Monday, September 3, 2018

“Happy Days”: Lucy’s Missing Movie

“Happy Days” here at Temporary Layoffs will focus on the world of sitcoms every other Monday!

In the early days of television, most programming went out live. Television programming was considered ephemeral, so few executives worried about keeping copies of early programming. Even when it was recorded, it was usually done using a kinescope, which was just a film camera pointed at a television screen. Desi Arnaz, however, saw a future in repurposing programming. Despite the extra cost, he had episodes of I Love Lucy recorded on film, figuring that he could then sell reruns of the show in the future.

After the show became a monster success, Desi Arnaz decided to make an I Love Lucy movie. Instead of making an entirely new film, however, he tied together three episodes of the show. New footage was filmed depicting two newlyweds on their honeymoon in Los Angeles, taking in a recording of I Love Lucy.

It seems odd now that people would pay to watch something that had already been available to them for free, but this was before reruns were regularly available on television. Viewers at the time wouldn’t have expected these episodes to ever be shown again, so a film would have been their one chance to see them. Disney would successfully repackage episodes of Davy Crockett years later in this same manner.

I Love Lucy: The Movie, however, would never be released. After successful test screenings, the film was pulled from release by MGM, who was fearful that the movie was going to cut into the box office of the upcoming Lucy/Desi feature The Long, Long Trailer. The film was mostly forgotten until decades later when it was released on DVD.