6 user 1 critic

Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter (1991)

This made for TV movie tells the story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It begins in the 1930's when they met as actors under contract at RKO and ends with their divorce in 1960. In between ... See full summary »


Charles Jarrott


William Luce (story), William Luce (teleplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Frances Fisher ... Lucille Ball
Maurice Benard ... Desi Arnaz
Robin Pearson Rose ... Vivian Vance
John Wheeler John Wheeler ... William Frawley
Bette Ford ... De-De
Edith Diaz Edith Diaz ... Mother Arnaz
Matthew Faison Matthew Faison ... Harry
Liane Langland Liane Langland ... Maureen O'Hara
Patrick Cronin ... Doc Bender
Alan Oppenheimer ... Arthur Lyons
Joyce Blair ... Roxana
Don Keefer ... Grandpa Ball
Roger Rose ... Cousin Larry
Jim Brochu ... Max
Rance Howard ... Bernie


This made for TV movie tells the story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It begins in the 1930's when they met as actors under contract at RKO and ends with their divorce in 1960. In between we see how their careers developed, their often rocky marriage, and how they came to develop the groundbreaking and iconic "I Love Lucy" show. Written by hlahorner

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Could they learn to love each other as much as the world loved them? See more »


PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

10 February 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (PFL)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Producer Larry A. Thompson planned to expand the movie into a three-part trilogy that delved further into the lives of Lucy and Desi, but the ratings weren't what the network hoped for so plans for subsequent films were scrapped. See more »


References I Love Lucy: Pilot (1951) See more »


I'm Afraid That I Love You
by Paul Loomis & Stan Radliff
See more »

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User Reviews

Entertaining nostalgic film
16 January 2006 | by Sheila_BeersSee all my reviews

When I was four years of age, my parents and I were very much excited about the forthcoming premier of "I Love Lucy" on our "new" television set in 1951. I remember how excited our neighbors, who (with my parents) had been fans of Lucy and Desi during the 1930s and the Big Band Era, were at the prospect of seeing their favorite entertainers in a situation comedy on television. As a result, I found "Lucy and Desi: Before the Laughter" a great nostalgic film that explains the backgrounds of these entertainers, already legendary in 1951.

Far from being a third-rate performer, Desi Arnaz discovered innovative techniques still used in television and film production today; he also invented different types of cameras that led to great improvements in the television and motion picture industries. In addition, he was an excellent musician and vocalist, and prior to the "I Love Lucy" debut he had considerable experience as a motion picture actor.

In conjunction with their television and motion picture work, Mr. Arnaz and Miss Ball formed Desilu Productions and produced many outstanding television series that dealt with a variety of topics and scenarios.

As another credit to the late Mr. Arnaz, he helped his family escape from the Cuban revolution led by Dictator Battista in the 1930s. With the family wealth lost, Mr. Arnaz and his family made a new life for themselves in New York City. Mr. Arnaz willingly did menial work to support his family and his dream of becoming a U.S. citizen and an entertainer. In his autobiography, he expressed his gratitude to the United States and the American people for his chance to rebuild his life and become a success.

At the time the "I Love Lucy" program debuted, it was highly unusual for a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant like Miss Ball to marry a Roman Catholic man from Cuba. Among WASPS there were sharp divisions among those who believed Hispanics were Caucasian and those who believed Hispanics (and other people of Mediterranean origin) were "not quite white" or acceptable in the mainstream of American society. The premise of the Ball-Arnaz marriage and the "I Love Lucy" program, that opposites attract and can have a happy marriage, was a new idea in the pre-civil rights era (before 1961). At the same time, Hispanic migrant workers began moving to my hometown in the Midwest for seasonal farm work, and some chose to make permanent homes in the area. The "I Love Lucy" series helped local residents become broad minded enough to accept the Hispanic people in the community and count them among their friends.

I am sorry the Arnaz children did not appreciate this film. Maurice Benard's acting may have been campy, but Frances Fisher did an excellent job in portraying Lucy. In spite of the overacting by Mr. Benard, this film explains the backgrounds of Miss Ball and Mr. Arnaz and brings back precious memories of my childhood in the early 1950s. The film also is one I treasure and would love to have on DVD.

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