Still in Love with Lucy
by Thomas Watson
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Happy New Year One and All!
Lucy Takes a Cruise to DVD
"Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana," the very first of the Lucille Ball - Desi Arnaz specials, will be showcased on the new "I LOVE LUCY: THE FINAL SEASONS - 7, 8 & 9," due out March 13. For many viewers, this will be the first time in 50 years that the show will be available in its entirety.
The program, produced in June, 1957, and broadcast November 6, 1957, was (as many Lucyfans already know) originally conceived as a 60-minute special. The storyline told, in flashback, how Lucy McGuillicuddy met Ricky Ricardo. Included in the cast were not only the "I Love Lucy" regulars, but such big-name guests as Hedda Hopper, Ann Sothern, Cesar Romero and Rudy Vallee -- with ample support from veteran "Lucy" character actors Frank Nelson and George Trevino. Making the show even more special were two production numbers ("Our Ship is Coming In" and "That Means I Love You") written especially for Lucy and Desi by Arthur Hamilton.
Everything seemed great until Desilu edited this first "jumbo show" together -- and discovered that with commercials it would run 75 minutes rather than 60! Desi put in a call to CBS' Bill Paley, who suggested the studio either trim 15 minutes out of the show or find a way to pad it to 90. "We do 30-minute shows, 60-minute shows, 90-minute shows," Paley explained. "No one does 75 minute shows!"
But Desi was convinced he had a great special on his hands, and did not want to ruin it by cutting it back or padding it. He asked Paley what show would follow it, and when he learned it was the often-produced-live "United States Steel Hour," he called the US Steel people and asked them to do a 45-minute show the night the "Lucy" special aired. They agreed -- and that evening's "US Steel" presentation racked up the series' all-time best rating.
"Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana" itself was the top rated show of the week and -- along with the four subsequent Lucy-Desi specials -- ranked as one of the top five broadcasts of the season.
Sadly, CBS said "never again." The show would have to conform to normal broadcast standards. "Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana" would have to be trimmed to fit a normal 60-minute time period. Desilu itself did the cutting. Clipped out (of the master negative!) were the opening and closing "modern-day" scenes, in which the Ricardos and Mertzes start and end their story (to columnist Hedda Hopper) about Lucy and Ricky's first meeting. Twelve additional cuts were made -- some only a few seconds in length, some a few minutes.
And the deleted materials were never broadcast again! In fact, they were put in a vault and, essentially, forgotten. Except by "Lucy" fans the world over who have been clamoring for years to see this "lost" special in its entirety.
Now, for this "50th anniversary" release -- CBS has remastered and restored the show to its original length, and will present it in this new DVD set. Not only will fans get to see all the long-missing scenes, they get to see the original Ford Motors animated opening, Desi's original on-camera greeting welcoming people to the new series -- and his later on-camera good-night speech, in which he asks viewers to stay tuned for the "U.S. Steel Hour" that followed.
This is just one of the "surprises" that will be included on "I LOVE LUCY: THE FINAL SEASONS - 7, 8 & 9." As I mentioned above, it is due to be released on March 13. Mark your calendars -- or, better yet, order it today from Amazon.com (www.amazon.com) or your favorite Lucy video merchandiser!
FROM OUR "LUCYFAN" MAIL BAG
We received a note from longtime fan Michael Stern, telling us that the 2001 Lucille Ball commemorative stamp ranks #25 among the all-time best-selling Unites States Postage stamps. 38.7 million of the stamps were sold -- but sales were curtailed when the price of postage went up! (Number One, of course, is the 1993 Elvis Presley release, which sold some 124.1 million!)
And author/educator Skip Koenig wrote to tell us that the Lucy caricature that hangs in Sardi's Restaurant in New York is not only visible but spotlighted in a picture taken recently of performer Bob Martin. The photo layout is included on the www.broadwaystars.com website (access photo #12).
Have a great week everybody -- and, once again, Happy New Year!
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Images of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used with permission of Desilu, too, LLC.
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