After reading 2 relatively heavy books, it was time for something lighter. While perusing the memoirs available for borrowing through the Kindle Lending Library on Amazon.com, I came across Laughs, Luck…and Lucy, by Jess Oppenheimer. This book has been a delight.
Most people give all of the credit of I Love Lucy’s success to Lucille Ball because of her impeccable comedic timing. Some remember Desi Arnaz as the brains behind the show. But what few think about is that someone first had to create the show and its memorable stories, and that person was Jess Oppenheimer.
As engaging as a writer of his memoirs as he was while tweaking and crafting the scripts of TV’s most popular sitcom, Jess Oppenheimer takes us on a journey that begins with his childhood and his foray into the world of radio. But as an expert in human nature, he knows that what readers really want to hear are anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories of his iconic show. Without wasting any time, we learn of his first contact with Lucille Ball while she was playing the socialite wife of a bank vice president (Richard Denning) on the radio program My Favorite Husband. As television started to become a major force of entertainment , My Favorite Husband was reworked by Oppenheimer and the husband was recast at the insistence of Lucille Ball. She wanted the part to be played by her husband, Desi Arnaz. As controversial as that request was at the time, it turned out to be a great move. (For those who are fans of the film An Affair to Remember, Richard Denning played Deborah Kerr’s handsome fiancee’. I don’t think I could picture him as Lucy’s comedic foil, could you?)
It didn’t take long for audiences to take notice of I Love Lucy, which was quickly the #1 show on television. But the show will be remembered for other firsts as well, such as being the first to have a storyline about pregnancy, the first to show a couple sharing a bed, the first to film in front of a live audience, the first to film and save its episodes, and the first to use 3 cameras. It was groundbreaking, and Jess Oppenheimer does a clever job of telling about how each of these firsts came to be, how the cast dealt with their success, and about the long hours involved with churning out a hit show week after week. (In those days a season had 36 episodes, not 24 like today.)
If you are a fan of I Love Lucy, as I am, you will enjoy this book very much. It hearkens back to the days when TV shows had standards, when writing was clever, and when the most famous redhead of all time ruled the airways.