As the producer of the hourlong Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz shows, the very last of the "I Love Lucy" genre, I think the producers of "Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter," the Feb. 10 television dramatization of their early life together, succeeded in capturing a great deal of their personalities.
I had known Lucy from my years as a writer at RKO and was responsible for at least six scripts she appeared in. She was always the perfectionist, a tireless workhorse who would not tolerate any performer giving a "phone-in" performance, regardless of their stature. They all would eventually fall in with her work habits.
Desi was much underestimated, partly because of the character he played. He had a photographic memory and could read a script once and know every part. He had the gambling trait of being able to take a chance and the executive ability to take part of the blame when things went wrong. He was also a Latin, and Lucy was pure Jamestown, N.Y.
If there was something in their relationship that most have overlooked, it was that they rehearsed and shot their series five days a week as husband and wife--Lucy sans makeup, Desi rehearsing and facing studio problems. The numerous fights that ensued over interpretation of scenes--professional but still hurtful, particularly when the two had to go home as bed partners--must have damaged their lives.
Many times Lucy asked my wife and me if there was anything we could do to heal the breaches that beset them. Tact kept us from intervening. Now my only regret is we did not try playing God.