The Lucy Show
The Lucy Show
By: Gilbert Seldes | TV Guide - 1963


How hard it is to be a beautiful woman I can only guess from certain commercials. From my own observation I know that to be a beautiful woman and, at the same time, a great slapstick comedian is one of the rarest things in the world. A generation and more ago, Mabel Normand made it, and later Carole Lombard. Since then the incomparable practitioner of this double art has been Lucille Ball. I say this although I remember perfectly well that I denounced I Love Lucy using such moderate words as "the worst program of the year." I was angry because that program used only about one-fifth of Miss Ball's armory of talents. More of them are visible in The Lucy Show.

It is commonly, and properly, held that the great ones of knockabout comedy have to know how to be loud and broad. Yet among the things I remember best in the wild and funny antics of Lucille Ball are tiny moments of absolute quiet. One was in a movie: Lucille, as a move star going downhill, was guest at a college dance, and as the young man was escorting her up the steps of the gym he said something like "even at your age." How Miss Ball managed in a long shot, with her back to us, to let us know she nearly died, I'll never know. But after some 20 years I remember it.

And on TV a few weeks ago she and Vivian Vance spent New Year's Eve at a restaurant with their sons as escorts. There was a lot of noise and fun. There was also a moment when the younger boy, looking a full seven years of age, got up to dance with Lucy and came around to hold her chair for her before she got up. For one-tenth of a second she changed her position - and all the grace of a lovely woman and all the tenderness of a mother who respects her child were in that fraction of time.

This was the show on which Miss Ball did her imitation of Charlie Chaplin - the imitation was broad, but it referred us back to the delicate art of the original. All this, however, comes more easily to Chaplin. He isn't, he'd be the first to admit, a beautiful woman.

The show itself is a variable. You may see Lucy singing lullabies to a sheep or find Lucy and Vivian almost going to law because Vivian hurt her ankle at Lucy's house and insists on 24-hour attendance or she'll sue. No one can move faster and funnier than Lucy picking up a portable typewriter, a tray full of lunch, a newspaper, some knitting and other assorted objects to the patient. No one can plot to outwit the enemy more keenly. (A mouse scares Vivian to her feet and all is forgiven.) The best of the lot so far was the New Year's Eve one because it rose from a simple source: The daughter, giving her first boy-and-girl party, doesn't want mother at home. The party is a dud until Lucy does her Chaplin routine (the children thought Chaplin was "a Stone Age Soupy Sales").

At times, you have to wait between the great moments. But it isn't hard. After all, you can always look at Lucille.
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