‘I Love Lucy’: Why the Movie Spin-Off Was Shelved and Never Released in 1953

by Brandi Stillings
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Everyone remembers the hilarious, classic sitcom “I Love Lucy” Starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, actors who seemed to be made for each other on the TV show. Did you know there was supposed to be a movie spin-off?

Created in 1953, “I Love Lucy: The Movie” co-starred both Ball and Arnaz. Except for one test screening in Bakersfield, California, the film was never released in theatres. Instead, the studio shelved the film.

After a successful first season of “I Love Lucy,” Arnaz and Ball wanted to take advantage on the show’s popularity. Their idea was to compile a series of season one episodes into one big-screen movie. The test screening ended up doing really well, so they prepared to release the film for theatres.

However, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer felt indifferent. The studio shelved the movie instead. They didn’t want “I Love Lucy: The Movie” overtaking their upcoming MGM film, “The Long, Long Trailer,” which co-starred Arnaz and Ball. Also, they were contractually bound to promote their movie.

Eventually, the “I Love Lucy” spin-off movie was forgotten.

According to IMDb.com, the film plays out with three first-season episodes edited together into a single story. The plot is as follows:

“The Benefit,” “Breaking the Lease,” and “The Ballet.” Complete with new footage between episodes, to help transition the episodes into one coherent storyline. The series routinely took the format of filming scenes in chronological order. It added to the “show within a show within a show” format of the film, as viewers watch the cast perform the episodes live. The film itself ends with a “curtain call.” Followed by the cast coming out, and Arnaz thanks the audience for their support.

‘I Love Lucy: The Movie’ Director Solves Laugh Track Issue

When Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz conjured the idea of compiling episodes to make a film, they forgot one problem. A live audience always attended tapings of the “I Love Lucy” TV show. Which means their laughter was a part of each show. Fortunately, comedy veteran Edward Sedgwick stepped in to solve the laugh track issue.

According to DVDTalk.com, Sedgwick came up with a solution both crude and ingenious, and for television historians, ultimately priceless. A wraparound story. The movie featured an ordinary, middle-aged couple (Ann Doran and Benny Baker). They attend the filming of an episode of “I Love Lucy.”

They arrive and take their seats along with the rest of the audience. Next a genial Desi Arnaz, out of character, welcomes the audience. He then gives “the lowdown on all this television magic.” Then, he explains how the show is to be filmed. He finishes by introducing his co-stars.

In other words, they cover up the original laugh track from the sitcom with an actual performance by actors. Instead, of using the movie “reality.”

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