Being the Ricardos.
It’s rare that I sit down and actually watch a movie or series. I’m that person who, more often than not, watches the first episode of a series on Amazon or Netflix and never goes back for the second episode. If a show doesn’t hook me early, I’m out. I’ve written before about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime, Modern Love on Amazon Prime, The Undoing on HBO, and Mad Men (I watched this on Amazon Prime long after it was broadcast)…all series that I completed. Oh, Succession on HBO is another one. But there aren’t many recent shows or movies that fall into that category of shows I’d spent time watching.
Enter Being the Ricardos, a movie on Amazon Prime. It stars Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz. Before watching, I wondered if I would believe Kidman and Javier as these two icons, but I need not have wondered.
I Love Lucy. Yes, just like the rest of America, I love Lucy. I even loved every incarnation of television shows starring Lucille Ball. Being the Ricardos is a biopic about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and I love it. After hearing about and reading outstanding reviews of it repeatedly, I finally sat down last night to watch it. I had read that Lucie Arnaz, their daughter, had given it two thumbs up as a pretty accurate portrayal of her parents, so that piqued my interest. I didn’t get to watch it one sitting, because of household distractions, because I have a husband, a teenage daughter, and three dogs… but wow…what a film.
Most people in my generation and my parents’ generation feel like we knew Lucy and Desi. I wasn’t alive when I Love Lucy originally ran, but I feel pretty sure I’ve seen almost every episode in syndication…a concept that was invented by Desilu Productions, the production company founded and co-owned by Lucy and Desi, in fact. But I feel like I knew Lucy and Desi. I knew he was a womanizer. I’ve toured Paramount Studios in Los Angeles and seen a brick wall Lucy allegedly had constructed over the door to Desi’s office to keep women from “visiting” him in his office. But did any of us really know Lucy and Desi? No. This movie, though, gives us a glimpse into their lives behind the scenes, and it’s heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time.
I got so swept up in it, in fact, that I suddenly had a crush on the late Desi Arnaz! Or maybe I have a crush on Javier Bardem playing Desi Arnaz? That Cuban accent! Wow! The charm! The humor! The intelligence! Whether it’s Desi or Javier I’m admiring from afar, I can go back and listen to that Cuban accent over and over…and I never grow tired of hearing it.
I also learned a lot about Desi and Lucy as people. I had no idea Desi had fled the Cuban revolution in the 1930s. I knew he came to the US from Cuba, but in all these year, I thought he came here to pursue a career in music. No. He came to the US to flee the revolution in 1933, when he was just 16. He attended Catholic High School in Miami. No, I didn’t learn all that from the movie. I did a little research after watching, because I needed to have a good timeline of his life. He was a fascinating man, and clearly, lots of women thought so at the time, because in 1960, Lucy filed for divorce from him.
Lucy’s life was just as fascinating, but in a different way. I’m not sure I ever knew she had to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1960, because she had registered as a Communist in her youth. According to the movie, by registering as a Communist, she simply was honoring the man who had raised her. If things truly played out the way they played in the movie, Desi Arnaz was a genius in getting the American public to look past that and continue to love Lucy. He had fled Communism to come to the USA, a country he loved. He was also a genius in developing a special three-camera system for TV and for convincing CBS and Phillip Morris (the sponsor of I Love Lucy) to allow Lucy’s pregnancy and Little Ricky’s birth to be portrayed on the show.
I’m grateful to Mr. Arnaz for clearing Lucy in the court of public opinion, because I love Lucy. And I’m grateful for the contributions they both made to American entertainment.
If you haven’t seen it, watch Being the Ricardos on Amazon Prime. It’s worth your time, if you’ve ever been a fan of Lucy or Desi in anything they ever did.
I Love Lucy.