Amazon Prime Review: 'Lucy and Desi'

By: 
Ben Miles

With Aaron Sorkin’s drama exploring one challenging week in the lives of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in “Being the Ricardos” and the Amy Poehler directed documentary, “Lucy and Desi” (both currently streaming on Amazon Prime), the breakthrough comedic couple are on our collective minds of late.

Not only was Lucille Ball a beautiful woman who began her public career as a model, she was also a daring and hilarious physical comedienne, who in the mid-twentieth century became one of the most powerful studio executives in the entertainment business.

As for Desi Arnaz, he was, if not the inventor of what we now call the sitcom he was at least its major innovator, with the groundbreaking “I Love Lucy” series, which aired on CBS TV from 1951 until 1957. It was Arnaz who developed the three-camera filming technique that is now standard practice for the television situation comedy. Additionally, Arnaz brought the idea of filming in front of a live audience into practice, along with the notion of repeating episodes during season hiatus.

All of this is examined through Poehler’s well faceted and credibly substantiated documentary, “Lucy and Desi,” with Mark Monroe credited as writer. With reels of never-before-seen film footage and reams of cassette tapes capturing the voices and thoughts of Ball and Arnaz, we are offered an hour and 42-minute lesson in comedic acting, television production and the biographies of TV’s most famous couple.

Additional contributions to the documentary are delivered by the likes of Carol Burnett, Bette Midler, Norman Lear and the main contributor to the narrative, Ms. Ball’s and Mr. Arnaz’s daughter, Lucy Arnaz Lucinbill (as well as some voiceover commentary by Desi Arnaz Jr.).

The denouement of “Lucy and Desi” occurs with Lucille Ball being honored (posthumously) by President George H.W. Bush with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s loftiest civilian honor, for her “meritorious contributions to the country” three months subsequent to her death. Desi Arnaz had died three-years prior to Ms. Ball.

Playing on Amazon Prime, “Lucy and Desi” is rated PG, for thematic elements, smoking and language.

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