Saturday, February 28, 2009
Lucy & Desi: A Home Movie (MPI, $19.98) gives fans of one of the most well-known couples in all of TV history a view of what things were like off-camera. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the stars of the classic TV series I Love Lucy, were married in 1940 and in their twenty years of marriage, they managed to build a TV legacy in a way that few (if any) others could successfully do.
Although the phrase "a home movie" appears in the title, it is a bit misleading. There are many clips from home movies from the private collection of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, although a lot of the documentary is interviews with family, friends, producers, and others that knew the couple most of all. There are also a few interspersed clips of interviews with Lucy and Desi from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The documentary starts nearly a century ago, with the childhood of Lucy and Desi. We find out here that both of them came from families that had certain difficulties. We hear quite a bit about Lucy's childhood, but not quite so much about Desi's.
The documentary quickly segues into the married life of Lucy and Desi, where we find out a lot about the movie careers that Lucy and Desi had in the 1940s, basically all of which were through the film studio RKO. And then, we get to the divorce--the first one in 1944, which never actually happened. Lucy decided that she wanted to divorce Desi because he was allegedly cheating on her (although Lucie Arnaz says that he always told her that he wasn't fooling around with other women in the way that other people though). The divorce never came to be, which opened the door to the big thing that was coming in a few years, a little TV series called I Love Lucy.
The year was 1951. Lucy and Desi had their first child, a daughter named Lucie Arnaz (one of the producers of this very documentary) and just a few months later, production of the series I Love Lucy began. But production costs for the series were a little expensive, and neither CBS nor Philip Morris were able to fully fund the series, so Desi Arnaz had an enterprising idea--he and Lucy would help to fund the series provided that he could have the film rights to the series. And so began the well-know TV studio of the 1950s and 1960s, Desilu. Not all went will for them in the 1950s, however. It was discovered that Lucy's hair was not the only red thing about her, and that she was also registered as a Communist in New York. It had the potential to destroy her entire career (as it had done to many other celebrities at the time), but luckily she came away mostly unscathed. As the 50s progress, we see the marriage of Lucy and Desi beginning to go into a slow decline, mostly due to Desi's use of drugs and alcohol, and the documentary takes us all the way to the 1960s, where Lucy takes control of Desilu away from Desi and the divorce proceedings begin. The documentary ends with a brief look into their lives after the divorce, and ends with a home movie from the 80s with Lucy and Desi in a swimming pool with their grandchild, with Desi singing (what else?) Babalu.
The DVD has very basic packaging (as it is only one disc) and very basic menus. They are simple, but functional for what it is worth. There is an option on the menus to turn on English subtitles for those that require them. The video and audio quality of the DVD and the special features is generally pretty impressive, except perhaps for the quality of the game show episodes from the 1950s. Of course, considering that these were never intended to be preserved in the first place, there isn't much to truly complain about with this.
The DVD is not without bonus features, either. We also have more interviews (31:07) on the disc from Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. (in addition to the interviews featured in the documentary) that reflect upon the lives of their parents in a more candid perspective. There are even outtakes (20:32) from the interviews featured in the documentary! One of my favorite special features happens to be the original commercials (12:50) that are included that came from episodes of The Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz Show (better known these days as The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour). Basically, these are extended commercials for Westinghouse that feature the characters from the series in their roles. I love how these older series integrated the characters into the commercials! These are very fun to watch.
The next two special features are sure to please game show fans. The first is a segment from the game show What's My Line? (9:15) where the celebrity panelists are blindfolded and have to guess the mystery celebrity on stage--which happens to be Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz! Additionally, we have an entire episode of the game show I've Got a Secret (23:48) with a special celebrity panelist for the episode, Lucille Ball. Finally, we have a Photo Gallery which features many photos from the private collection of Lucy and Desi, and we have a promo from MPI (2:03) for an upcoming DVD release (in season form) which many fans may have already heard of: the TV series Here's Lucy!
All in all, it isn't a bad documentary, although it does seem to be drag on a bit too slowly at times. I personally would have found it to be more interesting if it had a greater focus on the TV careers of Lucy and Desi. It seems to focus more upon their film careers and family life. Of course, the most dedicated fans of Lucille Ball are certain to love this, but to the casual fan, a lot of it may seem to be extraneous information. I kind of expected to find more information about the more negative aspects of their lives in the documentary, but it seemed that they skimped on some of the details of these events. That isn't to say that they completely ignore them, though. Fans of the work of Lucy, as well as anybody that is interested in television's golden era will definitely appreciate this DVD.
Reviewed by skees53
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