This summer, I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Jamestown, NY, Lucy’s hometown. It was a rather interesting trip as there’s a lot of Lucy (and Desi) stuff going on there. I would go as far as to say that Lucy is keeping that town alive. Jamestown boasts the Desilu Studios museum, the Lucy and Desi Museum, Lucy’s birth house and the house she grew up in, the Lucy statues (scary Lucy and upgraded Lucy), several large murals on the sides of some of the “downtown” buildings, an annual comedy festival (Joan Rivers performed there in 2011 for Lucy’s 100th Birthday Celebration) and the most poignant of all – Lucy’s grave and family plot at the Lake View Cemetery. You enter the cemetery and follow the hearts to the Ball and Hunt (her mother’s family) family plot. She was cremated and originally interred in California but her children had Lucy and her mother, Dee Dee, moved back to the family plot in Jamestown, where her brother, Fred, who passed away in 2007, is also buried.
Anyway, seeing what I saw there really drove home Lucy’s impact on the world. Not just in the entertainment field but on the WORLD. She is still making it possible for her beloved Jamestown to employ and entertain people, which, in turn, helps the hotels, restaurants, young comedians, and on and on. She is alive in that town, even today, and making a difference in people’s lives.
When I left Jamestown, especially after going through the two museums, I wanted to learn more about the woman I grew up with as well as about Vivian Vance (but that’s another review!) and I saw this documentary that was produced by her children, who seem to have grown into pretty normal people, not quite what you might expect from celebrity children of a legend like Lucy. This was an eye-opening viewing experience. And surprisingly, at the end of it, it was Desi Arnaz who impressed me the most. He was a genius, as far as I’m concerned. Until I saw this, all I really knew about Desi was his philandering and his innovations as far as the three-camera system of filming situational comedy was concerned. Desi was a lot more complex than I had imagined. I have come to understand that the philandering was partially due to cultural beliefs ingrained in him from his experiences in his own immediate family (not that this makes it at all okay in any way but, at the very least, it is an explanation). But, especially in the interview, Lucie and Desi Jr. give in the extra features of the disc, Desi Sr. emerges as a loving father, a genius producer and businessman as well as a lover of nature. He was a lot deeper than I had expected him to be. The other surprise was that Lucy was a bit harder than Desi in a lot of ways. Desi was still a philanderer and they even bring up prostitutes at one point, but he was a lot of other things, too. One thing that surprised me was when the children discussed how Desi, when home from work, was able to settle in and do things with them in ways Lucy wasn’t able to as she was always in a work frame of mind. And how much he appreciated things like a sunset or nature. Desi was also very patriotic and served in WWII.
The entire documentary is composed of interviews from various family members, the kids, neighbors, other entertainers, etc. and through home movies, personal photos and historical locations.
Vivian Vance is briefly mentioned and appears here and there and the impression that you get is that they were simpatico, but the reality is that they sometimes had a rocky relationship, though they respected (even loved) each other for the rest of their lives.
While Lucy and Desi divorced when their children were still young, it is apparent that there was a lot of love between them that somehow seems to have lasted the rest of their lives (there’s some beautiful footage of the two playing with their grandson in a pool in their later lives) despite their marriages to other people.
I am simultaneously reading the Vivian Vance biography and Meet the Mertzes, which I will review separately.
I think this is a must-see for any Lucy fan.