Tag Archives: Norman Lear

REVIEW: “LUCY AND DESI” (2022) Amazon Studios

Who knew that it would be director/actress/comedian extraordinaire Amy Poehler that would bring us the “LUCY AND DESI” movie we all needed this year. While 2021 was us an Aaron Sorkin version, that was truly based on only just a moment in time in the life of this most beloved of all TV histories famous comedic couple, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

(Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

This documentary is not only a love story to Lucy and Desi, it is about THEIR love story as well. One that with all it’s publicized up’s and down’s, was one for the history books in more way than just one. Here we not only learn about a long-forgotten box of discovered audio tapes from Lucy herself, but these tapes allows us to hear much of their history directly from horses mouth so to speak, Lucy and Desi themselves on home video and recordings. And boy are they a joy to watch. Here you get the true story of how Lucy started her career, as a model no less because she was stunningly beautiful, leading her to Hollywood where she was dubbed “Queen of the B’s” aka B-movies at the time, as those were the days of Hollywood starlets being signed to a singular studio and their films picked for them.

And we see Desi’s life as well, coming from a prominent Cuban family affiliated with the Bacardi rum empire at the time, and whom lost everything when the 1933 Cuban revolution took place at the age of 14, he was one of the few of his family who was sent and made it to the shores of the USA. Starting off young in Xavier Cugat’s band, Desi branched out on his own and is the man we can thank today for the infamous ‘Conga line’, something that you will most probably be participating in at most weddings, and most definitely on a cruise ship at some point or another. As well, it shows some classic Desi performances of his still-famous-around-the-world signature song, “Babaloo”.

But the two were destined to meet and that moment happened on the set of and RKO movie entitled “Too Many Girls”, sending them into a whirlwind romance, and into marriage just a short time later. That whirlwind romance never truly ended for either of them, though both moved on eventually, it’s one of those true stories in life of a love that never really dies. Amy Poehler delivers a masterful review of the rich, varied, fascinating history and this famous duo, by giving us peeks into not the just good, but the hardships as well. From Desi time in the Army and their long separations, to the Communist scandal, to Desi’s unfaithfulness stories being plastered on the front page of every gossip rag in town. But through it all, the fact that it was Lucy who demanded that Desi be her not just her real husband, but her TV husband as well – something America had never before witnessed, an Anglo-white woman, with a Cuban-born immigrant as a real life couple. And not just that, but the many firsts the couple did such a showing a pregnancy and having a child on TV, sleeping together in a double bed, buying out RKO and making it their own Desilu Studios with multiple hit sitcoms coming out of it, besides their own. And two of the biggest deals in the entertainment world at the time, making re-runs of shows possible, and having a woman run a studio. These accomplishments might not seem like much today, but they paved the road for making it as such.

Some of the best parts though come from their daughter, Lucie Arnaz-Luckinbill, as she speaks so lovingly about her parents true love story with clips from notables such as Carol Burnett, Norman Lear, Bette Midler, and Charo, sharing their admiration and love for Lucy, not just as a friend, but honouring all of her achievements and the giving moments that she shared with each of them. And sadly, it also shows the hardships of the end of their lives with Desi succumbing to lung cancer, with his daughter taking care of him till the end, yet Lucille herself coming to spend a last day with him watching re-runs of their show, laughing and reminiscing the good times. Lucy herself would pass three years later from heart issues.

Photo by Leonard Mccombe/The LIFE Picture Collection/ Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on the launch of Desilu Studios

In the end, they said their “I Love You’s” to each other, and probably just like the rest of us, realized that even sometimes just love isn’t enough to hold you together, but it also never leaves you. And even today, we can watch those ‘I Love Lucy‘ re-runs and laugh, smile and realize, yes everyone still loves Lucy.

Grade: A

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

LUCY AND DESI will premiere March 4, 2022 exclusively on Prime Video

RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT (2021) Roadside Attractions

Have you ever looked at someone’s life from the outside and just said to yourself “wow, I wish I could be just like them”. Well that’s what so many thought when looking at Rita Moreno and this great in-depth documentary about one of Hollywood’s most trailblazing actors, can confirm you just might still want to be.

The now 89-year-old actress, born in Puerto Rico, Moreno came to New York with her mother as a child at age 6, leaving behind her brother and father, whom she never saw again in her life. Moreno dropped out of school at the age of 15 and earned the money for her family as a dancer at the age of 16. When the boss of a Hollywood studio was in town, she auditioned with her mother: “I styled myself like Elizabeth Taylor, because that was the only actress who looked like me at the time.” She got the contract and from then on played everyone small role that looked somehow exotic, from the ‘Indian girls’ to the Asian dancers, and yes, even the playing Russian/Hungarian girls and incredibly, all of them with the same accent.

We see the good, the bad, and the ugly side of Rita’s life, not just the ‘grazing at the surface’ good things. It shows how Rita struggled with hating her Hispanic roots, because it limited her as an actress. She tells how she was sexually abused, was forced into an abortion by her then-boyfriend Marlon Brando, with whom she had a very turbulent 8 year on/off relationship with, and then tried to commit suicide. The film shows exactly why Rita is such a beloved actress and person as despite all the obstacles and what she has been through, she never gives up and learned to value the woman she is. Rita grows into her own person throughout the movie, telling how everything that put her down at the time just made her stronger.

Doing her due research here and getting it right, director Mariam Pérez Riera visited with the likes of: Morgan Freeman, Lin-Manual Miranda, Gloria Estefan, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Mitzi Gaynor, West Side Story co-star George Chakiris to name a few, and Moreno’s co-star on the much loved and critically acclaimed Latina version of “One Day at a Time”, Justina Machado. She collected anecdotes about Moreno’s daughter Fernanda Luisa Gordon, (an actress in her own right who performed with her mom), she scoured film and newspaper archives with journalistic meticulousness and peppered her documentary with countless glossy recordings and glowing testimonies. All of it showing that Rita has truly always been a force to be reckoned with and not just the first Latina to collect an Oscar in the 60’s when something like that was unheard of, and then went on to be the first Latina to win the celebrated EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, & Tony) as well.

Rita wearing her film titled top

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It’ ~ has thus become a film that shows how much has changed in Hollywood and is a true monument to a young girl who evolved into a strong, wonderful woman who has done a lot for this change. And yes, if I could be even the teensiest bit like Rita, well of course I would GO FOR IT!

B+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

Review Screening ~ Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

RITA MORENO: JUST A GIRL WHO DECIDED TO GO FOR IT” opens only in theaters June 18th, 2021