“‘I Love Lucy’ was never just a title.”
I’ve always grown up watching reruns of the I Love Lucy. In fact, I recently ran through the entirety of the show just a couple of weeks ago. The sound of that music, which is now so iconic, as the elegant script writes out the names of the four main actors—most importantly Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. I’ve always known them to be the cataclysmic powerhouse behind the show we all know and love, and even the force behind their successful Desilu Studios. But as an I Love Lucy fan, I couldn’t help but wonder, what was this new documentary going to show me that hadn’t already been shown before?
Lucy and Desi shows us it takes a comedian to write about another comedian. Amy Poehler, known for her Saturday Night Live and Parks and Rec fame, as well as other comedic films, brings this famous couple to life in ways that we have never seen. Through archived and behind the scenes footage, audio tapes, and interviews, this documentary feels authentic. It begins at the beginning, emphasizing the couples childhood—Lucy growing up in Jamestown, NY and Desi in Santiago, Cuba. The two, both with rough childhoods, looked to get out from where they were. But no matter how successful they both had become, they never lost sight of family, which led them to primarily start I Love Lucy in the first place. Desi’s band kept him on the road while Lucy stayed in Los Angeles and worked in movies, and eventually radio. When the idea of having a show similar to her successful “My Favorite Husband” came along, she said she would do it, but only with Desi. I Love Lucy was born, and the rest was history.
If you’re a fan of the couple, and have seen any documentaries or read things here and there, that previous information is all known. Desi being on the road, Lucy wanting to save their marriage, the success of “My Favorite Husband,” etc. However, Lucy and Desi fills everything in that often slips through the cracks when the story is retold. This documentary takes a subject that is familiar, and is so well-known, and yet it feels new. Take comedian Carol Burnett’s interview, for example. She has been featured in almost everything dealing with Ball and Arnaz. Burnett, who was taken under Ball’s wing during the beginning of her career, offers us heart-to-heart information that she had not divulged before.
Poehler sits down with her subjects, including Ball and Arnaz’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill, and asks them the questions that may not have been asked before. The culmination of information throughout Lucy and Desi is not something that you may find in other documentaries or even on an IMDb trivia page. The film is thorough in presenting the viewer with a well-rounded scope of the couple—a deep dive. I found Arnaz’s childhood story to be particularly eye-opening. But the most impressive was the steps that I Love Lucy took during production, which changed television today as we know it. Some of the parts towards the end came as a shock to me. The couple, who I’m sure we all know the fate of their relationship after I Love Lucy, still clung to that love for one another.
There’s so much that Lucy and Desi has to offer. How Ball inspired so many female comedians, how she and Arnaz revolutionized the television industry, and how shows like Star Trek wouldn’t have gotten their start without Desilu Studios. We often look at I Love Lucy and think, “wow, what a funny show!” But Ball and Arnaz’s credit does not end there and it is far from over. Poehler, with her talent as a director, has given us more insight into this famous couple. Showing me, that even after all this time, I still love Lucy.
Lucy and Desi
Directed by: Amy Poehler
Starring: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Carol Burnett, Bette Midler, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill, Charo, and Norman Lear