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Neil

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Neil last won the day on February 23

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  1. A little Shirley Eder background. As two-faced as they come, she recorded phone conversations between herself and Joan. Then turns around and bad-mouths Joan to "Missy" Stanwyck, also recorded. In one of the conversations with Joan, Crawford bemoans the fact that they aren't writing movie roles for women her age "now that I'm 50" (she was 64 at the time). Joan mentions being offered a play but is reluctant because she's never had to learn a part from beginning to end. In the movies, she would memorize the next day's scenes only. "But", Joan says, "I'm coming out to LA next week to do a 'Lucy Show' so I can get m' feet wet with that at least." As far as I know a Joan Crawford play never materialized. "I was saving my feet for a rainy day, but I didn't know they were going to get THIS wet." We'll probably never know the true story of the back-stage goings-on during "Lucy and the Lost Star". The basis for all the hubbub seems to stem mostly from Herb Kenwith, whom I don't find a reliable source. But it's such irresitably JUICY stuff, it's been repeated so often that it has become fact.
  2. “Lucy and the Lost Star-part 3”- (yes this one is little surreal combining elements of the original episode with the backstage goings-on between Lucille Ball and Joan). With demand for “more Joan Crawford movies” at an all-time high, agent Lew Parker quickly options “Speakeasy Days” for Joan’s first musical since “Torch Song”. Author Lucy Carmichael sells the rights with the provision that she be cast in her original role as Rusty, much to Crawford’s chagrin. Now that she’s the one in charge, Joan, still reeling from her treatment on “The Lucy Show” set, sees this as opportunity to give Lucy a taste of her own medicine: first criticizing her dancing (“You’re too OLD to do “Mame”), cutting her number to a few brief seconds, excising most of Rusty’s lines and at one point bellowing “Get Joan Blondell!!” When the studio gets the innovative idea to of doing a full-blown production of “Speakeasy Days” as a stage musical to generate publicity, Lucy waits for the performance to create havoc, upstaging Miss Crawford, Talullah-style. (She’s a little disappointed when one of her tricks, replacing Joan’s “ginger ale” with real 100 proof gin has no effect on Crawford). Joan’s anxiety is reaching panic-proportions when she realizes the upcoming scene has “Rusty” shooting Joan’s character. “Just how far will this Carmichael woman go?” Joan wonders as she adlibs a few extra belts from the bottle of “ginger ale” and freaks out, exiting the stage mid-performance to make her getaway in a car waiting in the alley behind the theater with the motor running (driven by “good friend” gossip columnist Shirley Eder). The show goes on and ends with a standing ovation for Joan’s understudy Gloria Swanson.
  3. Lucy and the Lost Star-part 2”- When the Joan Crawford episode of The Lucy Show winds up being #1 for the week by a long shot and propels CBS’s entire Monday night line up into the top 5 positions in the ratings, producers quickly cobble together a sequel. With no time for a script from scratch, Bob O’Brien offers a virtual remake of last season’s “Lucy and John Wayne” with Lucy visiting the set of Joan’s movie “Berserk” and getting carried away, thinking Joan is in actual danger. (Imagine Lucy shoving Joan’s face side to side as she adjusts her make up between takes with her non-stop “It doesn’t seem fair. They always gang up on you” chatter). While venting her concerns to assistant director Bryan O’Bryan, he, a veteran of the “Baby Jane” set, says “I’ve seen Miss Crawford hurt a number of times” adding fuel to Lucy’s frenzy. Distracted with this conversation, Lucy misses the onset direction the “Berserk” director is giving dagger-wielding Diana Dors to grab the prop break-away knife before she attacks Joan. As the scene begins with Diana lunging at Joan, Lucy goes ballistic and enters the melee, grabbing a real dagger and ripping into cast and crew Zorro-style. When in her confusion, she spins around to attack Joan herself, Joan’s porcelain make-up shields any penetration but she is knocked to the ground. The dull knife yields only superficial wounds, but as Lucy is being dragged away from the bloody set, still pleading for Joan to let her stay, a dazed Crawford can only wave her away with “Good-bye, BITCH!” Again, stellar ratings create demand for a Part 3!
  4. Running out of episodes for season 8, the writers decide to go back to season 6 and draft a couple of new episodes and sequels: "Lucy is Again Dandy in Danfield"- Lucy takes Mary Jane along with her to attend the reunion of the Volunteers in Danfield and is thrilled to be reunited Viv, Audrey, Thelma Green and Frannie. As the girls reminisce, clips from past episodes are shown. But when Grandma Sutton reports her cat up a tree, the girls spring into action like old times. Following the trail of claw marks up the tree, they discover, instead, Flo the Manicurist trapped after testing out the bark-grabbing capabilities of her extreme-manicure nails. Episode highlight: Audrey and Mary Jane recreate the Marx Brothers mirror routine. "Mary Jane Finally Gets Off You-Know-Who's Front Door Stoop", a back-door pilot for "The Mary Jane Show". Production notes: When Gulf & Western/Paramount learns Lucy has formed Lucille Ball Productions to produce her own show, they are aghast at the prospect of losing their highest rated network show. Impressed with Mary Jane Croft's performance in "Danfield", they cast Charles Lane and Mary Jane as the banker and his secretary with Vanda Barra as her sidekick, continuing the Emmy-nominated format. The production runs into legal problems when Jess Oppenheimer sues, claiming Mary Jane Lewis is merely an extension of the Lucy Ricardo character he created. (Producers claim the premise was based on the book "Life Without Lucy""). CBS and NBC pass on the pilot but ABC gives it a shot, hoping to shore up their dreary Monday night by scheduling “The Mary Jane Show” at the same time “The Lucy Show” ran. The premiere jumps the gun airing a week before the other network season openers and pulls in an encouraging #23. Ratings take such a nose-dive when the show faces the new episode competition from “Here’s Lucy” and “Laugh-In” that ABC replaces it with unaired episodes of “The Tammy Grimes Show”.
  5. My entry for "Bean Queen" "Mary Jane waits on the step to Lucy's living room for hours. Guest: Ed Begley"
  6. I've only watched Lucy's scenes from "Dance". It seems like Lucy's movie yet she's THIRD billed. (Am I correct about this?) People say that's her own singing in "My Mother Told Me". I think they're right but am not 100% convinced. To me, it sounds too good to be her but not good enough to be an actual singer. It certainly sounds like her, but then again Lisa Kirk was able to twist her own accomplished singing voice into such a convincing Roz Russell imitation in Gypsy that no 1962 review I've seen mentions the singing wasn't Roz.* I wonder if sound mixing in 1940 could accomplish meshing Lucy's singing with that of a dubbing singer taking some of the notes (as they should have done in Mame). Too bad "Dance" and "Big Street" have such double-bill, cheap-looking production values about them, robbing Lucy of Oscar attention. *For the record: some analyzers of Gypsy state the the vocals are a combination of Lisa and Roz. Not precisely accurate. Roz's singing is limited to all of the undemanding "Mr. Goldstone" and the beginning of "Rose's Turn" up to the "I had a dream..." part. Yet the soundtrack album has a completely different version of "Rose's Turn" with Lisa doing the whole thing. Lisa does "Together Wherever We Go" on the album, the song cut from the movie after previews. The Gypsy DVD bonus tracks contains grainy footage of the song as shot with Roz cawing it out. But leave it to Mot to bring up "Magic Carpet"! "Carpet" is such an interesting footnote to Lucy's career in that this low-budget laughable quickie was shot in color, released the same year I Love Lucy debuted (though earlier in the year) and that within a year this woman would be the biggest thing in show business. Her movie career had such a low profile that when TV came along she, at 40 with an 18 year's worth of movie work, was voted "Most Promising Newcomer" by some poll (Photoplay?).
  7. I came SO CLOSE to connecting with BHH. I met her daughter here in Portland and somehow Lucy came up in the conversation (and it wasn't me!) and he daughter said "oh yeah, my mother wrote Lucy's book". You can imagine my reaction. I spoke on the phone with Betty but she was quite elderly. We set up a meeting but she was too ill to attend, then died. It's been so long ago now but I THINK Betty told me that Lucy got cold feet about publishing the book after Betty went back to Jamestown to interview old acquaintances. Perhaps she found out things about Lucy's past that went against her image? Betty didn't say what but I was hoping to find out when we met.
  8. In 1967, anyone over 30 (and even younger) would be very familiar with Jack Benny from radio. There's also a reference to a bear (?) named Carmichael. I've never understood the popularity of this episode. I scoured newspaper archives and the TV columnist mentioned "Lucy has had some pretty good shows this season. Her best was with Jack Benny. Her worst was with Dennis Day." I don't agree with either. The Emmy board nominated this script, the only TLS to ever be so honored. The 6th season is the only one of TLS I never watch. There's not one episode I enjoy thoroughly. Milt gave plenty of work to his old Jack Benny cronies that year. Besides Benny and Day, there was the Phil Harris episode. The bank vault tour might have been exciting if you were in the studio audience. I can take a bit of surreal (although prefer none) but this one is just not funny. Everything is thrown in: including a gorilla and the tribe of indians! This is nothing but a Jack Benny Show sketch, already done in various ways on his radio and TV programs many times before. Much more suited to his show. Years ago I was watching it with a friend. When Jack and Lucy are sinking in the quicksand at the end, she said "I don't get it. DO THEY DIE?"
  9. The movie "THE STAR"-----as one of the two kids, looking at a billboard for WC Field's The Bank Dick movie at the beginning of WC's follow up "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break", says "WHAT A BUPKE!" The only scene I enjoy is when Margaret's sister and her husband, the belching Herb Vigran (can't remember his character's name), arrive for their "monthly check" and completely ignore Margaret's telling them she's broke until Margaret blows her top as only Bette can. The couple have let themselves in before Margaret arrives home. Herb is raiding the frig and doesn't even bother to close the door! The conversation turns to all the money Margaret has given them to set Herb up in business. The laundromat's failure? Sister: "That wasn't his fault. How did Herb know everybody was going to buy WHIRLPOOLS?" And finally Margaret desperately pleads "I've given you over $50,000. Can I have $200?" (her rent is in arrears). Sister: "For heaven's sake, Margaret. Where would we get that kind of money?" Margaret "well, maybe you could print it if I HAD ONLY THOUGHT TO BUY HERB A PRINTING PRESS!"---which as I recall was the only witty line is this film. Whoever talked Bette into cutting her Talulah-like All Above Eve locks in favor of an Ethel Mertz/Celeste Holm-do should have been fired as Bette's style consultant.
  10. Such an astute commentary of this great episode, I have very little too add. Lucy IS the show, but the other 3 turn in great performances too. Lucy's initial stage fright eventually morphing into a professional performance is truly remarkable acting. It's so realistic, it's not really played for laughs. The only thing I find odd about this episode is the idea that Van Johnson had an act that played nightly at the hotel's showroom and that Lucy and Ethel (and the boys?) "see it most every night". (Also that he rehearses 2 or 3 hours every day.) But it's a perfect set-up for the idea that Lucy would know the partner's "How About You?" patter. We tend to forget that these episodes were done in 4 days, from table read to performance. Many, if not MOST, of Lucy's performances would suggest someone who worked on it for months, perfecting every little nuance. One more thing: Lucy rarely gave us the same bit TWICE. To her credit, she waited 10 years. When Ethel says "Maybe Charlie will let you stay", Lucy shoots her the same look she does in "Pat Collins" to Mary Jane when MJ admires the fur Lucy is trying on and says "Why don't you buy it, Lucy?"
  11. Tom Shales: I'm adding to my nose tweak a kick in the ass (I could hardly MISS) and a repeated Chinatown-"she's-my-daughter/sister" face slap. He wrote a book "Legends" published in 1989 and has a chapter on Lucy. He makes some good observations acknowledging her genius as Lucy Ricardo. Then like a lot of I Love Lucy-only purists, he lumps per post-ILL product up in a couple of sentences. The LDCHs he says "lack the spontaneity of the half-hours" (true for many; not true for some). "Ball continued with The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy but the chemistry just wasn't there" . Well, that's his opinion and he's not alone thinking that, but that's a lot of product--300 episodes--to characterize as all the same quality. (Until I added up 156 and 144, I hadn't realized that the total # of episodes was EXACTLY 300) After that fairly respectful treatment, he just can't let well-enough alone. He then feels the need to attack her LWL look, picking apart and making fun of her make-up. ("applying lipstick to lips that weren't there...."etc.) There's a picture of 'ol "Blubberface" on the dust jacket with a bio that states "He refuses to say how old he is" In 1989, he was 45. He got a Pulitzer Prize for CRITICISM in 1988. There was such a thing? And I get awfully tired of writers pointing out the Lucy was "not funny" off-stage. It's not that she wasn't funny, she just wasn't "on". She could be funny and witty but what these people don't seem to realize is that she was an actress playing a character and not a CLOWN.
  12. Added to "The List of Noses I Will Tweak if I ever Meet Them in Person" ----Tom Shales, the OBTUSE PUTZ and TV critic for the Washington Post at the time of LWL. He was one of the nationally known critics to be particularly cruel in his assessment of Life with Lucy and Lucy herself. Not content with just that, when the show was cancelled he wrote sort of a "NYAAH" column under the title: "Commentary" to, in effect, rub it in. He was personally offended by Lucy's appearance on "Joan Rivers" saying she cried after she read some of the "notices" (quotation marks: his). He calls the display mawkish and embarrassing and accusing her of trying to "mobilize the audience for a critics lynching party". He then goes on to bash the show again. "The TV audience had grown too sophisticated for slapstick"...REALLY??? He ALMOST ends on a positive note "Surely there is a place in television for a performer and gifted as Lucille Ball. Perhaps Lucy can return as a character with some depth and feeling" but then feels the need to add "She really should play a crabby, wealthy old TV star, which she is", a not-particularly-witty and totally unnecessary remark. It's very possible that Shales is now 75 or close to it, so while I'm tweaking his nose, I'm going to call him "aged" three times. Also on my nose tweaking list: Ethan Mordann. I missed my chance with Herb Kenwith the one time I was within nose-tweaking range.
  13. When CBS ran The Lucy Show in the morning, they started with the color episodes and included the 30 b/w shows exactly twice. It was a little jarring to go from "Boss of the Year" to "Waits up for Chris". (Was this the same series?) I always preferred when they ran season 2 during the time I could watch: school holidays, summer. Having no idea about the change of staff between 2 and 3, I always wondered why season 3 did not have the same feel. It's very uneven. IMO, the new writers tended to make Lucy a bit harsher, bossier with few, if any tender moments. Though season 4 was Viv-less, I preferred it to 3. Season 2 is by far my favorite. Season 1 was great but seemed to run out of steam (compared to first half) as it progressed. Was it because of the loss of Desi as Executive Producer? For ratings trivia buffs, in the 10 seasons (62-63 to 71-72) in which TLS and HL made the top 10, it held every end-of-season summary position except #1, #5 and #7. Twice at #3, #4 and #6. Positions in order from TLS season 1 through HL season 4......4,6,8,3,4,2,9,6,3,10 and then 15, 29. Though season 3 of TLS had the lowest ranking of that series, season 5 actually had the lowest rating (but not by much). Referencing Freddie2's post about HL's phenomonal 3rd season #3 showing, I hadn't realized it was the only sitcom in the top 10, actually the top 14! The next one was #15 Mayberry and then from #19 to #22: My 3 Sons, Doris Day, The Smith Family (?? Henry Fonda?), Mary Tyler Moore and then "Partridge Family at #25 and no more sitcoms in the top 30. Other than Mary's 1st season, it was NOT a good year for TV sitcoms. Personal taste irony: the highest ranking season of both TLS and HL are my least favorite seasons of each series!
  14. I was hoping this story was going to end with skates at a dance....I love your posts.
  15. Laugh-In's Jan 1968 debut. I'll NEVER forgive this show for knocking "The Lucy Show" out of its rightful #1 position in the 67-68 season rankings. For the first half of the season, TLS was the #1 show on the air. "LI" nibbled away just enough viewers the latter part of the season to put TLS 6/10ths of a ratings point behind #1 Andy Griffith Show. "Laugh-In" took a while to catch on but ended the season at #21. The next two seasons it would be #1, but Here's Lucy amazingly held its own. It just would have been wonderful if TWO of Lucy's series had ended their runs at #1. Always stuck in my CRAW.
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