The Long, Long Trailer
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In 1953, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were America's favorite married couple, thanks to the huge success of their television series, I Love Lucy. During the 1952-53 season, Lucy's second pregnancy and the birth of their son Desi, Jr., had been incorporated into the storyline. The birth of "Little Ricky" episode in January had racked up an astonishing Nielsen rating of 71.7 percent, and garnered as much news coverage as the inauguration of President Eisenhower.
Just a few years earlier, Ball had been a contract player at MGM. Although she'd had some starring roles, she was usually cast as the wisecracking pal of the leading lady, or the foil for such actors as Red Skelton. Arnaz, who had met Ball when both appeared in RKO's Too Many Girls (1940), had an even spottier movie career - there weren't many roles for Cuban conga players. It wasn't until they turned to television in 1951 that the couple became superstars on the small screen.
Meanwhile, back at MGM, the same team that had made Father of the Bride (1950), and its sequel, Father's Little Dividend (1951) - producer Pandro Berman, director Vincente Minnelli, and screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett - had another domestic comedy in the works. The Long, Long Trailer (1954) was based on a non-fiction book about a middle-aged couple who spent a year traveling cross-country in a mobile home. By making them honeymooners, and making the husband Latin and the wife wacky, the script was perfect for the king and queen of television. (Arnaz, in fact, had tried to buy the rights to the book, but Berman had beaten him to it.) But MGM executives wanted no part of it. At that time, studios were trying desperately to lure audiences away from the television and into theaters. And they were convinced that people wouldn't pay to see actors they could get at home for free. But since The Long, Long Trailer would be an inexpensive film to make, the studio finally agreed.
Ball was coy at first, telling interviewers she didn't care if she ever made another movie, but adding that she might make one during the summer hiatus, "just to see how I look in Technicolor. You know, I've been in gray and black for a long time now." But her lack of stardom in films must have rankled, and returning to MGM in triumph was sweet revenge. The Long, Long Trailer was shot in six weeks during the summer of 1953, and in spite of the complexity of some of the sequences, Minnelli recalled it as one of the easiest films he ever made.
Critics may have grumbled that "Tacy" and "Nicky" were just Lucy and Ricky on wheels, but they had to admit that nobody was better at slapstick farce than Ball, and nobody played exasperated hubby better than Arnaz. Millions of I Love Lucy fans agreed - they made The Long, Long Trailer one of 1954's biggest hits. The couple was as big at the box office as they were in the Nielsen ratings. And the film has retained a cult following to this day thanks to such hilarious scenes as Lucy trying to make dinner in the trailer's kitchenette while Desi maneuvers a hazardous road or the sequence where Lucy's obsessive rock collecting pushes Desi over the edge - literally.
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Screenplay: Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, based on the novel by Clinton Twiss
Editor: Ferris Webster
Cinematography: Robert Surtees
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno
Music: Adolph Deutsch
Cast: Lucille Ball (Tacy Collini), Desi Arnaz (Nicholas Carlos Collini), Marjorie Main (Mrs. Hittaway), Keenan Wynn (Policeman), Gladys Hurlbut (Mrs. Bolton), Moroni Olsen (Mr. Tewitt), Bert Freed (Foreman), Madge Blake (Aunt Anastacia).
C-96m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri