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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Musical > Drama > The Lucy & Desi Collection (Too Many Girls/The Long, Long Trailer/Forever Darling)

The Lucy & Desi Collection (Too Many Girls/The Long, Long Trailer/Forever Darling)

 

Picture: C+†††† Sound: C+†††† Extras: C†††† Films: B-

 

 

Lucille Ball was a name movie star and Desi Arnaz was an up and coming talent.They were immortalized by television more than any other medium, but they made three feature films together that are often forgotten.Through Turner Entertainment owning the RKO and classic MGM catalogs, Warner Home Video has gathered the only three features they made together in The Lucy & Desi Collection, nicely boxed in three slender cases.

 

Too Many Girls (RKO, 1940) starred Ball in the lead of a story about a rich girl who goes to college and cannot become independent as her overprotective father has four football players acting as secret bodyguards.A musical of sorts with songs by the great Rogers & Hart, the films first scenes deal with Arnazí character trying to integrate into college life.Richard Carlson, Ann Miller, Frances Langford, some RKO regulars and a then unknown (and uncredited in this film) Iron Eye Cody (later of the most successful anti-litter TV ad ever made) co-star in this talent showcase.Ironically, Lucy & Desi would buy the studio a decade and a half later from Howard Hughes, turning it into Desilu and building it into a powerful new empire.The songs are not bad and the film shows who ambitious RKO was in its heyday.

 

Their I Love Lucy series (reviewed elsewhere on this site) debuted in 1951 and as the show set ratings records and broke new ground, the couple tried a couple of lush feature films at MGM, in its final years as the top studio in Hollywood.They managed to land no less than Vincente Minnelli to direct The Long, Long Trailer in 1954, which tried to take the couple off the set and put the domestic situation on wheels.The reversal is simply not as clever as their show, makes for an odd film and is even interesting to watch when it does not work.The idea of seeing them in color was one draw, but the problematic script hampers the film and Minnelliís knack for melodrama cuts into the comedy and drama.The cast is a plus, including Marjorie Main, Keenan Wynn, Bert Freed, Madge Blake and an uncredited Ruth McDevitt.

 

The final film followed a year later.Forever Darling (1955) involves the couple in trouble (which turned out to be the case in real life) once happily married when the bottom started to fall out.In an odd twist, an angel (played by James Mason) arrives and tries to save them from divorce.The problem with this film is that it is the opposite of their hit series and the idea of trying to make a film about serious domestic unions whether bliss is included or not was something competing shows like I Married Joan tired and failed to do to compete with their hit.Also, it is obvious now that the Arnazís were in trouble and maybe picking this somewhat prophetic project was a bad idea.It becomes a sad, bittersweet, ironic production Desilu Studios was involved with and they went back to TV for good.Other beneficial casting includes Louis Calhern, John Hoyt, Natalie (Gilliganís Island) Schafer, Mabel Albertson and Nancy (Beverly Hillbillies) Kulp.

 

At least the couple was trying to offer something different to the same audience.

 

 

The 1.33 X 1 black and white image on Girls was shot by RKO cameraman Frank Redman, which has its share of grain, but looks good for its age.The 1.33 X 1 color image on Long Trailer was shot by the great Robert Surtees, A.S.C., but the color itself is at issue.The slendercase the DVD comes in says Technicolor, but MGM was backing the Ansco Color format too at the time and director Minnelli was using it in his films.Technicolor was responsible for the prints, but Ansco Color was a three-strip process itself at one time.By the 1950s, it was a single-strip stock like EastmanColor and the Technicolor labs were simply doing the lab work that actually made up for some of the stocks flaws and inferiority to Kodakís stocks.The result is slightly bleeding/shifting color throughout in the fine detail, but in the hands of Minnelli and Surtees interesting.

 

Ansco Color came from German Agfa color stocks, which was a big competitor to Kodak at that time, but has been taken over for second place by Fuji and Ansco Color was phased out a few years later.Today, Agfa sticks with still photography for the most part, but the occasional motion picture is shot in their still-produced motion picture film stock and it has improved greatly since.See the review of 301/302 elsewhere on this site.

 

That leaves Darling, also raving about a print by Technicolor, here in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 framing shot in EastmanColor.The color may be more accurate and refined, but it is also not as rich and complex as Long Trailer, since director Hall and cinematographer Harold Lipstein were trying for something more commercial.For whatever reason, the transfer is no better than Long Trailer either, so it is a draw and makes for an interesting study of film color either way.

 

The Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in all cases is more competent than expected, though even the good audio transfer on Girls cannot hide the age of the film.Extras on Girls includes the original trailer, a live action monochrome Warner music short Frances Carroll & The Coquettes and a nicely restored Merrie Melodies short Shop, Look & Listen originally in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor.Long Trailer has an original trailer, Ainít It Aggravatiní? short (anamorphically enhanced 16 X 9/1.78 X 1, black and white) about people who cannot park or act appropriately and the always amusing MGM animated short Dixieland Droopy in a good print doing a decent job of approximating its three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor as well.Darling includes its trailer and an excerpt to push the film from the MGM Parade TV series in black and white.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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