" 'I Love Lucy': A Celebration of All Things Lucy" by Elisabeth Edwards
Reviewed by David Marshall James
Quick! What's Lucy Ricardo's middle name?
No, "McGillicuddy" is her maiden name.
Surprise: It's "Esmeralda"!
Oh, the things you'll learn about the Ricardos and the Mertzes in this bountifully illustrated volume celebrating the 60th anniversary of TV's greatest sitcom, which debuted in September 1951, running through 1957.
Each episode is summarized and dated (production date and air date) with a picture therefrom; additionally, character quotes and factoids are compiled, so the reader will garner more information about Lucy, Ricky, Ethel, and Fred than the actors who portrayed them: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley.
Author Elisabeth Edwards's principal thesis is to demonstrate how the program reflected the escalating affluency of the middle class in post-WWII America.
During the years of the show's run, more Americans were able to afford appliances, automobiles, and houses in the suburbs.
Hence, the Ricardos and the Mertzes really got around, mostly on Ricky's nickel, journeying to California and Europe, as well as to Miami, Hawaii, and Cuba.
As Ricky prospered, he was able to purchase his own nightclub.
Back home, who could forget the episode wherein the Ricardos buy a new washing machine, with the old one tumbling over the back railing?
As the series wound down, the Ricardos headed to Connecticut, where they could afford (sort of) a house of their own-- along with a flock of chickens-- the better to bring up Little Ricky, that drum-beating poster boy for the Baby Boom generation.
"I Love Lucy" wasn't tied down to a single locale, as "All in the Family" was. Nor did the Ricardos "move on up," as the Jeffersons did, in one fell swoop. Rather, nationwide trends toward increasing prosperity during the 1950s were reflected in the Ricardos' lifestyles.
No telling how much Fred Mertz had stashed away in the basement of his apartment building. His Depression-era mentality fostered his skinflintedness; whereas, Lucy and Ricky were more willing to "trade up" as their family enlarged and times improved.
In spite of Communist witch hunts (which came a hair's breadth from destroying Lucille Ball's career), the nuclear-arms race with the USSR, and domestic strife concerning civil rights, the prevailing economic mood was largely positive.
One fun section of the book details the characters' appetites, with some suggested recipes for their favorite dishes. Lucy wasn't completely inept in the kitchen. She fresh-squeezed Ricky's orange juice every morning, and she could catch flying toast like a major leaguer.
Another chapter offers song lyrics, not just to the theme music and "Babalu," but also to "Mammy's Little Babies Love Shortnin' Bread." We're far from forgetting Vivian Vance's rendition, during the en-route-to-Hollywood stop in her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico: "Ethel Mae Potter-- We Never Forgot Her."
One tidbit that's (understandably) overlooked, but that was never lost on this viewer: The make/pattern of the Ricardos' everyday dishes. It's Franciscan Ware (manufactured in California-- makes sense), in the Ivy pattern, which was discontinued around 1980.
One of my grandmothers owned a full set, acquired-- when else?
A toast, complete with buttered toast, from Ivy-pattern Franciscan Ware breakfast plate and coffee cup to this volume, and to Lucy, Ricky, Ethel, and Fred.
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