Cast & Crew
Although they were at first happily married, Susan and Lorenzo Xavier Vega have slowly grown apart over five years of marriage. Larry, a chemical engineer at Finlay-Vega Chemical Company, is so busy perfecting a new insecticide that he often neglects his lonely wife. One night, when Susan's idle rich cousins, Millie and Henry Opdyke, insinuate that Susan deserves a more luxurious home with separate bedrooms, Larry suddenly announces that he has been asked to test his new product on a two-year-world-wide field trip and suggests Susan join him. When Henry calls Larry a selfish schoolboy for considering such a disruption in domestic life, a fight between the couples ensues. After the Opdykes leave, Larry admits that he picked the wrong time to talk about the trip, but then suggests Susan is becoming as conceited as Millie, prompting Susan to complain about Larry's bad habits and long work hours. Distraught by the turn in their relationship, Larry leaves to sleep in the study, while a tearful Susan remains in the bedroom. When a brisk wind draws her to the window, Susan watches as beautiful colored lights shimmering in the sky transform into the figure of man resembling Susan's movie idol, James Mason. As the figure walks into her bedroom, a terrified Susan rushes to the study, explaining that she is "scared" by a ghost. Larry assumes Susan has come to apologize and agree to join him on the trip to rekindle their love. The next day, when Susan tells psychiatrist Dr. Edward R. Winter about a guardian angel who appears only to her, the doctor thinks her obesession with Mason has caused the hallucination and sends her home. Later that day, after the angel appears repeatedly, Susan mentions him to her father, Charles Y. Bewell, a consummate drinker, who explains that Susan's mother's side of the family was rumored to have had guardian angels, while his side of family was known to see spirits. Later that day, when the angel warns Susan that her marriage is on the rocks, she asks why he looks like James Mason. The angel tells her that he looks that way because she wants him to, just as Larry's angel would appear in the form of his film idol, Ava Gardner. One morning, when Susan finally tells Larry about the angel, the scientist wants evidence of the angel's existence and laughs at his wife's behavior. That evening, when the angel causes Susan to behave strangely, Larry decides to take his wife out for dinner and a movie. Later, at the theater, they watch the real James Mason onscreen playing a brusque lover in pursuit of reluctant blonde leading lady Marilyn Maxwell. Susan is so enamored with Mason, she imagines herself as Marilyn, finally relenting and falling into Mason's arms. When the angel appears before her at home that night, Susan makes an obvious pass at him. Happy that her fear and resentment have turned into admiration for him, the angel takes the opportunity to tell a story about a wife who loves her husband, despite his ugliness, because she only sees his golden heart. He then suggests that Susan join Larry on the field trip to save their relationship. Susan is insulted that she must acquiesce to Larry, but the angel reminds her that she is only following Millie's snobbish lead. Later, when Larry announces he will leave in the morning for a two-day trip to Yosemite for work, Susan offers to go. Early the next morning on the drive to the park, Susan questions Larry about his job for the first time and discovers that he believes his work will help control insects in all countries, thus providing opportunities for people around the globe to prosper. Once they arrive at the park, Susan, an inexperienced camper, breaks the tent stake and instead attaches the tent to the car bumper. Soon, Larry attempts to drive supplies down to the water, causing the tent to collapse, and then watches as his bumbling wife baits a pole with a canned sardine, but then easily catches fish for their dinner. That evening, after Larry serenades his wife on an accordion, the happy couple retires to the tent where Larry zips Susan into her sleeping bag. Soon, however, a screeching owl trapped in the tent terrifies Susan, who begs Larry to solve the problem by leaving a lantern on to alleviate her fear. After Susan asks how to let air into the tent, Larry instructs her to pull a rope to open the window. Susan then accidentally pulls the boat rope, inflating the huge dingy in the tent, crushing Larry and Susan in their beds. Early the next morning, Larry, frustrated by his wife's antics, assigns her to row the boat while he collects water samples. When Susan tries to free the boat from a branch, she accidentally punctures it. As Larry salvages his equipment while the boat sinks, he yells harshly at his wife, who decides to return home as soon as possible. Resolved to intervene, the angel switches Larry's insecticide potion with pure talc so that his experiment will fail when company owners Bill Finlay and Clinton come to review the product's potential as an insecticide. When Larry discovers that the mosquito larvae are indeed still alive after application of the spray, he dejectedly walks away from the experiment. Susan finds him alone and tells him she believes in his research and will work right beside him. After the owners conduct another trial and find the solution works even better than expected, a pleased Larry accepts Susan's offer to continue on their two-year field trip together and her promise to learn more about waking up early and living outdoors. As the couple kiss, the angel walks into Larry's body and Susan falls in love with her husband all over again.
Willis B. Bouchey
Albert M. Pyke
For the first film in the deal, Schary suggested a property the studio had bought in the 1940's as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn -- about as far from Lucy and Ricky's personas as MGM was from TV sitcom. Extensive revisions would be necessary. In Forever, Darling (1955), Arnaz plays a research scientist so involved in his work that he neglects his wife, Ball. Her guardian angel, who happens to look like her favorite movie star, intervenes to save the marriage. The couple wanted Cary Grant to play the angel, but he was too expensive. The suave James Mason got the role, and played it elegantly. Two decades later, Mason would play a similar celestial creature in Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait (1978).
Lucille Ball was well known for her loyalty to old friends and colleagues, and she hired one of them to direct Forever, Darling. Alexander Hall was an old boyfriend and mentor of Lucy's from her starlet days in the 1930's. In fact, she'd dumped Hall when she met Arnaz, but they'd remained friends. Hall had not worked much recently, and was happy to get the job. But one Desilu executive recalled that "they hired Al Hall, but wouldn't let him direct." As they were used to doing, Ball and Arnaz ran the show, and brought in I Love Lucy writers Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll for some uncredited script doctoring. All their efforts, however, didn't help the film. Officials at Radio City Music Hall called Forever, Darling "substandard," and refused to premiere the film there. Instead, it opened at Loew's State, where the newlywed couple had performed their first vaudeville act in 1941.
Reviews were not good, and Forever, Darling was a disappointment at the box office, barely returning its production cost of $1.4 million. By mutual agreement, Ball, Arnaz and MGM cancelled the second picture in their deal. Plans for Desilu to move into feature film production were dropped as well, and the couple went back to doing what they did best, I Love Lucy.
In spite of Forever, Darling's failure, it left a lasting legacy to the Arnaz family - the tender title song, with music by Bronislau Kaper and lyrics by Sammy Cahn. It became a family tradition, sung by Desi at anniversaries and other events, a tradition that endured long after the marriage ended. When he sang it at daughter Lucie's wedding to actor Laurence Luckinbill, his ex-wife wept, and they hugged and kissed after the song.
Director: Alexander Hall
Producer: Desi Arnaz
Screenplay: Helen Deutsch
Editor: Dann Cahn, Bud Molin
Cinematography: Harold Lipstein
Costume Design: Eloise Jensson
Art Direction: Ralph Berger, Albert M. Pyke
Music: Bronislau Kaper
Principal Cast: Lucille Ball (Susan Vega), Desi Arnaz (Lorenzo Xavier Vega), James Mason (Guardian Angel), Louis Calhern (Charles Y. Bewell), John Emery (Dr. Winter), John Hoyt (Bill Finlay), Natalie Schafer (Millie Opdyke).
C-91m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri
Why do you look like James Mason?- Susan
Do I look like James Mason?- Angel
I should say you do!- Susan
(admiring himself in a mirror) So I look like James Mason, do I?- Angel
The working title for the film was Her Guardian Angel. The Ames Brothers' onscreen credit reads: "The Ames Brothers: Ed, Vic, Gene and Joe singing 'Forever, Darling.'" An acknowledgment thanking the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service for permission to shoot in the Yosemite National Park, where the camping sequences of the film were shot, follows the closing credits.
A February 2, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the world premiere of Forever, Darling was to take place in Jamestown, New York, Lucille Ball's hometown; however, no date has been found. The February 7, 1956 Hollywood Reporter review of the film states that it was released in wide-screen format. According to a March 15, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Cary Grant was considered for the role of the "Guardian Angel." A June 9, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that men's wear designer Cy Devore was assigned as the costume designer for the film; however, the only onscreen wardrobe credit is for Elois Jenssen, whose credit reads: "Miss Ball's Wardrobe by Elois Jenssen." According to modern sources, the script for Forever, Darling was originally written in the 1940s as a vehicle for Ball. Desi Arnaz, as the character "Lorenzo Xavier Vega," serenades Ball with the title song, accompanying himself on an accordion during their camping trip.
Forever, Darling was the second and final film in which popular husband-and-wife team of Ball and Arnaz starred. Please consult the entry for the 1954 M-G-M film The Long, Long Trailer (see below), the first film in which the couple starred, for more information on their Emmy Award-winning television show I Love Lucy and Desilu Productions. Arnaz formed Zanra Productions [a reversed spelling of Arnaz] shortly before deciding to produce Forever, Darling, a film which marked his debut as a producer. Forever, Darling was the only feature film produced by Zanra Productions.
Released in United States Winter February 1956
Released in United States Winter February 1956