There’s a long history in Hollywood of shelved projects, abandoned franchise dreams, stalled careers, and entire genres that lost favor or profitability. 9 times out 10 these problems and failures are the result of a myriad of complex issues and contributing factors. Sometimes though… Sometimes you can pretty much pin everything on one film that fucked it up for everyone. Whether it’s a movie that killed a rival project, destroyed a filmmaker’s career, squashed some brilliant idea, or took the shine off of an entire genre, this CHUD List will catalog the films that were just total, unapologetic Cockblocks.
Day 10 (I Love Lucy: The Movie Cockblocked!)
THE COCK: I Love Lucy: The Movie (1953)
Once the first season of I Love Lucy was in the can, the two stars, real-life married couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, wanted to cash in on the success of the show with a theatrical film to be cobbled together from three episodes – The Benefit, Breaking the Lease, and The Ballet – with some new footage to bridge the narrative gaps. The story had a meta format, centering on a “film within a film within a film” scenario as a married couple (Ann Doran, Benny Baker) attend a filming of the I Love Lucy show. Desi Arnaz opened the movie as he talked to the audience, both on set and watching in the theatre.
THE BLOCK: The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
Ball and Arnaz shot this film for MGM, which was released in 1954. It centered on Arnaz and Ball as Nicky Collini and his fiancee, Tacy, respectively, who endure a series of misadventures when they buy a 40-foot trailer in order to save up to buy a house. But they soon discover that they have to buy a more powerful car in order to haul it around and money and marital problems only snowball from there. Their honeymoon camping trip becomes a nightmare and eventually leads to their separation, before a tearful reconciliation.
How it Went Down:
The reason I Love Lucy: The Movie didn’t see the light of day for five decades is that MGM quite simply put the kibosh on it. They didn’t want the movie to potentially interfere with their own Ball/Arnaz vehicle, which was Trailer. Ball and Arnaz were contractually bound to promote the film for MGM. There was but a single test screening for Lucy, in Bakersfield, CA of all places. Nevertheless, the screening was a success and so Ball and Arnaz, through their Desilu Productions, planned to release the film nationwide. But MGM intervened and Lucy was shelved for nearly 50 years. In 1996, editor Dann Cahn set out to find the film, which he did, in a mislabeled film can in 2001. The film was finally released in 2007 as a special feature on a bonus disc in the I Love Lucy: Complete Series DVD. It received a separate release in April of 2010.
Bullet Dodged, or Greatness Robbed:
The vast majority of the movie has been available for nearly sixty years on TV and on DVD as the three individual episodes. It’s really only the roughly 12 minutes or of bridging material that was thought to be lost until being rediscovered in 2001. But considering that I Love Lucy is one of the greatest sitcoms in history, and really the one that set the standard for the medium, it’s unfortunate that fans of the show couldn’t see it on the big screen as the two stars had intended. But at least it’s been found so that it can be enjoyed.
Verdict: Greatness Robbed.
The Alternate Universe:
Arnaz and Ball tell MGM to get fucked by a long, long trailer, get sued, lose everything, get hauled in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, get blackballed and shunned and have to flee to Cuba. The Long, Long Trailer gets reworked and we get this:
The film was shown in its entirety for the first time in 48 years in 2001 at the Loving Lucy Convention.
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