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Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Amazing Quote from Lucy

"I am not funny.  My writers were funny.  My direction was funny.  The situations were funny.  But I am not funny.  I am not funny.  What I am is brave."

-Lucille Ball

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lucy and Ethel in Pictures

Some fun shots of the dynamic duo!
Lucy and Ethel as "Women From Mars" (from the episode "Lucy is Envious")

Lucy and Ethel in their "Jacques Marcel" gowns in Paris (from the episode "Lucy Gets a Paris Gown")

Lucy and Ethel consider different jobs (from the episode "Job Switching")

Lucy and Ethel

It is common knowledge that Lucy and Ethel played best friends on "I Love Lucy", and then again on "The Lucy Show".  As may be expected, they became best friends in real life as well. 
I have always loved the comraderie and love they have with and towards each other, and striven for that in my relationships with girlfriends.  For me that started at an early age, right around the time I discovered "I Love Lucy".  One of my best friends through childhood (who is now my sister, Emily) and I were a lot like Lucy and Ethel.  Emily never had the same crazy infatuation with "I Love Lucy" that I did, but she did get pretty hooked for a time, and I think without realizing it, we began to model our relationship after Lucy and Ethel.  We would scheme together, go against her brother, Elliott, together, and get into all sorts of shennanigans I think Lucy and Ethel would be proud of.  We even dressed up as them for Halloween when we were 13 (even though Emily as a dark brunette wore a ridiculous blond wig for Ethel and I had a very un-Lucy-like mouth full of braces), which was a blast.  (I dressed up like Lucy again when I was around 16 or 17, this time with a wash out red dye in my hair and a fake perm).
I daresay Lucy and Ethel inspired countless pairs and groups of girlfriends to follow their lead when it came to comraderie, support, and love.  "I Love Lucy" has many legacies, but I think Lucy and Ethel's is in a league of it's own.

One of Ethel's Best "I Love Lucy" Moments

As many Lucy lovers will agree, Ethel is the least appreciated cast member on the show.  However, she is insanely talented and ALWAYS deserves a second look.  This is my personal favorite scene of Ethel's from the entire run of the show.  She is so brilliant, so committed, and so fun to watch!  ENJOY!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Warming Up the Audience

This is a great clip of Desi Arnaz "warming up" the "I Love Lucy" audience and introducing the cast.  He did this for every show from the very first episode.  It is a rare opportunity to see the sets and the audience bleachers, as well as to see the actors out of character.  (I don't know what the beginning of the clip is all about, but it's great footage nonetheless!)

A Word From Lucy

I began reading Lucille Ball's autobiography, Love, Lucy, again (I've lost count of how many times I've read it, but I do at least once a year) a few days ago, and one particular passage always stands out to me.  I love hearing her in her own voice, I can almost hear her saying it.  Here is the passage:

"Actors and actresses all strive for affection.  We get up on a stage because we want to be loved.  The stage fulfills this need better than anything else; especially if you've found a rapport with an audience and can wrap them up in your arms and hug them close.
The irony is that in our terrible need to be loved, we pick an arena where we can also be rejected by the greatest possible number of people.  Nothing's quite so wonderful as those waves of love and applause splashing over the footlights--and nothing quite as shattering as when an audience doesn't like you.  All you've got to sell is yourself; rejection can't be anything but highly personal."

Being an actor myself, I can personally relate to these words on several levels.  I the first time I read this particular passage, which opens the third chapter of her book, when I was about fifteen or so, and it stood out to me then, too.  If Lucy, for example, had given up in 1928 when she was rejected on almost a monthly basis, how different would the world have been?  Often times I go back to her autobiography to read it and reflect, and feel better about myself and my "terrible need to be loved."  I love that her words are as true when she wrote them in circa 1964, remembering experiences in the 1920s and 1930s, as they are to me reading them in the early 2000s and now, a decade later.  Thanks, Lucy, we love you too. <3

Following Information

Hello all!

So, as I'm still very new to this blogging thing, I'm trying to do some research on how exactly one follows a blog.  My apologies to those of you who are more blog savvy than myself, for the repetition, but to those that aren't, these links may be helpful for you!

How do I use the Blogger Reading List?

What is Following?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lucy and Me

Here are a couple more questions I answered about Lucy:
Do you think she would be proud of you if she was looking down (or up) at you these days? What would most delight or impress her, and what would worry her?

My answer was this:

"Having not had any actual relationship with Lucy, it's diffcult for me to predict what she would think of me at any point in my life.  But knowing all I do about what kind of woman she was, what her values tended to be, I think she would approve of me.  More than that, I think she would love my blog!  I think she would be very appreciative and proud that she had made such an impact on a little kid who didn't see her first "I Love Lucy" until after she had passed.   And I'm sure she would be proud to have left such an amazing legacy with me.  She has been quoted in her autobiography as hoping "I Love Lucy" would never go off the air.  In the sense that I am taking that so much farther, I am sure she would be proud and happy for that.  I think her favorite part about what I do and how I think of her is that I have done my research.  I realize, unlike a lot of people, that Lucille Ball and Lucy Ricardo are not the same person.  In fact, they are incredibly different, and that was even something she stressed on occasion.  That being said, I really don't think anything I do or say about her would really worry her.  I strive to know her equally as a person and a performer, completely independent of each other, and I know that's how she wanted everyone to know her.  And I love both the person Lucille Ball and the character (which I increasingly believe is her alter-ego) Lucy Ricardo."

The Story of Lucy and Desi [short version]

I've been asked several times (most recently by my uncle Tim, who, along with my sister Emily, is inspiring me to go different directions with this blog) for a little more information on Lucy and Desi.  After all, by the time "I Love Lucy" debuted in 1951, they'd already been married for nearly 11 years.  So here's the short version of their romance:

Lucy and Desi met in 1940, during the filming of a musical called "Too Many Girls", which Desi had starred in (his first big break into mainstream performance) on Broadway.  When RKO bought the film rights and cast Lucille Ball, they also brought several of the original cast members from New York, Desi among them.  Desi, of course, played the Latin lover, and Lucy the igenue.
The story goes that the first time Desi saw Lucy, she was in costume for another film she was completing, "Dance, Girl, Dance" (1940) with Maureen O'Hara, in which she played a burlesque dancer.  She was in a dress slit to the thigh, dressed to the nines.  Desi took one look at her and exclaimed, "What a hunk of woman!" and was hooked.  Lucy was the same, as she would reflect years later, jokingly, "It wasn't love at first sight!  It took five minutes." 
They dated for a brief time, and discussed why they could never marry (he could be a womanizer, she was 6 years older and Protestant, he Catholic, he was performing as a musician in New York, she was under contract in Hollywood).  Nevertheless, they couldn't get enough of each other, and whisked themselves away to Connecticut and eloped on November 30, 1940. 
They had their share of problems, but were so in love with each other, they always made it work somehow.  Desi was in the army from 1943-46, and that was one of their harder times.  Lucy filed for divorce in 1944, but they reconciled the night before they were to appear in court. 
Even after they divorced in May 1960, Desi still sent Lucy flowers (her favorites--red and white carnations) on their anniversary.  When Desi died in December 1986, Lucy was the last person he spoke to.  To sum up their relationship, Desi is famously quoted (in his autobiography) as saying simply, "I Love Lucy was never just a title."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Lucy Thinks Ricky..." Part II

Here is the second part of "Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her".

"Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her"

Here is the very first episode that lucky audience got to see on September 8, 1951.  Little did they know they were witnessing the birth of a legend!  So imagine, as you watch this, that it's 1951, you've never seen a sitcom, you don't even have a TV, and you honestly have no idea what's in store.  And above all, ENJOY!

America Meets Lucy

The first broadcast of "I Love Lucy" hit television screens on October 15, 1951, with the episode "The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub".  This was not the first episode filmed, but due to pre-production issues, this was the first episode to air.  The first to be filmed (and what I still consider the very first "I Love Lucy" episode) was "Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her", which was filmed on September 8, 1951.
Throughout the pilot and first episode, Lucy was costumed in large robes and pajamas, first to conceal her pregnancy, then to hide her bandages and healing from her Caesarean section.  She had given birth to Lucie Arnaz on July 17, 1951, taken a brief break, and returned to work to film the first episodes.
The show was not an instant success, but became increasingly popular about halfway through the first season.  At this time, there were relatively few televisions in the US, but it did not take long for "I Love Lucy" to become one of the staples of American life.  Not long after the show debuted in it's regular time slot (Monday nights at 9:00pm), it was observed that activity across the country was affected.  Traffic was drastically reduced, restaurants saw less customers, and even retail shops noticed a drop in business.  As the show progressed, the actors got to know their characters as well as the writers did, the technicians mastered the camera, editing, and recording techniques, and "I Love Lucy" was well on it's way to becoming a television legend.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Barbershop "Quartet"

Here's an example of Fred and Ethel singing together with Ricky as part of a barbershop "quartet" that Lucy keeps trying to butt into.

You Keep Mentioning "Vaudeville"...

Here's a little background on one of the greatest forms of American entertainment.  A Little Explanation of Vaudeville

So, Did Fred and Ethel Really Hate Each Other?

In one word?  Yes. 
Yet they managed to play a married couple for nine years on television.  My own personal opinion is that they used their mutual dislike of one another to enrich their weekly character portrayals. 
When they first met, Vivian Vance was appalled she had to play the wife of someone old enough to be her father (23 years older, to be exact), and William Frawley was simply convinced that Vance had no talent whatsoever.  Eventually, Vance accepted that Frawley was just an old codger, and too much so to change his ways.  The only thing she always maintained was every week they got their scripts for that week's show, she would "pray there wasn't a scene where I had to be in bed with him."
Frawley couldn't have cared less what Vance thought of him.  Although he maintained his attitude that Vance couldn't sing or dance, many episodes in "I Love Lucy" continue to prove him wrong.  The show's premise of having the Mertzes as ex-vaudevillians turned out to work perfectly, as both Frawley and Vance had performed in vaudeville earlier in their careers (Frawley, of course, to a greater extent simply because of his age).  Regardless of their mutual disdain for one another, they performed perfectly together, perfectly with Lucy and Ricky in the "Battle of the Sexes" episodes, and were and are an integral part of the success of "I Love Lucy".

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Mertzes

As in "My Favorite Husband", it was decided that Lucy and Ricky needed another couple to play off of.  In "Husband", the couple that fit that description were more financially successful than the Coopers (Lucy and Richard Denning), but after beginning to consider William Frawley, things began to change.  He was a seasoned character actor, having been in vaudeville for years and nearly 100 films to his credit.  Frawley personally called Lucy, whom he had known briefly when they were both under contract to RKO pictures in the late 1930s-early 1940s, and asked her if there was anything on her new show for him.  Lucy mentioned the call to Desi, who met with Frawley soon thereafter and immediately liked him for the role of Fred Mertz.  The more Desi championed Frawley for the role, the more he was met with opposition (namely because of Frawley's well-known alcohol problem), and the more Desi ultimately convinced producers Frawley was perfect for the part.  It was agreed that as long as Frawley was absolutely sober while working, they were willing to work with him.  Once he was cast, the role of Fred Mertz evolved from more financially successful than the Ricardos to less (mostly to fit his physicality and gruff persona). 
Once Frawley was cast, producers began the search for his wife, Ethel Mertz.  "I Love Lucy"'s first director, Marc Daniels, suggested an actress he had worked with on Broadway in the late 1940s, Vivian Vance.  Though she had had a successful career onstage, she was still a virtual unknown in Hollywood.  She was appearing at La Jolla Playhouse in a production of "The Voice of the Turtle" when Desi and Daniels went to see her (Lucy's first pregnancy was in too advanced of a state to travel at this point).  Desi absolutely loved her and she was hired backstage after the show.  Luckily, after just a few rehearsals, Vivian and Lucy bonded quickly, and would remain close personal and professional friends for the rest of their lives.