I Love Lucy
Lucy and Ethel
I Love Lucy is an American classic sitcom from the 1950s, starring the famous comedienne Lucille Ball, her husband Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley. The series ran from October 15, 1951 to 1957 (180 episodes, including the "lost" Christmas episode). Keith Thibodeaux (credited as "Richard Keith") played "Little Ricky" in the last two seasons.
Based on a radio show starring Lucille Ball and Richard Denning called My Favorite Husband, I Love Lucy began its television career because of the popularity of the radio show. Denning was enthusiastic to continue his role as Ball's husband, but Ball wanted her real life husband, Desi Arnaz to play her onscreen husband. Studio heads were worried that American audiences would not find such a "mixed marriage" be believable, but Ball was adamant, and they were eager to have her in the part. To sway their decisions, Ball and Arnaz put together a vaudeville act featuring his music and her comedy, which was well received in several cities.
At the time television shows were shot live in New York City, and a low-quality 16mm kinescope print was made of the show. But Ball was pregnant at the time and her and Arnez therefore insisted on filming the show in Hollywood, California. The duo along with co-creator Jess Oppenheimer then decided to shoot the show on 35 mm film in front of a live studio audience, with three cameras (this technical innovation is now standard for sitcoms). The result was a much sharper image than other shows of the time and one of the best comic pairings to grace the small screen, with Ball as the scatterbrained wife and Arnaz as the long-suffering husband. The various setups were basically to give Ball the opportunity to display her extraordinary skill at physical comedy. Jess Oppenheimer, Bob Carroll, and Madelyn Pugh, writers of Ball's radio show, scripted the series.
One of the most memorable episodes was titled "Lucy Does a Commercial", filmed during the first season (episode 30 of 35) on March 28, 1952, and first aired on May 5 of that year. In this episode Lucy manages to get a role as the "Vitameatavegamin girl" and is tasked with trying to sell the public a tonic that has healthy amounts of vitamins, meat, vegetables, and the less healthy dose of 23% alcohol. During a number of rehearsals Lucy has to drink some of the tonic and gives grimacing facial expressions and says afterwards "It's tasty too. Just like candy". But due to the high alcoholic content Lucy begins to get drunk and slur her lines (especially the pronunciation of "Vitameatavegamin") and also begins to enjoy the taste better. So by the time she goes live with the commercial her lines "Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular?" becomes "Do you pop out at parties? Are you un-poopular?" and then she chugs the Vitameatavegamin bottle to the roaring laughter of the studio audience.
In November of 2001, fans voted this episode as their all-time favorite during a 50th anniversary I Love Lucy television special. Other memorable Lucy moments mentioned in the vote were: Lucy and Ethel working in a chocolate factory, the birth of Little Rickie (see below), Lucy stomping grapes in Italy and Lucy making an extremely long loaf of bread.
On January 19, 1953 68% of all United States television sets were tuned in to I Love Lucy to watch Lucy give birth. The next month on February 18 Ball and Arnaz signed an $8,000,000 contract to continue I Love Lucy through 1955. After the end of the weekly series, the actors reunited for several one-hour specials.
Classic moments include:
- Grape stomping
- Candy making
- Nose burning
- Harpo Marx
- Joe Garner, Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgetable Moments (Andrews McMeel Publishing; 2002) ISBN 0-7407-2693-5