‘Lucy and Desi’ Review: A Doc About Being Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

It’s always a hit to come across a documentary on a subject after you’ve seen the scripted and action-packed luxury Hollywood version. “Lucy and DesiAmy Poehler’s movie about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz – their love, their showbiz partnership, their revolutionary influence on television’s creative landscape, their spirit of cohesion and conflict – is a quick documentary agile and attractive. But I suspect I won’t be long enough to experience it alone through the lens of “Aaron Sorkin.”Being a Ricardian“Especially cooling off was shown on that movie this week. “Lucy and Desi” gives you the real story, so it’s only natural that you’ll want to compare notes.

What did “Being the Ricardos” get right and wrong? Given that Sorkin’s film compresses three main storylines – the public accusation that Lucy is a Communist; attempt to make her pregnancy the plot of the second season of “I Love Lucy’s”; and Lucy’s growing anger and tension at the tabloid reports that Desi was cheating on her – on a single week in 1951, you could tell the movie never feigned accuracy. to that. However, there is still a desire to assess its essential authenticity.

This is the verdict, at least given by “Lucy and Desi.” Sorkin has overridden a few things – most notably a fight between Lucy and Desi and the CBS network’s gang over whether her pregnancy can be included in the show. According to the documentary, it was Jess Oppenheimer, the lead producer and screenwriter of “I Love Lucy,” who intervened with executives about testing the radical idea, and they agreed to it. it; there is no battle. So that’s a serious reality check.

There are several others, like this important factor in Lucy and Desi’s marriage. The two met in 1940 on the set of the RKO musical “Too Many Girls” and they had a stormy courtship, just as “Ricardos” describes it. But after they got married, Desi’s acting career at MGM became a failure. He was in the army for three and a half years, and then hit the road, touring with his band, for the next five years. According to Lucy in the documentary, he was essentially absent for eight and a half years during the first nine years of their marriage. This explains a lot of why their relationship developed into a business partnership.

Once you get over all of that, as well as some of the standard dramatic liberties that Sorkin took, what you discover is that “Being the Ricardos” is actually very true to the spirit and letter. of the story Lucy and Desi. Lucy, who died in 1989, gave many of the interviews we hear in the documentary, in which she speaks candidly, in her spirit, about how she and Desi collaborated. – kinship and stress that define them. She said that he has no competition as a script editor. But as a power player, he likes to be on top.

In contrast, Lucy is very modest about her gifts. Arriving in New York City in her late 20s, as a teenager eager to get into the show business, she started out as a goofy showgirl. But she succeeded as a model and, ironically, she was asked to join a team of dozens of performers who traveled to Hollywood in 1933 to take a picture of Samuel Goldwyn titled “” The Destroyers of the Romans”. (Since she was a last-minute substitute, there was no time to check and found out that she couldn’t dance.)

Shooting was scheduled to last six weeks but instead lasted six months. And during that time, she fell in love with Hollywood. She admires process. As an RKO contract player, she is enthusiastic about the B-movies she is working on, because to her it’s all just a learning experience. Meanwhile, Desi, whose family is linked to the Bacardi rum empire, sees his clan divided in Cuba by the revolution of 1933. He came to America as a refugee. donot speak English. But he hooked up with band leader Xavier Cugat (who grew up in Cuba), who brought Desi under his wing. Desi’s glorious Latin Lover’s face was the key to his passport; he also has a sixth sense to reconfigure the musical idioms of his homeland. He invented the conga as we know it, and in his performance of “Babalu” with his flying hair can go as wild as Little Richard.

His marriage to Lucy was a bit of a scandal, because as “Lucy and Desi” pointed out, this relationship, between a budding starlet who looked like Lucille Ball and a man of color, was rare. to the point of making people frown. But Lucy and Desi were dedicated, and believed in family; each person has cared for at least one of their parents for most of their lives. And their own family has been woven into the fabric of showbiz. Rumored giant Walter Winchell, who has spies in doctors’ offices, knew Lucy was pregnant before she became pregnant. (She learned about it from a Winchell broadcast.) When CBS invited Lucy and Desi to a show, it wasn’t stated what the show would be; they came up with the idea of ​​making it a version of their own life. That’s part of what has made “I Love Lucy” such a phenomenon – its relativity. The other part, of course, is that Lucy has proven to be a physical comedian with a visionary spirit of kooky chaos. She was like the most stealthy mime in the world, and used her body to act out everything that women of the time had to hide.

Lucy, in the documentary, identifies herself as less of a born comedian than a “scientist” of comedy. But one of the documentary’s critical commentators, Laura LaPlaca, compares her to Chaplin and Keaton, and what you see, in the perfectly chosen clips Poehler sprinkles throughout the film, is Lucy. was the first comedian to put herself in the inner, rag-doll center of an everyday world. That she accomplished this not in the dreamy aesthetic of silent films but on a Comedy, the centerpiece of the “Father Knows Best” / “Donna Reed Show” era, is a testament to her down-to-earth feminist madcap genius. She worked on the mainstream form assigned to her and made it her own.

“Lucy and Desi” chronicles how Lucy and Desi made “I Love Lucy” an extension of their family life designed to sustain it. The show is their expected psychological game. David Daniels says in the film, “‘I Love Lucy’ builds every episode around the idea of ​​that rift, and then back together.” But the show also consumes them. After releasing it for 5 years, they sold the rights to 179 episodes for $5 million (a staggering amount in 1957). Desi may not have innovated the three-camera system (despite the idea that he does), but he and Lucy more or less invented the rerun system. (It was a big change for television.)

Why did they break up? Desi’s affair, as Lucy had always known, was part of it. But the film says that Desi couldn’t handle the attention that was pouring around Lucy, the star clown. He is completely overshadowed. In return, he becomes consumed by the producer side of things. He works harder, drinks more, and needs more escapes, more time on his boat or on golf or racetrack vacations. Their next show, “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” marked a big drop in quality, but their empire just kept getting bigger. They bought RKO, which became the largest independent television company in the world, and Desi became an overworked executive from 8:00-11:00. And he’s still acting. .

In the end, Lucy and Desi were married to others – Gary Morton, Edith Hirsch – longer than they had been married to each other. But as Lucy and Desi, they became a legend. Lucy ages gracefully, more so than Desi, who the film says has never quite gotten over having to leave Cuba. There’s a clip of Lucy accepting an Emmy in 1967, and she looks genuinely shocked, as vulnerable as any entertainment award recipient I’ve ever seen. We also heard a story from their daughter, Lucy Arnaz Luckinbill, about how Lucy visited Desi in Del Mar when he was dying of lung cancer, and how Luckinbill did what she called “the silly thing.” dumbest”: She talks old “I Love Lucy” episodes and shows them shows together. (She hears their laughter through the door.) It’s the most emotional moment in the movie, because it reminds us that Lucy and Desi, through their real and complicated love, joined forces to create a place where Lucille Ball could become a television artist.Even after their separation, they “Lucy and Desi” is a fascinating record of how they turned a sitcom into a national dream.

https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/lucy-and-desi-review-lucille-ball-desi-arnaz-amy-poehler-1235166279/ ‘Lucy and Desi’ Review: A Doc About Being Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

Fry Electronics Team

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