The sitcom I Love Lucy began back in 1951 and ran until 1957, producing 180 half-hour episodes for CBS. After that, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley continued in 13 hour-long episodes of The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show that were released sporadically over three years. After Ball and Arnaz divorced in 1960, the cast never reunited for any kind of reunion or new adventures.
Fans have seen every episode of the series but may not have seen everything. During the height of the show’s popularity, the cast filmed a theatrical movie — well, sort of.
The I Love Lucy movie took three episodes from the first season — “The Benefit,” “Breaking the Lease,” and “The Ballet” — and combined them with some new footage to make a story. The additional footage was directed by veteran director Edward Sedgewick.
The movie opens with eight minutes of new film that was shot on May 16, 1952. Arnaz talks to a studio audience and introduces his co-stars, just as he usually did prior to each episode’s filming. New footage links the three episodes and then five new minutes finish the movie. Arnaz thanks the audience and the castmembers take their bows.
This sort of project had never been attempted before but, because I Love Lucy was shot on film, the existing episodes looked fine on the big screen. It was shown once, for a test screening in 1953 in a small theatre in Bakersfield. The Arnazes were in attendance.
Unfortunately, the movie was never released because MGM, who was producing The Long Long Trailer, objected. The studio wanted to promote Trailer as Ball and Arnaz’s return to the silver screen and demanded that the Lucy movie be shelved.
The stars complied and the I Love Lucy movie was largely forgotten. It was accidentally stored in a mislabeled film canister and considered lost for many years. Happily, editor Dahn Cahn found it in 2001 and the movie was later screened for some attendees of a Lucy convention. Bits were also included in The I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary Special.
The little-seen movie was finally released in 2007, as part of the I Love Lucy Complete Series Boxset. As the package contained the complete series on 34 discs, it was a little pricey — especially for those who had previously purchased the individual seasons.
Now, more than two years later, the complete set’s extras disc is being released alone. The I Love Lucy movie is included, as are the first colorized I Love Lucy episode, the cast at the Emmy Awards, and several other bits and pieces that Lucy fans will enjoy. I Love Lucy: The Movie & Other Great Rarities will be released on April 27th.
Image courtesy TVShowsonDVD.com