“We froze her, we starched her, we flew her from wires, we crushed raw eggs in her blouse, we covered her head with chocolate sauce, custard pie, feathers, salad dressing, a loving cup, cement and squashed grapes, and she never complained.”—comedy writers Madelyn Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr.
Beloved comedienne Lucille Ball would have turned 108 today, August 6, 2019. Let’s face it, in these distressing times, we all could use a hearty dose of I Love Lucy to remind us how to laugh again. To celebrate the comedy legend’s birthday, Fathom Events and CBS Home Entertainment have piggybacked five colorized, classic episodes from her 1950’s I Love Lucy CBS-TV series into a special, one-night only release in more than 600 movie theaters across the country.
I Love Lucy: A Colorized Celebration debuts in select theaters nationwide tonight, Tuesday, August 6, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. local time. For a complete list of participating theaters (AMC and Regal Cinemas, among other popular chains, are part of the mix), check the Fathom Events website http://www.FathomEvents.com or your local movie theater listings. See below for DVD availability.
“Almost everyone has seen and been captivated by I Love Lucy,” said Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt. “But even the biggest Lucy fan has rarely had the experience of seeing Lucy on the big screen and laughing alongside fellow fans in a movie theater.”
I loved Lucy. Unlike Mama, Harriet Nelson and Margaret Anderson, wife to the father who always knew best, Lucy Ricardo never tied her apron strings. As a housewife, she was rarely content or a success in the traditional sense of the term. She did try. But her efficient, “happy homemaker” schemes invariably tested husband Ricky’s Latin patience, and havoc ensued.
Lucy’s societal aspirations, part-time “jobs” and relentless quest for her own show business career drove a wedge between the couple, generating unforgettable comic shtick. Her bond with fellow housewife Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance) was possible only because Ethel was a seasoned vaudevillian and, like Lucy, had nerve to burn.
Though I never doubted Lucy’s love for Ricky, Little Ricky, and her surrogate family–Fred and Ethel Mertz–I knew that Lucy would never rest until she tried (and she tried everything!) to make a break from her everyday routine.
Nowhere were Lucy’s aspirations more evident than in Pioneer Women, a memorable I Love Lucy episode that originally debuted in black and white on CBS over half a century ago on March 31, 1952. Pioneer Women tops the list of five classic, colorized I Love Lucy episodes featured in the one-night 0nly theatrical event on August 6.
When Lucy and Ethel beg their husbands to buy them dishwashers (Lucy calculates she’s washed 219,000 dishes in 10 years of marriage, and her hands have had enough!), Ricky and Fred’s cheapskate solution (rubber gloves!) falls on deaf ears. And so begins a fifty-buck bet and battle of the sexes over who best can live without modern conveniences. You can almost smell the aroma of fresh-baked bread and home-churned butter as Lucy and Ethel tackle baking and churning the old-fashioned way in Pioneer Women… well, maybe not.
As the competitive foursome don the garb and accoutrements of yore, they are snafued by two snooty members of the Society Matrons’ League, who must approve Lucy and Ethel for coveted membership. Lucy takes the high road, but not before making a monumental misstep in the kitchen. I prefer to think of her six-foot-long loaf of home-baked bread as an over-achievement rather than a colossal misuse of yeast.
As every Lucy fan knows, Lucy Ricardo was a relentless showbiz wannabe. Never one to sit idly by while her husband, singer/bandleader Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz), got the gigs, Lucy relentlessly wangled her way into his shows. Her schemes to sing, act or pirouette her way into Ricky’s spotlight (often aided and abetted by best friend Ethel Mertz) triggered hilarious comedy escapades.
This is especially true in Lucy Does a TV Commercial, which originally debuted in black and white on CBS on May 5, 1952. Once again, Lucy ignores Ricky’s orders to steer clear of his show; this time, however, it’s Ricky’s TV variety show debut and there’s an opening for a TV commercial pitch woman. Multiple run-throughs forcing Lucy to swig a 23% proof tonic called “Vitameatavegamin” quickly turn her snappy sales spiel into riotous tongue-tied drivel. Inebriated and disheveled, she manages to deep-six the commercial and Ricky’s opening number.
Lucille Ball’s comic genius is truly in evidence in this classic Lucy episode. Ranked the “No. 2 television episode of all time” by TV Guide, Lucy Does a TV Commercial is a comedy gem.
In Job Switching (also fondly remembered as the Chocolate Factory episode), Lucy raises Ricky’s hackles when she overdraws her checkbook. In one of her most uproarious efforts to prove to Ricky that she can make a living, Lucy drags Ethel to an employment agency where they nab a gig at a chocolate factory. After several failed attempts to master their assignments, they land on the assembly line where they’re faced with a boss and conveyor belt from Hell.
Meanwhile, as Lucy and Ethel corral the chocolates, their husbands–Ricky and Fred–take a stab at the housework. Their disastrous attempts to vacuum, iron, bake a cake and prepare a dinner of chicken and rice are equally side-splitting.
It should come as no surprise to learn that Lucy and Ethel’s futile effort to keep up with that speedy chocolate factory conveyor belt was selected in 2013 by the Paley Center for Media (in their “TV’s Funniest of the Funniest” poll) as the funniest TV moment of all time.
The Job Switching episode originally aired in black and white on CBS on September 15, 1952. Now, 67 years later, Lucy’s hair is red, her crisp factory uniform is pink, the chocolates are brown and the Ricardos’ kitchen is a Mid-century Modern riot of color; and Lucy, Ethel, Ricky and Fred will still make you laugh out loud.
I’m generally not a fan of colorized versions of vintage black and white TV shows and movies. The faux colors tend to look garish and cheesy and flatten the rich contrast found in their original black and white counterparts. That said, I have since warmed to the process and team who continue to colorize “Lucy.” They’ve managed to impart a fresh, timeless look to I Love Lucy by sticking with muted, natural tones and not overplaying their hand. This sensible use of color injects a pleasing, modern-day quality to the original black and white episodes without sacrificing the show’s vintage provenance.
Two additional episodes round out the Colorized Celebration theatrical release. Hilarious L.A. at Last! (Feb. 7, 1955) jump-starts my favorite I Love Lucy arc tracking Lucy and Ethel’s fan-fueled misadventures in Hollywood. In L.A. at Last!, movie star William Holden turns the iconic Brown Derby tables on persistent gawker Lucy and melts more than her smitten heart. And in The Million Dollar Idea (Jan. 11, 1954), Lucy and Ethel are forced to botch a batch of promising sales when Ricky puts the brakes on their homemade salad dressing business.
I Love Lucy: A Colorized Celebration debuts in select theaters nationwide tonight, Tuesday, August 6, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. local time. For a complete list of the more than 600 participating theaters (AMC and Regal Cinemas, among other popular chains, are part of the mix), check the Fathom Events website http://www.FathomEvents.com or your local theater movie listings.
But don’t fret if you can’t get to the theater on time! I Love Lucy: A Colorized Celebration is scheduled for DVD release on August 13, 2019. So slap on a smile, pass the popcorn and remember to wish Lucy a happy birthday! –Judith Trojan