Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


"I am the queen of the gypsies..."
I LOVE LUCY: "The Operetta." Season Two. 1952.

SQUIRE/FRED MERTZ: "There's lots of ale and stout upon the shelf.
  And I take a drop or two myself"

PEASANTS: "A drop, he says! The squire's got the gout.
The stout makes him ail, and the ale makes him stout."

Needing to quickly replenish the treasury of the Ladies Wednesday Fine Arts League (or whatever the heck it's called), Lucy decides to write and put on an operetta entitled "The Pleasant Peasant." Since Ethel can sing much better than Lucy, she is given the lead role of Lily, while Lucy has to be content with Camille, "the snaggle-toothed old queen of the gypsies." To drown out Lucy's awful singing, the cast has been instructed to join in every time she opens her mouth. The costumes and scenery have been rented, everything's going well on opening night, but as always when Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) is in charge, things don't go quite as expected ...

Asked who wrote the songs, Lucy replies "Did you ever hear of Victor Herbert?" Of course, Lucy wrote the songs herself. When I first saw this in reruns as a child, I thought the rather tuneful music really was composed by Victor Herbert -- it's in his melodious style --  but I've never been able to determine who really did the music. [I Love Lucy has credited composers such as Eliot Daniel and Wilbur Hatch but they did general music for many episodes.] In any case, all of the songs are surprisingly memorable, including Ethel/Vivian Vance's delightfully-performed number "Lily of the Valley" ["when other girls go walking on their arm they've got a swell beau; whenever I go walking on my arm is just my elbow"], Ricky's love song to Lily, the drinking song, the Squire/Fred's number, and so on. I assume the clever and amusing lyrics were written by the Lucy writing team, Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr. The episode was directed by Marc Daniels.

Ball, Vance, Desi Arnaz, and William Frawley are all in top form, aided and abetted by Myra Marsh as the club president and the other ladies, especially the woman who interrupts the performance to sing to Lucy about a bounced check, and whose identity I can't determine [she isn't listed on imdb nor even on the I Love Lucy DVD], although I have definitely seen her elsewhere, possibly other Lucy episodes.

UPDATE: Aside from the first number in the operetta, the songs were all composed by Eliot Daniel, who also composed the show's theme song.

Verdict: Classic comedy. ****.

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