Sometimes when the world becomes too much to bear, its nice going back to things we loved in childhood. The other day I discovered Amazon Prime has reruns of “I Love Lucy.” Certain feelings crept up, some expected and some not, as I watched Lucy’s antics…
First, Lucille Ball – With her straight-faced, laser-focused intensity, she could make anything hilarious. I recently saw Nicole Kidman play Lucy in “Being the Ricardos” (a new movie on Amazon) and though it was a game attempt, for me, Kidman didn’t have the same mad gleam in her eye. Whether being caught in the starch vat of a dry cleaners, lighting her fake nose on fire in front of actor William Holden, or stuffing her face to capacity in a chocolate factory, Lucille Ball managed to be both brash and beautiful, intelligent and goofy, glamourous and slapstick.
Desi Arnaz – As both star and executive producer, he was smart enough to stand back and let Lucy be Lucy. But what a great straight man he became. One of my favorite Ricky moments is when he was singing in his night club and learned someone there was to become a father. After scoping out for the lucky couple, he comes upon Lucy sitting in the audience who simply nods. Ricky realizes he’s the one about to have a baby. “It’s me! It’s me!” he cries joyously. There was something so genuine and moving in that moment, I always get a little misty-eyed.
Fred and Ethel –I forgot how funny Vivian Vance and William Frawley were. In one classic episode, Lucy and Ethel stay up all night putting back together a barbecue, brick by brick, they destroyed looking for Lucy’s wedding ring. When Fred sees their horrible job, he dares give Ethel a hard time. She turns to him, hands on hips, giving a withering look. “Fred Mertz, I’m dead tired from being up all night liftin’ those heavy bricks, and if you say one more word to me, I’m gonna take YOU apart and put YOU back together.” In classic William Frawley timing, he pauses a second. “I was just asking, honey bunch.”
A feminist vibe – I loved Lucy’s, at times, obsessive passions, which stood out among the more well-behaved housewives of her day, like Donna Reed and June Cleaver. And although Lucy was a comedian, and it’s not a fair comparison, what I loved about her character was her drive, ambition, and bravery. Whether constantly trying to break into show business or starting her own store (including selling cuts of meat from a baby carriage) she wasn’t afraid to be unladylike, messy or ridiculous. Nobody could embody “She persisted” like Lucy Ricardo. Today I could see her running for congress or leading a company.
Poignancy – The day after taping their last episode together, Lucy filed for divorce from Desi. It seems ironic the show entitled “I Love Lucy” about a loving marriage turned out to be anything but. Desi, though a talented producer, was a notorious womanizer and Lucy had had enough. They both remarried but I always felt they never stopped loving each other. Maybe that title was fitting after all.
Yes, it’s nice to visit our childhoods now and then. I still remember summer mornings watching the reruns with my sister Jane and brother Eric. By our teens, we could recite every line and even now over five decades later, zingers like “It’s a moo-moo” or “I’ll have another HELP-ing!” get us laughing.
We can’t go back in time, but it’s nice in this harrowing world to visit occasionally. Turns out many of us still love Lucy after all.