Saturday, 15 October 2016

65 Years: I Love Lucy

Today marks the date when the first I Love Lucy episode was filmed exactly 65 years ago. In order to celebrate the series that still manages to bring roaring laughter to audiences of all age groups, I would like to list 10 fun facts about the beloved series, all of which are not entirely very well known. 

(1.) The Very First "I Love Lucy" Episode: Although this episode may not be as well known as "Job Switching" or "Lucy Does a TV Commercial", it is still a very well written episode. The name of the episode? "The Girls want to Go to a Nightclub" and along with the clever plot, this episode also has a significance to it, as it was the first ever "I Love Lucy" presented to the audiences of America. This episode depicts a jealous Ethel and Lucy and their humorous attempt at getting back at Ricky and Fred by dressing up as deplorable dates to accompany the two men during an evening out at a nightclub. Their act of revenge eventually grows more and more transparent as the evening wears on and Ricky and Fred start to recognize the two despite their disguises. Needless to say, the Ricky and Fred begin to turn the tables and begin their own quest for revenge. 

(2.) CBS Initially Did not Believe That Americans would Buy into the Idea that Lucy was Married to a "Foreign" Man: When CBS first approached Lucille Ball with the offer of changing her popular radio show "My Favorite Husband" into a television series she was only willing to commit as long as her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz would be able to play the role of her husband. The network laughed at the idea and stated that American viewers simply could not accept that a regular housewife could possibly be married to a "foreign" man. To them it seemly was not feasible. In the end, however, the idea of "Ricky Ricardo" as a husband won out and it's hard to imagine Lucy with anyone else.

(3.) William Frawley Was Far From The First Pick to Portray Fred Mertz: Although Lucille Ball was eager to have Gale Gordon, also the same actor who had portrayed the grouchy neighbor on the radio show in which she starred "My Favorite Husband", due to a steady gig Gordon had on another radio show entitled "Our Miss Brooks" turned down the opportunity. William Frawley, who specialized in character acting scarcely knew Ball and merely met her in passing years previously. After reading about the opportunity, Frawley phoned Ball personally to inquire if there might be a part for him in the show. Both CBS and Philip Morris (The show's sponsor) were wary of Frawley due to his well-known bout with alcohol. Arnaz however, who was no stranger to the bottle himself, that that Frawley was just hot tempered enough to portray the perfect stingy and grumpy landlord that Fred Mertz was designed to become. Arnaz met Frawley for lunch on Melrose Ave. and offered him the role with the warning that if he should miss work for any reason other than being really ill, he would be written out of the show. 

(4.) The "Mertzes" Couldn't Stand Each Other off Camera: Vivian Vance who had in fact been 22 years younger than her television husband was deeply offended and took it as an insult that she had to have such an "old poop" portray her husband. To this statement from Leigh, Frawley was not pleased and made a few remarks of his own towards Vance, both of which I shall not relay. Despite their mutual disdain for one another, Frawley and Vance were wise enough not to jeopardize their jobs on TV, and eventually managed to tie their bitterness towards one another into their own characters, creating the well-known bickering couple we now know as "The Mertzes" 

"The Real Candy Lady": In the popular episode "Job Switching" otherwise known as "The Candy Factory Episode" is without a doubt one of the most favored "I Love Lucy" episodes of all time. The scene that stands out the most in this notable episode is without a doubt, the scene in which both Lucy and Ethel are depicted struggling at the conveyer belt and instead of wrapping the chocolates, stuffing them into their mouths. The scene prior to this, however, is the scene in which "The Real Candy Lady" is shown alongside Lucy, during which Lucy refers to herself as "The Big Dipper" and struggles to dip chocolates while battling with a fly. Stage Manager discovered "The Really Candy Lady" at See's Candies located on Santa Monica Blvd. Her name was Amanda Milligan and she had never seen I Love Lucy, but the Stage Manager still insisted that she would be the perfect person for the role due to her deadpan expression. He felt that she would be all the more humorous for Lucy to react to. During the slapping scene, Milligan hauled off and smacked Lucille so hard that her ears were ringing. Despite the pain that was inflicted with Milligan's slap, Ball did not call for a "cut" as she did not want to film the scene over again. When Lucille later asked Milligan how she liked working in show business, she retorted that she had never been so bored in her life. 

(6.) Under too Much Stress to Appreciate The Shooting of "Lucy Does a TV Commercial": Despite the fact that this episode is one of the most memorable episodes and a fan favorite, Ball was under too much stress to realize the mark in TV history that this episode would make. During shooting, she was far too nervous and feared that she would mess up her lines due to the difficulty of having to say "Vitameatavegamin" so many times. Ball, who was not much of an improvisor when it came to speaking, despite her talents in comedy. Overwhelmed with nervousness, Ball even went so far as to come up with a backup plan, should she forget her lines. She arranged for her script supervisor Maury Thompson to be placed off-side in front of her podium holding up her lines, this seemed to fit in with the concept for a real commercial setting. Needless to say, Ball managed to remember her lines and pulled off the entire episode beautifully, making this episode a favorite of many! Also, despite popular belief (because I'm sure everyone believed this) that the liquid being consumed by Lucille was really "Vitameatavegamin", it was really apple pectin. 

(7.) Panic Behind The Scenes: During the second season, Ball discovered that she was expecting a baby. While both she and Desi were thrilled, especially as Lucille had suffered three miscarriages before giving birth to their daughter Lucie in July of 1951, they also feared that the hit series would be jeopardized as other than the late 40's sitcom Mary Kay and Johnny (also featuring a real-life married couple), a visibly pregnant female was never shown on a TV series. Concealing the pregnancy during filming was out of the question as Desi insisted that Lucille's baby bump would be far too obvious as "she got as big as a house when she was carrying Lucie". Despite the worries they may have had, the network eventually agreed to include Ball's pregnancy as a part of the show. The scene shown in "Lucy is Enceinte" when Arnaz was prompted to sing "We're Having a Baby", was undoubtedly very emotional for both Lucille and Desi and the two started crying. Despite William Asher's initial instinct to reshoot the scene due to the tears, Asher was later moved to go back to the original take due to the raw emotion that both actors displayed. 

(8.) The Trouble with Grape-Stomping: During the filming of "Lucy's Italian Movie",  Lucille Ball suffered immensely. Teresa Tirelli who was the Italian grape-stomper featured alongside Ball, did not speak English and an interpreter had failed to relay to her that the fight between both she and Ball would merely be a fake fight shot-from-the-waist-up. Instead of faking the fight, Tirelli held Lucille's head under the grape mush until she nearly drowned. Despite the fact that the show was filmed in Black & White and no color would be seen, the production staff demanded detail in every aspect and ordered that a purplish/blue dye be properly worked in, in order to dye Lucille's flesh and hair without irritating her skin or affecting the formal used in her hair to create that famous henna color. 

(9.) The 65 Second Laugh: The record breaking laugh was triggered when Lucy hid dozens of eggs and then danced the tango with Ricky (inevitably resulting in a blouse filled with scrambled yolks), the audience roared uncontrollably for such a lengthy time that some of the laughter had to be edited out of the final film. During rehearsals, neither Ball nor Vance had actually used eggs. The two of them did so in order to give off a more genuine reaction when the shells cracked. 

(10.) 40 Before Lucy - As shocking as it may be, Ball had her 40th Birthday prior to "I Love Lucy's" debut. It's remarkable to say the least, that Ball was at the peak of her career in an industry that often tossed the women in Hollywood aside after their 35th Birthday. 

I hope you have enjoyed these fun facts and that you have had a moment in your day to watch an "I Love Lucy" episode or two today to celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of this phenomenal series!

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