After the Oscar-winning Trial Of The Chicago Seven, Aaron Sorkin returns with another biographical drama about the stars of the game changing 1950s American sitcom I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. While this is Sorkin's third directorial outing, he has won acclaim and recognition for his work as a writer on acclaimed movies and TV shows like The Social Network, The Newsroom and Steve Jobs. Ball and Arnaz played the Ricardos on I Love Lucy, becoming a beloved mainstay of the American middle class. But they weren't just talented comedic actors, they also produced the show together. Their production house Desilu Studios went on to create many iconic shows, including Star Trek. Being The Ricardos releases on Amazon Prime Video on 21st December 2021 and here's everything you need to know about Lucille and Desi before watching the Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem-starrer:
Lucille was working as a contract actor on a Goldwyn stage show called Too Many Girls when she met Desi Arnaz. The two hit it off instantly, eloping soon after. Arnaz was a band leader who led an orchestra at a club, and the couple worked hours that barely allowed them to see each other. In Being The Ricardos, the writers on I Love Lucy and executive producer Jess Oppenheimer credit this distance in their early married lives for the relative peace before the storm that was to be the rest of their marriage.
Lucille and him had a torrid relationship from the beginning, and she filed for divorce in 1944. It didn't stick though, and they were back together before the divorce could be finalised. She took on the show to be closer to him, cherishing the respect and attention she received from him while at work. In Being The Ricardos, she tells him that her ambition was to have a home, and working on the show meant that the construction department would build them a home that her husband would have to come back to, always. She accused him of infidelity in 1944 and nothing had changed more than a decade later, in 1960, when she filed for divorce again, a day after I Love Lucy finished shooting its final episode.
When Lucille Ball was signed on by CBS to adapt her successful radio show, My Favourite Husband, to television, she insisted that the network hire her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz. This move would go on to result in many firsts. They played an interracial married couple on primetime television in the 1950s, something they had to fight the executives on. The show was produced by Desilu Studios, and made Lucille Ball the first woman to head a TV production studio in Hollywood. It was the first show to feature an ensemble cast, with Vivian Vance and William Frawley playing the lead couple's friends as series regulars. It was the first show to include a story arc about the protagonist being pregnant and they did it without using the word "pregnant" itself. The show was watched by 11 million families every week, remaining the most watched show in America for four out of its six seasons.
Shooting in front of a live studio audience, the three camera setup, a laugh track, syndication – all conventions of the modern sitcom that we take for granted today were innovated by Desi, Lucille and the crew of I Love Lucy. Lucy and Desi were adamant on making quality television, putting on a good show – as is evidenced in a scene in Being The Ricardos where Lucille puts her foot down over a director undermining the viewers' intelligence. Sorkin and his crew retained this spirit, recreating the soundstage and the offices at Desilu Studios after in-depth research, as production designer Jon Hutman told Hollywood Reporter. The effort is apparent in Being The Ricardos – the film immerses you in the golden age of American television with how authentic it is.
The film takes place during the particularly turbulent week of filming episode 37 of I Love Lucy. Lucille Ball is accused of being a part of the Communist Party in Cold War America, and local tabloids are running stories about Desi Arnaz's public infidelities. Aaron Sorkin's screenplay follows the couple, and the crew that is caught in the midst of the perfect storm of their professional and personal lives blowing up completely. Lucille and Desi were both geniuses when it came to physical comedy, and Sorkin takes us into the workings of their mind. Ball works the beats of an opening scene until she's satisfied with it, while Desi supports her in all that she sets her eyes on. These scenes are not funny, they're fraught with tension and Kidman is somehow desperate and confident at the same time – it is impossible to look away. They find themselves standing firmly by each other at work, but unable to extend the same trust to their marriage. These are two of the most iconic and successful people in the history of television, and here we see them at a turning point in their lives. Sorkin told The Credits that he was persuaded to do the film when their daughter Lucie Arnaz told him in a meeting, "My mother was not an easy woman, take the gloves off." This helped him see Lucille in a more realistic light – she was not just the comedy genius that the world knew and loved. She was also a real human being who had worked very hard to get where she was, and was ultimately afraid of losing it, which is what he focused his screenplay on. Kidman plays her effortlessly, as Lucy Ricardo and as Lucille Ball, elevating Sorkin's screenplay.
Recommendation in collaboration with Amazon Prime Video