Friday, July 15, 2011

Laughs, Luck and Lucy

Laughs, Luck...and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time (with "I LOVE LUCY's Lost Scenes" and rare Lucille Ball audio)  For those of you who don't know about this book, or who know about it but haven't yet read it, I highly recommend adding it to the top of your "books to be read" list--especially if you are a serious Lucy fan, a fan of Jess Oppenheimer, or a student of television history. It is a fast and easy read, just perfect for summer travel.

This book, whose complete title is Laughs, Luck and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time is a memoir by Jess Oppenheimer (with a foreword by his son, Gregg Oppenheimer), who was not only one of television's first great pioneers, but was largely responsible for the cultural phenomenon we know as I Love Lucy. For the first five of its six seasons, Oppenheimer not only served as the show's producer, but as head writer, and all-around mastermind. In this memoir, Oppenheimer chronicles his childhood and early career in radio and television, highlighting experiences which influenced his life, career, and America's most-loved sitcom.

For those of you who are serious I Love Lucy fans, it will interest you to read about how many of the infamous I Love Lucy plots came to be (i.e. "The Freezer," "Lucy Does a Commercial," "Job Switching,"etc.) and about the details surrounding some of television's funniest moments. Oppenheimer also recants the time he spent writing for and working with Lucille Ball on the radio sitcom My Favorite Husband (which was--in many ways--an I Love Lucy predecessor) and highlights how his experiences on that program came to have great influence on the development and characterization of I Love Lucy.

Oppenheimer's humor and enthusiasm shine through his narrative, engaging the reader instantly and reading, at times, much like one of his comedic scripts. This book comes with a CD containing rare Lucille Ball audio and also includes some portions of I Love Lucy scripts which were never used, including the only script that Lucy or Desi ever refused to perform. It is a delightful, must-have addition to any Lucy fan's library.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Lucy Show Season 4 Released Today

Lucy Show: Official Fourth SeasonIf you are a true Lucy fan, like me, then your love for our favorite red-head goes way beyond the classic I Love Lucy. I am pleased to announce that the Lucy Show: Official Fourth Season has been officially released today!  This series stars Lucille Ball as Lucille Carmichael and co-stars Gale Gordon as Mr. Mooney, the penny-pinching bank manager. 

The fourth season of The Lucy Show saw many drastic changes due largely to the exit of Vivian Vance. It was also during this season that Lucy's children, Chris (Candy Moore) and  Jerry (Jimmy Garrett), are also written-off the show.  The setting also drastically changes as Lucy and Mr. Mooney move to California, leaving Danfield (and presumably, Viv and her son Sherman (Ralph Hart) behind.  Season Four of the Lucy Show is considered by many to be the weakest of the show's six seasons due to the drastic (and somewhat unrealistically explained) plot and character changes. 

Nevertheless, Lucy fans are sure to enjoy this eagerly awaited, newly-restored treasure which includes special features and 660 minutes of run time!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I Love Lucy Marathon on Hallmark Channel

Unbeknownst to me, there is an I Love Lucy marathon on Hallmark Channel this weekend in order to celebrate 60 years of I Love Lucy.  They will be running I Love Lucy shows until 3:30 AM Monday, March 14, 2011. Thought I would pass along the information to anyone who was like me and didn't know about it!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Dark Corner

While Lucille Ball is most recognized for her extraordinary talent as a comedienne, she was also a very good dramatic actress whose more serious roles tend to be overshadowed by her comedic ones. Before the whirlwind success of I Love Lucy, Lucille was known as "Queen of the B's"--the "B" movies, that is.  She played several notable supporting roles in "A-list" films such as Stage Door, Without Love, and  Easy to Wed, but never really got the lead in an A-list film until after her popularity increased, due largely to the success of I Love Lucy.

The Dark Corner (Fox Film Noir) The Dark Corner is a Twentieth Century-Fox Picture from 1946, and is an excellent example of Lucille's capabilities as a serious dramatic actress.  In this film noir, starring Lucille Ball as Kathleen Stuart, and Mark Stevens as Bradford Galt, the film focuses around Brad's history as a Private Eye and around his developing romance with sincere secretary, Kathleen.  Negligent to tell Kathleen about his shady history (being convicted of manslaughter), she eventually convinces him to open up to her when it is discovered that someone is trying to kill him.  Matters only get worse when Brad wakes up in the floor, beside his murdered ex-partner, only to realize that he has been framed for it.  Brad and the ever-loving Kathleen work tirelessly together to uncover who is framing him for murder.  Through several twists and turns of the plot, the perpetrator is discovered (played by the masterful Clifton Webb) and the matter eventually resolved. Finally, Brad and Kathleen are able to happily get married. 

Unfortunately, this film would not be a happy memory for Lucille.  At the time of filming, she was in negotiations with her agent and studio.  Desi was also frequently gone from home, making the entire period of filming very stressful. It is rumored that she never actually viewed the film herself because of the stress associated with it.

Regardless of whether you are a Lucy fan or a fan of film noir (my favorite genre), if you like either, you are sure to like The Dark Corner.  Interestingly, it was released in one of film noir's most productive years. Other films also released that year, which have come to be noir classics, include: The Big Sleep, Gilda, Notorious and (one of my absolute personal favorites) The Postman Always Rings Twice.

* Los Angeles Examiner quote taken from Lucy at the Movies: The Complete Films of Lucille Ball
**This film is available for Instant Streaming on Netflix!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Here's Lucy: Season Four to be Released March 29th

Here's Lucy: Season FourIf you are looking at this page, chances are you are a huge Lucille Ball fan, and chances are you will be happy to know that Here's Lucy: Season Four is scheduled to be released by MPI Home Video on March 29, 2011.

Here's Lucy was Lucille Ball's third successful sitcom, which succeeded the ever-popular I Love Lucy, and The Lucy Show. In Here's Lucy, Lucille plays Lucy Carter, who is a widow with two children--Kim and Craig (played by Lucille's real-life children, Lucie and Desi Arnaz, Jr.). Living in the greater Los Angeles area, Lucy is employee of--and sister-in-law to--Harrison Carter (Gale Gordon), who is owner of Carter's Unique Employment Agency.This sitcom focuses around the problems and hilarious predicaments that widowed Lucy and money-conscious Harry get themselves into.

This release of Season Four of Here's Lucy, which aired in 1971-1972 and co-stars Gale Gordon, will feature all 24 episodes, uncut and digitally remastered.  Also included are bonus features of some never-before-seen footage.  Season Four includes guest appearances by many notable celebrities including Vivian Vance, Flip Wilson, Dinah Shore, Ginger Rogers, and many more.

I (for one) am very excited about its release, as I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to fall in love with Lucy all over again while watching Seasons 1-3. As a serious "Lucy fan," I would be lying if I didn't say I like all of her work, including all of her sitcoms (with the exception of Life With Lucy, which I have never seen, and therefore, cannot speak to). While I Love Lucy is (by far) my favorite show--period; ever--and is the most popular and critically-acclaimed of all the Lucy sitcoms, I personally prefer Here's Lucy over The Lucy Show. (And I'm soo glad these are finally coming out on DVD!!)  So, if you love Lucy, but never cared much for The Lucy Show, you may want to give Here's Lucy a chance!  I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  (I am especially fond of Here's Lucy: Season Three (4pc), which happens to be my favorite of the Here's Lucy seasons released thus far).

So, am I alone on this one, or are any of you Lucy fans out there Here's Lucy fans, too??

Friday, March 4, 2011

I think I've got the Go-bloots!

Could this be a Boo-Shoo Bird?
I don't know if I'm really getting sick, or if it's just a sinus infection--or what--but I haven't been feeling too hot for a couple days now.  We'll just say I've got the Go-bloots.

What is the "Go-bloots," you ask? Well, it's a rare disease which was "brought into this country on the hind legs of the Boo-Shoo bird."  Let me explain:  In I Love Lucy Episode #16 "Lucy Fakes Illness," Lucy decides the best way to persuade Ricky to let her be in his show is to convince him that he has caused her to have a nervous breakdown due to the constant frustration she suffers from his disallowing her involvement in his show.  Ricky begins to sincerely worry about Lucy's mental health until he discovers what she's up to.  To get even with her, he hires an actor-friend to come to the apartment, pretend he's a doctor and diagnose Lucy with some rare, exotic, tropical disease. After examining her, she is finally diagnosed with the "Go-bloots." Eventually, after seeing the world "through green-colored eyeballs" (a symptom of the go-bloots, which was secretly aided by Ricky's placing a green light bulb into her bedside lamp), she becomes convinced that she--and then, Ethel--have really contracted the Go-bloots. When Ricky believes Lucy has learned her lesson, he confesses to the whole gimmick, and they make-up. Assuming that she will be in the show, Lucy asks Ricky when she will start rehearsing.  He, in turn, pretends to suddenly develop amnesia, and when Lucy sees he is pulling her own trick, she agrees to give up her aspirations to be in the show.

So here's to the Go-bloots--and what's more--them going away!

You can purchase I Love Lucy Episode #16 "Lucy Fakes Illness" as part of  I Love Lucy - The Complete First Season

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday, Jean Harlow!

Jean Harlow, the Original Platinum Blonde
Jean Harlow was the original blonde bombshell.  She was smart, funny and stunningly gorgeous. Jean Harlow is the platinum blonde from which all other platinum blondes have evolved (myself included!). Many people who hear "platinum blonde" think of Marilyn Monroe.  But what they don't realize is that Marilyn idolized Jean Harlow, and modeled much of what became known as "the Monroe" look after Jean. One thing is certain: before Marilyn, or Madonna or Gwen...there was Jean.

Born March 3, 1911 as Harlean Carpenter in Kansas City, Missouri, she later changed her name to Jean Harlow (Harlow being her mother's maiden name) and would be the first to popularize those brilliant-white locks.  As a child, Jean suffered from bouts of meningitis and scarlet fever (which would later be the cause of her tragic, untimely death at the tender age of 26). 

Professionally, Jean is most noted for her roles in films such as Platinum Blonde, Dinner at Eight, Libeled Lady and Bombshell.  But it seems she has come to be most frequently remembered for her sometimes-eccentric personality, and particularly referenced for her signature look: curvaceous woman with platinum hair in a clingy, white-satin, bias-cut gown, shining like a star in the night. (Just look at the pictures, and you will see why!)

The Original Blonde Bombshell
 Now, this blog is dedicated to the legacy of Lucille Ball, so you may be wondering, "What does Jean Harlow have to do with Lucille Ball?"  Well, there are a couple of notable connections: the first being that both Jean and Lucille were born in 1911, (Jean on March 3, and Lucille on August 6) making this year their would-be 100th birthdays; the other connection has to do with the films Libeled Lady and
Easy to Wed.

Jean starred in the 1936 screwball comedy Libeled Lady as Gladys Benton, who is a tough, but funny broad.  It was ten years later, in 1946, that MGM remade the film as Easy to Wed, in which Lucille Ball also played the part of Gladys Benton.  Both films are excellent productions of the same screenplay and carry strong comical performances by major actors (William Powell, Myrna Loy, Jean Harlow--and later--Van Johnson, Esther Williams and Lucille Ball.)  It is the role of Gladys Benton that really steals the show, and both Jean and Lucille played her wonderfully.

About Lucille,  The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Comedy provided by Miss Ball is really the most compensating feature of this production. She is at her super best..." And a review by Film Daily read, "...very special honors go to Lucille Ball for her topnotch comedy scenes which highlight the film."

Lucille gave much credit to director Eddie Buzzell for the success of her comedy sequences, saying that he allowed her to use her own instincts and helped encourage her uniqueness by not forcing a performance.  Regardless of which version you prefer, both Jean Harlow and Lucille Ball give two of their finest film performances as quirky, scene-stealing Gladys Benton.  So here's to Jean, and Lucille, and to all the ways they continue to inspire us, even 100 years after their birth! 

Check out these links for resources pertaining to the amazing life of Jean Harlow.
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