was that Fred could put down Ethel but if anyone else did, he would always come to her defense]. One of Frawley's quirks was that he would tear out the pages of the scenes he was in and memorize those - perfectly - without even reading the rest of the script. Once, he expressed bewilderment over the laugh he was getting for entering and saying "Hi, Ethel". He didn't know that before his entrance Ethel had been coaxed into the bottom half of a horse costume...!
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#20

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Posted Jan 18, 2004 @ 10:53 PM

One thing that always bugged me about the show was the needless fat jokes aimed at Ethel. It was an ongoing joke, about how Lucy was the thin and pretty one, and Ethel was the fat and ugly one. Well, if you ask me, Ethel's face was much prettier, and though the weights of the two women changed throughout the years, even at her heftiest Vivian Vance was maybe 10 pounds heavier than Lucy.

I think I remember hearing somewhere that it was written into Vance's contract that she had to maintain a weight heavier than Lucy's. I have no problem with fat jokes in general, and they were often funny, but they would have been funnier if the butt of the joke was actually fat.

I loved the relationship of Lucy and Desi, how he was constantly tempted by being around young, beautiful dancers and singers at the club, but he only had eyes for his wife.

I can't think of any other sitcom that was able to completely change the setting-moving from NYC to Connecticut-and still be funny. Those Connecticut episodes were just as well-written and true to the characters. Not to mention the addition of Little Ricky. So many other sitcoms just die when they try to mess up the formula by adding a baby, or changing the venue, going on a vacation, etc. I wonder why "Lucy" was able to keep up the quality?
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#21

RainIsBeautiful

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Posted Jan 19, 2004 @ 12:33 AM

I think I remember hearing somewhere that it was written into Vance's contract that she had to maintain a weight heavier than Lucy's.

Part of Vivian Vance's contract stated that she stay 20 lbs overweight and not wear any makeup. Why, I don't know.
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#22

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Posted Jan 19, 2004 @ 8:43 AM

Fred and Ethel were supposed to be noticeably older than Lucy and Ricky. In real life, Vivian Vance was only two years older than Lucille Ball, and (as others have noted) quite an attractive woman. I've heard that the weight clause was intended to make her look more the part of a frumpy, older neighbor (and to assuage Lucy's insecurity about Vance's attractiveness).

I remember seeing a clip once of Lucy and Desi receiving some kind of civic or humanitarian award. Lucy was gracious, yet ultra-professional, almost a little distant in her remarks. Desi, on the other hand, nearly burst into tears as he recounted that his first job on coming to America from Cuba was cleaning bird-cages, and that he didn't dare dream at the time of achieving the kind of success he eventually did attain. The contrast between the two of them (reserved vs. ultra-emotional) was quite striking.
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#23

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Posted Jan 19, 2004 @ 9:08 AM

I'm not a big fan of the European tour story line

To me, the best ones will always be the New York episodes; but I do think the Europe episodes had some very funny moments. My favorite has to have been when the guard thought that Lucy wass sneaking across the border. Then in the detainment area Lucy only spoke in english, which was translated to spanish by Ricky, then into german, then into french for the guard.

[Desi had a great laugh!]

I always thought it was great when during any crazy scene with Lucy, loudest amongst all the laughter was Desi off-stage cracking up.

Oh, and I hated Red Skelton. Too saccharine for me.

But he had such loveable and diverse characters. There's that freeloader, and the tramp, the hobo, the bum, the vagabond. And who could ever forget that guy who lived on the streets with a heart of gold?

Edited by muchsarcasm, Jan 19, 2004 @ 9:10 AM.

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#24

stoneyburke

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Posted Jan 19, 2004 @ 9:28 AM

I'm really enjoying all the backstory info here. I think I liked the history of this show as much as the show.

stoneyburke [great name, btw]


Thanks, TudorQueen. An homage to one of my first crushes, Jack Lord, in the show by the same name.

now I'm going to have to check out that movie because of you. ;)


Blake, you won't be disappointed if you at all like film noir.

she never, ever said a bad word about Desi after their break-up.


Albanyguy, I always liked the video of her and Desi swimming in their pool with, I believe, one of their grandchildren. She tousles his hair, and you can see that she had genuine affection for him. I believe she really, really loved him, she just couldn't live with him.

TudorQueen, did you do research on the show? I'm an old-time Hollywood junkie!

Sorry, muchsarcasm, I felt as if I were required to like Red Skelton. Much in the same way that I was required to enjoy Lawrence Welk. I never liked, and still don't like, having to obey the rules of authority without forming my own opinion about them. So maybe it's just me.
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#25

Teagan

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Posted Jan 19, 2004 @ 10:12 AM

Hi everyone. First time poster in the sitcom forum.

My favorites were the Hollywood episodes. But each storyline (NY, Europe, Connecticut (?)) had some good ones too. I love the episode where Ricky is trying to read a book and is struggling with all of the pronunciations of the "ough" endings. The "We're Having a Baby" episode: I swear I still tear up when he sings that song and then realizes it's Lucy that's pregnant. The baby chicks episode. Or the one where the girls were jealous of a neighbor's good looking younger relative and the attention the men give her, so they all dress up real sexy and Lucy's dress was so tight, she couldn't sit down all night. Oh, and my favorite European one is the counterfeit money episode and the translation at the end. So many note worthy episodes. I'll admit, I've seen them too many times to be able to sit thru them all, but there are still a handful of episodes that I can still watch and laugh at. The ones I listed are just a few.
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#26

erik316wttn

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Posted Jan 19, 2004 @ 10:47 AM

Actually I think I read somewhere that in the later years of ILL, Vivian Vance had it written into her contract that she never had to touch Frawley. They actually did show a bit of affection toward each other in the first few seasons, but in the later years you could tell they really hated each other.
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#27

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Posted Jan 19, 2004 @ 10:51 AM

I'm the same way. I don't always watch the show when it's on but I always enjoy it when I do.

Vivian Vance's real-life husband appeared in one episode. He played "Dore Schary" in the Hollywood episode where they find out Ricky's movie has been shelved and they try to find someone to play a "Hollywood producer" in order to impress Mr. Schary so he'll keep Ricky on contract. Originally Dore Schary was supposed to play himself but he backed out.

I kind of wish they'd bring back the other Lucy shows although they weren't quite as good as I LOVE LUCY. I'd still love to see them again though.
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#28

valny

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Posted Jan 19, 2004 @ 12:25 PM

I especially liked her in 'The Dark Corner' from 1946

I don't think I've ever saw that one stoneyburke but I did see The Big Street. That was very good. Lucy played a very unlikable character in it, which was unusual to see. Was The Dark Corner good?

I love movies from the 30's and 40's!

One of my favorite European ones was when Lucy wanted to bring the huge cheese back home on the plane. (I forgot the reason why she wasn't supposed to take it, was iit weighed too much and she had to pay extra for it?) Anyway, the scene where she pretends it's her baby was hysterical.(Buuurp!) And then she and Ethel try to eat as much of it as they can and ended up stuffing the rest in Ricky's band's instruments.

One of my all-time faves is the one with Elsa Lanchester. Lucy and Ethel think she's the hatchet murderess.(I forgot her name) I love the part in the diner where Lucy is trying to get the attention of the guy behind the counter; trying to "not-so-subtly tell him that Elsa's the wanted murderess. "I have another HELPing! That's one episode I never see enough. They don't really show it that often.

Edited by valny, Jan 19, 2004 @ 12:51 PM.

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#29

stoneyburke

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Posted Jan 19, 2004 @ 1:41 PM

Do you, valny??? The 'Odd Couple' AND movies from the '30s and '40s!!! Nice, isn't it, to meet people with such like interests on the Internet? I find it amazing!!!!!!

Oh, yes, 'The Big Street' when Henry Fonda carried a chiffoned, dying Lucille Ball? Damon Runyon, right? I liked it, for sure. But yes, you'll like 'The Dark Corner' even more. I hope you have TCM. I just got it, thanks to the idiot Cablevision, and I'm waiting for a film noir festival.

Wasn't the Elsa Lanchester episode one of the hour long Luci-Desi shows? I loved them, in particular the Tallelujah Bankhead one. I may be getting confused. But here was an example of a show that handled star casting well. Remember the William Holden one, where he stared at her across the booth at the Brown Derby? Or the Richard Widmark orange one?

And today's shows handle star casting soooooo well, can you say 'Will & Grace', which for the most part sucks at this?
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#30

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Posted Jan 19, 2004 @ 1:51 PM

I think the William Holden episode is the best of the trip-to-California sequence. Best Desi reaction scene ever: when Lucy lights her putty nose. Yikes!

Another favorite of mine is when the foursome stops in Ethel's hometown of Albuquerque, NM en route to California and are cajoled into putting on a live show. I loved the background antics Lucy, Ricky, and Fred pulled off while "Ethel May" was singing that old favorite "Short'ning Bread."
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