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Yes, her hair really was that red. The walls were rose and the doors, gray.
August 6, 2011 11:18 AM   Subscribe

In October of 1951 a fan snuck a color 8MM camera into a taping of I love Lucy. The footage has resurfaced, here intercut with the actual episode.
posted by pjern (51 comments total) 84 users marked this as a favorite

 
That is so fantastic. Thanks so much for posting this.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:20 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, a filming, as I'm pretty sure videotape wasn't around then.
posted by pjern at 11:24 AM on August 6, 2011


cool! I always wondered what color her hair was!
posted by sexyrobot at 11:24 AM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Did they have sound 8mm in 1951? Or is the ambient sound in the latter part of this video dubbed in?
posted by nightwood at 11:30 AM on August 6, 2011


Happy birthday, Lucy. We miss you!

She would have been 100 years old today.
posted by ericb at 11:32 AM on August 6, 2011


Happy Birthday to You, Lucy!
posted by ericb at 11:33 AM on August 6, 2011


Amazing. Seeing snippets of an "I Love Lucy" scene in color is a bizarre experience. It's like getting a glimpse of an alternate universe.
posted by Dr. Zira at 11:40 AM on August 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


Actually, a filming, as I'm pretty sure videotape wasn't around then.

I think '51 was the year videotape recording was presented to the public, but it wash't until the mid-50s that it was broadcast quality.

I was surprised by the small size of the camera rig at first, and then realized the the big, lumbering, orthicon tube cameras came later with videotape.

I once met a man who worked in TV back in the 50s in California. He had to deal with the kinescope footage from the TV shows that were shot live on the east coast, filmed to 16 or 35mm by a camera that was just pointed at a TV monitor, then shipped to the west coast for delayed broadcast there. Until the mid 50s, all 'live' shows from the east coast had to be delivered this way. He claimed to make a little money on the side at bars by making bets on what would happen in the shows that he saw on film before they were aired. Couldn't tell if he was pulling my leg on the last one, but he had some good stories to tell.
posted by chambers at 11:41 AM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


LIFE Magazine has published new, never-seen photos of Lucy in honor of her birthday.
posted by ericb at 11:43 AM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


As I read yesterday, yes it was filmed instead of the usual kinescope which allowed for long term storage (which is why there's so much of the show still available).

Go and read it, you'll find out how her and Desi's approach to production allowed Wagon Train to the Stars (Star Trek) to be made.
posted by bruzie at 11:44 AM on August 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Check out Google's Lucy Doodle.
posted by ericb at 11:45 AM on August 6, 2011


nightwood: Did they have sound 8mm in 1951? Or is the ambient sound in the latter part of this video dubbed in?

I'm too young to know from first-hand experience, but this site notes that Kodak introduced the sound-8 in 1959, and that is the earliest date I see for any 8mm format with sound included. I could be wrong, though; or they could have snuck in an audio recorder, to sync up on re-play.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:50 AM on August 6, 2011


Unpublished photos from Life - they invented three-camera staging (#14). Was there anything they didn't do?
posted by bruzie at 11:52 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is fantastic.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:53 AM on August 6, 2011


OR perhaps they just used the sound from the B&W episode and synched it to the silent color footage?
posted by orbis23 at 11:53 AM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow! This is wonderful, thank you.

It's so strange and almost unsettling to see that living room in color. Bizarro Lucy.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:53 AM on August 6, 2011


I love and adore her so much. I always find it amazing that after spending a couple of decades in B-movies she basically reinvented herself in her 40s, and turned out to be one of the greatest comedians of the 20th century -- and happened to be married to a man who, despite being a pretty B-rate musician himself, had the extraordinary instincts to basically invent modern television production. In my book, the meeting of Ball and Arnaz is a little like the meeting of Lennon and McCartney.
posted by scody at 11:54 AM on August 6, 2011 [27 favorites]


The drumming scene at the beginning is also one of my favorite scenes from the show's entire run. I Love Lucy was, in general, amazingly "real" for the era—Lucy wore the same clothes again and again, housekeeping was shown to be difficult and messy work, the speech patterns and dialog were naturalistic and unstudied—but everyone still mostly has that polished, finished look that comes from many layers of foundation garments, Brylcreem, and universal standards of dress. I always loved that one Tropicana sequence, though, for Arnaz's pompadour coming undone, not in a jokey deliberate way but naturally, because it's real hair. Seeing it as a kid, it had that same ripped-seam effect of seeing your teacher at the grocery store or something.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:07 PM on August 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


Thanks! This is really great. I'm continually amazed at the random bits of awesome the internet affords me that I would never have possibly seen without it.
posted by graventy at 12:08 PM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


bruzie: "Was there anything they didn't do?"

Stay married?

Seriously, I remember how heartbroken I was as a kid when I learned that she and Desi had divorced. In my little kid brain, informed by TV reruns and Saturday afternoon showings of "The Long Long Trailer" on the local UHF channel, it was my idea of the perfect couple.

I love those Life pics because it reminds us that she started out her career as a model. What an amazing life and career. The Wikipedia entry has a nice summary of the HUAC investigation (she had registered as a Communist) and this fantastic anecdote:

Immediately before the filming of episode 68 ("The Girls Go Into Business") of I Love Lucy, Arnaz, instead of his usual audience warm-up, told the audience about Lucy and her grandfather. Arnaz quipped: "The only thing red about Lucy is her hair, and even that's not legitimate." Then, he presented his wife and she received a standing ovation from the audience.


This woman was an amazing trailblazer, and one of my role models.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:08 PM on August 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


seconding scody -- without Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the golden era of the sitcom would never have existed. It always makes me laugh a little when I hear someone say they don't really like "I Love Lucy" because it's boring and predictable like all the other sitcoms they've seen... and I'm like, "Yeah, but Lucy and Desi invented that shit, man."
posted by palomar at 12:11 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Long Long Trailer!!! I always forget about that movie, but yeah, it always ran on Saturday afternoons on UHF, and I loved it to pieces.
posted by palomar at 12:12 PM on August 6, 2011


This photo inspires me to match my socks to more things
posted by device55 at 12:21 PM on August 6, 2011


I want to say that this is a great find and thank you.

So... What is the audience member a fan of? The show hadn't aired yet. The show premiered on October 15, 1951, but this episode (#6) was filmed on October 12, 1951. Was he a fan of Ball already and brought the camera in?

Was the camera man a tourist and went to watch the show get filmed and snuck the camera in, rather than leave it with someone? I think there's a story here.
posted by CarlRossi at 12:23 PM on August 6, 2011


That's not nat sound on the 8 mm. The footage resurfaced quite a while back--this video is also on the I Love Lucy Collector's DVD set.
The YouTube video was posted in 2008.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:39 PM on August 6, 2011


Oh, that was great. In her movie days, before she became a TV comedienne, Lucille Ball was known as 'Technicolor Tessie' because she photographed so beautifully in Technicolor.
posted by essexjan at 12:44 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So... What is the audience member a fan of? The show hadn't aired yet. The show premiered on October 15, 1951, but this episode (#6) was filmed on October 12, 1951. Was he a fan of Ball already and brought the camera in?

She'd already had a long movie career and a successful run on My Favorite Husband, the radio show that "I Love Lucy" was based on. Also, to promote the TV show ahead of time, she and Desi had done a very successful vaudeville tour in 1950 with an act that specifically included several of the bits seen in this episode (Lucy with the cello, Lucy pretending to be a seal, etc.).

So whether he was a tourist or a local, it's not unlikely that the audience member might have already been a Lucille Ball fan. Even if not, though, I would guess it wouldn't be terribly odd for someone to try to sneak in a camera to watch a show being filmed, just to record the sheer novelty of the experience.
posted by scody at 12:46 PM on August 6, 2011


I'm just going to go ahead and link to I Love Lucy pilot, which was never aired. Lucy is pregnant!
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:51 PM on August 6, 2011


Greg Oppenheimer, son of series producer and head writer Jess Oppenheimer, obtained the rare color footage, and edited it together with scenes from the actual show. The guy on the set with the Arnazes between scenes is the show's director, Marc Daniels. I'd bet that the audience wasn't just casual tourists, and it's possible that Lucy, who had a big archive of material, knew who had the camera. October 12, 1951, at Sound Stage #2 of Desilu Studios, Hollywood, California.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:02 PM on August 6, 2011


Lucy is pregnant!

I believe you mean "expecting."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:08 PM on August 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you grew up watching I Love Lucy reruns, you probably never saw the stuff they did together after the series ended. The Luci Desi Comedy Hour continued the characters - Lucy, Ricky, Little Ricky, the Mertzes... - for a few years after the end of I Love Lucy. Here's one episode, but there are others on the web.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:09 PM on August 6, 2011


I believe you mean "expecting."

She was Five months expecting during the pilot.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:12 PM on August 6, 2011


I find it amazing that 'I Love Lucy' has been 'on air' (in syndication) ever since it debuted in 1951.
posted by ericb at 1:47 PM on August 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Such a cool post, thanks! Having seen each episode of I Love Lucy a hundred and some times over the years, it's totally strange to see the costumes and sets in color. I had the same feeling when I visited the I Love Lucy display at Universal Orlando - I recognized her dresses from the styles and fabric patterns, but I'd never imagined what color they each might be. Here's one more post to add to the Lucy birthday love, with some behind-the-scenes trivia.
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:31 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


The B&W footage seems so sharp. Does anyone know if they intend to release the show in HD, like they did with Star Trek?
posted by fings at 2:51 PM on August 6, 2011


I love vaudeville!

And my, they were a beautiful couple.
posted by dragonsi55 at 3:02 PM on August 6, 2011


You really have to admire the energy they both put into their performances here. How many modern actors would "bring it" with such verve?
posted by dhartung at 3:06 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


dragonsi55!

(staring in a trance)

NIAAAAAGRA FALLS! Sloooowly I turned...
posted by hal9k at 4:14 PM on August 6, 2011


Amazing, amazing find!

It's like getting a glimpse of an alternate universe.

This. Although less like "portal to another dimension" and more like sheer time-traveling. I grew up witnessing this show as a preserved cultural artifact, like something encased in a museum. But this (this!), it's like sneaking into the past, fully-realized. The ambience of the studio, spontaneous and unpackaged for posterity, hums around the stealthy cameraman. This is literally a video made for YouTube, decades ago!

Wow. Let's time travel.
posted by stroke_count at 5:05 PM on August 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is perfectly delightful.
posted by odinsdream at 5:08 PM on August 6, 2011


This episode is on RIGHT NOW in Los Angeles on channel 11, FOX KTTV. awesome!!
posted by brando_calrissian at 5:19 PM on August 6, 2011


Fings the B&W footage seems so sharp. Does anyone know if they intend to release the show in HD,

It's sharp because the YouTube video is directly off the DVD. Remastered.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:32 PM on August 6, 2011


The sets for the NYC living room and Hollywood hotel room are on display at the Lucy-Desi museum in Jamestown NY.
posted by brujita at 7:23 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unbelievable. Thanks for this... astonishing.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:34 PM on August 6, 2011


In October of 1951 a fan snuck a color 8MM camera into a taping of I love Lucy

He has some 'splainin' to do...and I assume this is it.
posted by jonmc at 8:10 PM on August 6, 2011


Did they have sound 8mm in 1951? Or is the ambient sound in the latter part of this video dubbed in?

It sounds like the original sound being recorded on set. Remember, in standard film production (and I Love Lucy, as has been someone noted above, was shot on 35mm) the sound is the first thing that starts rolling, sometimes way in advance of when the cameras start rolling (that's why the slate make a loud clapping noise -- so that the editor can sync the two up afterward). The sound was probably recording for a few minutes before they started the first take.

In the shot, you can see that the boom mic, which has a limited range, is directly above Lucy and Desi, who aren't saying anything. The muffled ambient sound we hear would be consistent, I think, with that type of microphone picking up the chatter of crew and audience members who aren't standing directly under it.
posted by alexoscar at 9:41 PM on August 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Interesting to note, her production company, at the insistence of the star herself, backed Star trek very heavily, believing in Gene Roddenberry's vision to her very end. Without Lucy, there would be no Kirk, Spock, Uhura... or Piccard and Sisko and Odo and Data.

As a kid in the '70s, I'd watch re-runs of I Love Lucy everyday during the summers, and during winter breaks. You'd get the notion that Ricky was trying wayyyyy too hard to be The Boss... everyone knew Lucy was in charge. Watching this, the notion hasn't changed.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:51 PM on August 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hey I liked the episodes when I was a kid, as well as The Lucy Show or whatever the Gale Gordon one was. Thing is, my last memories of Lucy are of my brother and I joking about whether she was dead yet, when we were probably Junior High or so. She was always showing up on Jerry Lewis Telethons or Johnny Carson, rocking the gravel voice and a Virginia Slim, yakkin' about the old days.

I suppose that's a bit of a Golden Era back then, the late 70s to mid-80s, when a lot of the early TV and late Vaudeville people were still making the rounds. By far the most accurate representation of the Lucy I remember is when she was the spirit of something or other on the Simpsons.
posted by rhizome at 11:37 PM on August 6, 2011


I love Lucy!
posted by tomswift at 2:50 AM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It sounds like the original sound being recorded on set.
I think the sound in the YouTube video, which is the same as that on the DVD has been remastered and most likely tweaked and fiddled with.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:29 PM on August 7, 2011


The TVTropes entry is, as always, fascinating. An excerpt:
The show was filmed, which was a big deal. At the time, most shows were archived by "kinescope," which is simply a movie camera taking footage of a TV displaying the show's live broadcast. Obviously, this produces really crummy-looking video; that's why most shows from the 1950s have either been lost or are of very little interest in reuse (videotape didn't become available until late in the decade). In contrast, I Love Lucy required two-camera pairs, one to broadcast the live TV and one to take down the results on film. Even better, the show invented the live-studio Three Cameras technique, which resulted in six cameras running simultaneously and was wildly expensive.

This show also invented the Rerun: when Lucille Ball became pregnant and needed a reduction in her workload, Desi came up with the idea of showing a previously-aired-but-much-loved episode instead of something new—which was only possible because Desilu had taken the trouble to film the original broadcast in the first place. "Reruns?" the network scoffed. "It Will Never Catch On." Well, the laugh's on them: I Love Lucy has been on the air literally non-stop since it was first produced; television historians have determined that since its original airing, the show has always been in syndication somewhere in the world. (Not coincidentally, this has made Ball's and Arnaz's estates filthy stinking rich.)
posted by Rhaomi at 2:24 AM on August 8, 2011


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