- the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.”the story captured the zeitgeist of the late 1960s”
This is a good time to be a Lucille Ball fan. The 2021 Amazon film, “Being the Ricardos” was released in theaters and began streaming on Amazon Prime in December. There was much discussion of the casting of Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz. Kidman isn’t known for her comedic skills and Bardem isn’t Puerto Rican. Hot on the heels of that film is the Amy Poehler documentary, also an Amazon Production, “Lucy & Desi” that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last week and will be featured on the streaming service in March.
Turner Movie Classics has a popular podcast titled “The Plot Thickens“. Can you guess who was featured on their third season? Yes, Lucille Ball. The podcast is titled “Lucy”. “From her early years as a model to her triumphant takeover of television, this is the story of Lucille Ball, as never heard before. Join host Ben Mankiewicz as he delves into the private world of America’s funniest redhead and hear for yourself the many triumphs and tragedies, with surprising revelations at every turn.”
“I Love Lucy” reruns (all six seasons) can still be watched on many streaming services (Hulu, Paramount+, Amazon, AppleTV). According to the podcast, The Plot Thickens, over 40 million people have watched the show, often attributed as the greatest American sitcom. Why is it still popular? “I Love Lucy” is a 1950’s television sitcom about a squabbling American couple played by two entertainers who were actually married. It’s a family drama that mainly features four people and yet, it’s still popular around the world.
Most people can tell you that answer in one word, LUCY. Lucille Ball was a comedic genious. She was a consumate entertainer. Never afraid of looking awkward or ugly, some of Ball’s most memorable moments are when she screwed up her elastic expressive face to wail like a baby, act as if she’d tasted something awful, or to express her rage at a supposed injustice. She was funny but also relatable. She worked hard to earn the laughs of her studio audience and to keep the show believable. A role model for many women in show biz, Carol Burnett had her on “The Carol Burnett Show” and she shared a similar comedic talent. With the loss of much-beloved star Betty White, there aren’t many female comedy legends left.
“Being the Ricardos” may have taken flak for the casting but the stars are excellent in the roles. The premise of the movie is a week of filming “I Love Lucy”. Writer/Director Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), is known for his fast-paced dialogue. In this film, he lets the characters breath even as he condenses events that happened over different time periods into this one week. Nicole Kidman may not physically resemble Lucille Ball but she embodies her passion and her moving portrayal is the reason to see the film. Kidman communicates Ball’s professionalism, attention to detail and her long-standing feelings of insecurity in her marriage. It’s all there in her rigid posture, her trembling lip, and her strident pleas for the truth from her playboy husband.
There are lots of programs about Lucille Ball. What makes Amy Poehler’s new documentary so rich is the recently discovered audio recordings and home movies. “Lucy and Desi” lets the couple tell their own story. Hearing the love in their voices and later, the anguish as the marriage falls apart, makes the story that much more compelling. The documentary supplies something missing from “Being the Ricardos” — the acknowledgement of what this couple accomplished. They were a multi-racial couple that overcame prejudice to become America’s sweethearts. Ball and Arnaz broke barriers on their show both in the content (Lucy’s pregnancy) and in the modern filming techniques used (multiple cameras). The couple started their own studio and that grew to the biggest Hollywood production company of the time, The Desilu Studios. When Lucille Ball took over the empire, she was one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. “Lucy and Desi” also presents a much fuller picture of their relationship. Yes, they divorced after their show ended but they remained life-long friends and supporters of each other’s careers.
In the world of television, Lucille Ball is a legend. A much beloved comedian that most people will know right away by her first name alone, Lucy is having a moment. For whatever reason that her story is part of the zeitgeist right now, her history is more than worth your time. Whether you listen to the podcast, watch the film, wait for the documentary, or stream the reruns of the sitcom, there’s no denying–we love Lucy!
Drinks With Films Ratings
“Being the Ricardos” 3 shots of Cuban rum, a great behind-the-scenes look at American television and a wonderful performance by Nicole Kidman. This is a snapshot of this Hollywood power couple in a stressful time.
“Lucy and Desi” 3 1/2 bottles of Vitameatavegamin, a loving portrait of a couple and their impact on American television.