One year, one film: 1954

The film:
The Long, Long Trailer, dir. Vincente Minnelli
Starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

Recommended | HIGHLY RECOMMENDED | Must-See

(Image via 2014: A Film Odyssey)
(Image via 2014: A Film Odyssey)

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz are better known by the world at large as “Lucy and Ricky,” their characters from the enduring classic TV series I Love Lucy… but before the Ricardos took the small screen by storm, Ball and Arnaz both had film careers.

Naturally, with their experience in film and their extreme popularity as TV stars, Lucy and Desi returned to the big screen during I Love Lucy‘s run. The Long, Long Trailer is one of the films they made together, starring as Tacy and Nicky, a soon-to-be married couple.

With their wedding happening soon, Tacy and Nicky are planning for the future and trying to find a home, but their dream homes are very different. Tacy wants to live in a trailer and travel with Nicky as he state-hops for his job. He wants a nice, wheel-free home where he can relax when he’s not on the road.

Nicky gives in to Tacy’s wishes and the two buy a trailer, but they will soon learn that the mobile life isn’t as easy as they hoped it would be!

I discovered The Long, Long Trailer in 2012 and quickly added it to my list of favorite comedies. It brings plenty of laughs, and its leading players are every bit as lovable as Tacy and Nicky as they are in the roles of Lucy and Ricky. But did the critics of 1954 enjoy this film as much as the pair’s TV show?

(Image via Media History Digital Library - Screenland Magazine, March 1954)
(Image via Media History Digital Library – Screenland Magazine, March 1954)

Bosley Crowther, of course, was not a fan. He wrote: “Every pulse-taken indication of the seismic effects of this pair would seem to suggest that their picture will rack up a record score. Whether it will, we offer, is something else again. This writer begs to be excused from holding his breath until it does.” Crowther, it seems, was a ’50s hipster, putting one strike against the film simply due to the popularity of its stars.

Crowther’s more genuine complaint is that the film is too situational, offering “an hour and a half of the sort of nonsense you might get in one good, fast Lucy show.” The film does bear a strong resemblance to the show in tone and pace, and it’s true that the story is somewhat thin and fluffy.

But I personally don’t think it suffers from relying on situational comedy. The mishaps and misadventures are well-performed, making them genuinely funny. As TCM’s article on the film notes, “Critics may have grumbled that ‘Tacy’ and ‘Nicky’ were just Lucy and Ricky on wheels, but they had to admit that nobody was better at slapstick farce than Ball, and nobody played exasperated hubby better than Arnaz.”

Screenland, like me, gave the film a pretty strong recommendation, promising a “rib-tickling” response to the film: “You can be sure you’re in a for a fun whirl.”