Clear from their meeting on the RKO lot in 1940, where Arnaz was filming Rodgers & Hart's "Too Many Girls," is the incredible attraction the two stars had for each other. "There was such sexual combustibility between these two people," Zadan recalls. "They could not get along with each other, but they also could not get along without each other. In today's terms, they were codependent."
"They were such opposites in so many ways," notes York. "They were complements in the beginning, and became such great opposites in the end." Adds Pino: "Lucy described their relationship as living on a volcano on which you never knew when it was going to erupt. Those arguments, those passions and jealousies, caused a lot of pain, but also acted as sort of an aphrodisiac."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday May 07, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Lucy's book -- Lucille Ball's autobiography was titled "Love, Lucy." An article in Sunday's Calendar about the TV movie "Lucy" mistakenly reported that the book was titled "Loving Lucy."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday May 11, 2003 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 0 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Book title -- Lucille Ball's autobiography was titled "Love, Lucy." An article May 4 about the TV movie "Lucy" mistakenly reported that the book was titled "Loving Lucy."
For Ball, those jealousies were fired by Arnaz's lifelong habit of surrounding himself with mistresses. Says Pino, "I tried to find out why he did it. In his book, he recalls his grandfather having a mistress with seven or eight children. Apparently, having two houses and two sets of children was very common among Latin men of means. That's not to say he never felt bad about it. He understood that it was not a good thing."
"In the beginning, she didn't believe a lot of the stories," explains York. "It's when it became public, appearing in the tabloids -- that's when it had gone too far. Because then it infringed on her own reputation." In her research, York came upon one telling moment. "Lucie Arnaz recalled, as a little girl, seeing her mother, with her long red nails, leaning over Desi, saying to him, 'I wish you were dead!' clenching her teeth. It was chilling, and it was so sad."
"Lucy," as with most of Zadan and Meron's biopics, strikes a careful balance between telling the personal story of the personalities involved, as well as portraying, with great accuracy, the history those personalities created and lived in. "It's very much a backstage story," says director Jordan, who insists "everything in it is true and actually happened."
Ball is seen with close friends Carole Lombard and Red Skelton, studying with legendary screen comic Buster Keaton, and rehearsing and working up the routines that made "I Love Lucy" so memorable, some of which are re-created -- note for note, including originally flubbed lines -- in the film.
"I must have watched the 'Having a Baby' scene 75 times," says Jordan, of a famous "Lucy" episode in which Lucy breaks the news to Ricky of her pregnancy (the episode most recently aired last month locally on KTTV; the series also runs on cable's TV Land). "Every single camera angle was the same, I have the extras behaving in the same way -- all the kinds of little details that nobody but real buffs will notice."
Re-creating some of those scenes was nearly impossible, he adds. "So I did them as rehearsals, to kind of suggest what the reality was. The movie really shows how she became the clown that she was."
The film is loaded with extras and character actors -- nearly 80 such actors, according to Jordan -- portraying the various names and faces any Lucy fan knows, though may have never seen. Hollywood legends such as Bette Davis and Clark Gable make appearances, as well as "I Love Lucy" producer-writer Jess Oppenheimer and writers Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh. Jordan even threw in the show's original cinematographer, the legendary Karl Freund, who, with Arnaz, created the three-camera film system still used today in sitcom production.
"He seems like an extra," the director notes. "You'll see a stout, elderly guy walk across the 'Lucy' set carrying a Thermos, which Karl Freund did do. He had a Thermos of martinis!"
For all its detail and realism, one thing comes across in "Lucy" that is clear even to the closing moment of the film, that Ball and Arnaz loved each other. Says Zadan, "You just see these people, and you just wish they could be together, and they can't. But when they were together, look what they created, look what came of that relationship. Not only was it one of the most tempestuous love affairs in history, but it changed the face of and created what we know as television. It's an amazing story."