Saturday, August 6, 2011

Who Loves Lucy?

Since today is Lucy's 100th birthday, I'm reposting a previous article. It just seemed appropriate. For those of you with XM radio, tune to channel 82 today for some fun old radio stuff featuring our girl.

Where do I begin to tell you about Lucy. Let's go back to October of 1951, when the whole love affair began and everyone started saying I Love Lucy!

The show starred Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivan Vance, and William Frawley. It ran as a black and white program (as most of them were in those days) on the CBS network. It began when the first show aired October 15, 1951 and ended on May 6, 1957. It was the most-watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and it was the first show to end its run at the top of the ratings. The show remains in syndication today.

I could go on and on and explain how Lucy is somewhat na├»ve and ambitious, with an overactive imagination and a knack for getting herself into trouble. But you already know that. I could tell you that she’s obsessed with joining her husband in show business. But you know that, too. So let me fill up the white space by telling you something you may not know.

Unlike television shows today, the scenes were often performed in sequence, as a play would be, which was unusual for comedies at that time. Retakes were rare and dialogue mistakes were often played off for the sake of continuity.

Desilu was the production company that was owned by Desi and Lucy. It rented space at General Service Studios on Hollywood from 1951 until 1954, when it bought the Motion Picture Center and renamed it Desilu Studios. The shot at the right is an aerial view of the complex. The one below is the Mansion on the same property. I'm not certain what this building was used for.

The opening familiar to most viewers features the credits superimposed over a "heart on satin" image, shown at the beginning of this post. However, that was not the original opening but was created specifically for syndication. As originally broadcast, the episodes opened with animated matchstick figures of Arnaz and Ball making reference to whomever the particular episode's sponsor was. These sequences were created by the animation team of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, under contract to MGM at the time.

The original sponsor was cigarette maker Philip Morris. At that time the program opened with a cartoon of Lucy and Ricky climbing down a pack of Philip Morris cigarettes. In the early episodes, Lucy and Ricky, as well as Ethel and Fred, were shown smoking Philip Morris cigarettes.
Since the original sponsor references were no longer appropriate when the shows went into syndication, a new opening was needed, which resulted in the classic heart on satin opening.

The original openings, with the sponsor names edited out, are now used on TV Land showings, with a TV Land logo superimposed to obscure the original sponsor's logo. Ironically, this has led some people to believe that the restored introduction was created specifically for TV Land.

One of the most memorable episode is entitled “Job Switching.” It’s a classic with the well-known scene of Lucy and Ethyl wrapping the candy as it comes down the conveyor belt. The video bar toward the bottom often has that scene on it if you want to look at it again. It’s just as funny today as it was the day they filmed it.

Other episodes that I would have to put in the top ten include: “Lucy Does a Commerical” (the Vitameatavegamin girl), “Lucy and Superman,” “L.A. at Last” (with William Holden getting a pie in the face and Lucy catching her putty nose on fire when she tries to light a cigarette), and “Lucy Does the Tango” (in which Lucy and Ethyl try to convince the boys the hens are laying eggs by smuggling them from the store into the henhouse, under their coats. Everything is fine until Ricky decides to have Lucy dance with him and the eggs begin breaking.)

I'm not certain which episode the photo at the right came from. I don't recall a fish episode. So, if anyone is familiar with it, please comment and let us all know.

The Vitameatavegamin video on the right sidebar is sure to bring a smile to your face. It's a classic, so enjoy.

3 comments:

SharonLD said...

It's hard to believe that the show ended the same year that I was born...I feel like I grew up with the show. The fish episode was about a trip they took to Florida and they had some men vs. women fish catching bet (can't remember why).I still laugh at these shows as if it's for the first time. I love Lucy ;o)

Michael said...

Sharon. Glad you see your comment and glad you love lucy, too. And thanks so much for clarifying that fish episode. I thought I had watched every episode, but I apparently missed that one. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

Lindsay said...

Hi. The fish photo is from Season 6, Episode 7 "Deep-Sea Fishing". Excellent episode. Definitely watch it if you get a chance :)

Hope this helps!