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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The casts in these productions still showed the considerable power and
influence of the star - producers. If the likes of John Wayne, Robert
Taylor, and William Holden popped up on the older television show I
LOVE LUCY due to it's success and the creation of the DESILU Production
firm, the COMEDY HOUR attracted luminaries like Maurice Chevalier (a
real coup only a year after his smash hit in Vincent Minelli's Oscar
winning GIGI), Ida Lupino, Tallulah Bankhead (who rarely did
television), and Milton Berle. But this episode (as I mentioned
previously) has a small problem. The guest star is Paul Douglas.
Oddly enough one has to know something about Douglas in order to fully appreciate the episode today. Paul Douglas, a good performer, is remembered for two film parts he had and for a stage role he originated. He first appeared on Broadway in BORN YESTEDAY as Harry, the junk dealer tycoon, and lover of Billy Dawn (Judy Holiday). For some reason Douglas did not play the role in the movie version - instead it went to actor Broderick Crawford. Crawford made Harry a believably thuggish type - who is also out of his depth in dealing with a business world of contracts and contacts.
But Douglas had made a good impression in the Broadway role, and he would appear in movies before Harry Cohn produced BORN YESTERDAY at Columbia Pictures in 1950. In 1947 Douglas made his screen debut as Porter Hollingsway in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, and demonstrated a dry wit and reasonably good presence and scene control that matched fellow stars Linda Darnell, Kirk Douglas, Anne Southern, and Jeanne Crain. Why on the strength of that he could not get his stage part in the film is anyone's guess (most likely Cohn decided Crawford's "Oscar" made him good film insurance).
The second film Douglas is recalled for is the 1956 comedy (with former leading lady Judy Holiday) THE SOLID GOLD CADILLAC, wherein he was McKeever the business tycoon who leaves his corporate baby for a government job, not realizing the men who control it now are all crooks - but they are facing Holiday who is a corporate watchdog type. Douglas and Holiday showed very fine chemistry in the film, and again it makes us wonder about his failure to be in BORN YESTERDAY with her.
There were plenty of other films in the 1950s that Douglas appeared in, like BEAU JAMES with Bob Hope, CLASH BY NIGHT with Barabara Stanwyck and Robert Ryan, and FOREVER FEMALE with William Holden and Ginger Rogers. He certainly graced most of the films he popped up in. Unfortunately he died in 1960 (his last role was to have been the unscrupulous head of the insurance company in THE APARTMENT, a role recast with Fred MacMurray). Had he lived longer Douglas might have left a bigger imprint in motion picture viewer's minds.
Forgotten by the viewers of today, this cuts down on Douglas' impact in the episode. You see, a viewer in 1958 would have remembered that before he was an actor Paul Douglas was a reporter and a sports commentator. There are still some newsreels showing a younger Douglas interviewing baseball figures in the early 1940s. Keeping that in mind the background of this episode makes sense.
Lucy tries out to be a television weather girl on a news program that is being produced that has Douglas returning to his reporting roots as anchorman. The episode is not a bad one, first building up on how Lucy makes a pest of herself with Douglas, until he decides to hire her, and then how (after initially showing she can handle the job) it becomes more and more difficult as her commuting to and from work leaves her exhausted, to the point she is falling asleep on the air. Of course, Douglas' reactions to Lucy's forms of collapse are among the best parts of the last third of the episode.
If you see this episode, just keep Douglas' sports reporter background in mind, and the episode will improve tremendously. Sometimes we have to have information in our heads before we can appreciate a piece of work.
After deciding to end "I Love Lucy" at its peak in the spring of 1957, Desi and Lucy opted for frequent hour-long specials centering around the same characters that made the original show such a blockbuster. These 13 shows were extremely popular with audiences but varied wildly in quality with "Lucy and Desi's Summer Vacation"(1959)with Ida Lupino and the last one "Lucy and the Mustache" (1960) with Ernie Kovacs very mediocre but this episode with Paul Douglas is a delight. Superb script has Lucy finally get that showbiz job this time as Douglas' weather girl on a morning TV show. It's an absolute hoot but obviously very few have seen it though it is on video from CBS(?).
This episode of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour," while not one of the best remembered, does have its great moments. The best sequence occurs when Lucy is in the outer office of Paul Douglas, hoping to audition for the part of his new "Girl Friday" on his TV show. A collection of models enters to audition for the same part (one of the models is the stunning Joi Lansing) and Lucy attempts to emulate each girl's particular attribute: cleavage, long legs, classy chignon hairstyle, etc. Fans may remember Lucy did this same thing in a first season episode of "I Love Lucy" when she's auditioning to play Sally Sweet in the Cuban Pete sketch, and she tries emulating the other showgirls auditioning. Her comic timing and reactions are still on target and very funny in this later episode.
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