As it turns out, Turner Classic Movies loves Lucy, too.
Before she became one of television's ultimate icons, Lucille Ball had a sizable foothold in feature films. TCM celebrates the actress (and, in later years, powerful TV producer) as its Star of the Month every Thursday night into the adjacent Friday morning in October ... and by devoting its third “The Plot Thickens” behind-the-scenes podcast, debuting Tuesday, to her. Ben Mankiewicz hosts both tributes.
“It's really valuable to hear her in her own words,” Mankiewicz says of the archival recordings the podcast uses. “It's really a remarkable story. She became mainstream because she was on a network sitcom in the 1950s, but this was a bold and really innovative artist who was eager to break through and did not go about things in a conventional way.”
Each week of the televised Ball salute showcases a different aspect of her movie career. The Thursday-Friday opener, “Early Lucy,” concentrates on her 1930s films. Expectedly, comedies are included, such as her teaming with the Marx Brothers in “Room Service” and her appearance with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in “Follow the Fleet.” However, drama also is represented by “Stage Door” (also starring Katharine Hepburn and, again, Ginger Rogers) and the jungle-plane-crash saga “Five Came Back.”
The Oct. 14-15 shows offers the three feature films Ball made with first husband (and, of course, fellow “I Love Lucy” star) Desi Arnaz ... including the project that initially brought them together, “Too Many Girls,” plus “The Long, Long Trailer” and “Forever, Darling.” Oct. 21-22 is devoted to other pictures Ball filmed before she and Arnaz established the TV-production-revolutionizing Desilu studio, such as “Ziegfeld Follies” and “The Fuller Brush Girl.”
Finally, Oct. 28-29 is led by movies that returned Ball to the big screen after her TV stardom was cemented. First up is a staple of the TCM schedule – the blended-family comedy “Yours, Mine and Ours,” reuniting Ball with Henry Fonda, with whom she had made “The Big Street” roughly 25 years earlier – plus the musical “Mame” and two attractions Ball made with longtime friend Bob Hope, “The Facts of Life” and “Critics' Choice.”