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Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Paperback – August 2, 2011
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“Excellent” (Entertainment Weekly)
“A page-turner of the first order ... Desilu is good, gritty, fair but strong and bottom line -- a gripper.” (The Hollwood Reporter)
“Provide[s] fresh insights into the performers’ personalities . . . Fans of the Lucy show will find Desilu fascinating.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Lively and informative ... A thoughtful, candid look at one of the world’s most loved, most watched comedy teams -- (The Houston Post)
Filled with juicy details, quotes, backstage insights, rare photos . . . The best bio about America’s red-topped funny lady ever” (Beverly Hills (213))
From the Back Cover
The behind-the-scenes story of television’s happiest couple, and Hollywood’s most tumultuous marriage
The magical union of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz created I Love Lucy—the greatest, most enduring situation comedy in television history. Yet the overwhelming pressures of fame, backstage battles, oversized egos, and Desi’s philandering and drinking led to the destruction of their star-crossed, tempestuous marriage—but never their love for each other.
This new edition of Desilu features a special commentary by Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic Tom Shales, and includes a brand-new preface and never-before-seen photographs. Written with the close cooperation of family members, including Lucy and Desi’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, Desilu is the most candid and balanced inside account of Lucy and Desi’s celebrated, but ultimately tragic, relationship—as well as a fascinating look at the legendary Desilu Studios and the fabled golden age of television.
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062020013
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062020017
- Dimensions : 6.13 x 1.04 x 9.25 inches
- Publisher : Dey Street Books; Expanded ed. edition (August 2, 2011)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #272,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I was very surprised by how generous Desi was. He was also a complicated, loving and very flawed man who loved his children and Lucy. He would come home after working 14-hour days and play with his children. He would sing to them and go on walks with them. He adored his children. But he was also a man with many vices. His womanizing is legendary. When asked about it he said, "What is everybody so worried about? I love Lucy. Those other women are just broads". It's clear from the book that It was just sex, nothing more. His heart was with Lucy. He was able to keep Lucy's controlling nature in check. Always one who enjoyed a drink, Desi's drinking increased with the mounting stress that came with being the head of Desilu Studios. Alcoholism consumed Desi and kept him from being the doting father he really was. There's so much irony because Lucy's and Desi's reason for doing "I Love Lucy" was so they could be together. Yet it ended up being what tore them apart.
Divorce didn't put an end to their love for each other. It actually made it stronger. Even though they both went on to remarry, people who knew them said it was like they never really divorced. They spoke daily, and Lucy always called Desi on his birthday. And Desi sent Lucy flowers on her birthday and their anniversary. I'm not one to get chocked up with books, but the end is so moving. It took everything I had not to burst into tears. Their love withstood everything. They couldn't live with each other, but they really couldn't live without each other. And it’s because of them that we have "I Love Lucy".
From that POV I did enjoy the book. The author gave us considerable insight into the relationship between Desi and Lucy over the years and how that effected their public and private lives. Since Desi ran the business operations knowing a bit about the personal life helped figure out some of the various moves he made over the years. I'm not an expert on Lucy lore, but I would imagine the author covered her life in great detail here, and Desi as well.
What I enjoyed most about the book was how the author filled in the background on various decisions Desi made while running Desilu. Since what he did had a great deal to do with our early TV history it's a kin to being there at the begining. Much of what we now know as network TV has its roots in Desi Arnaz running Desilu.
Desilu started life as a production company formed in 1950 and rocketed Ball and Arnaz to great success in the business to being sold and merged into Paramont in 1967 and eventually ending up as Desilu Too LLC, which exists to capture proceeds from I Love Lucy residuals, products and projects today. For example, the Lucy Museum in Jamestown, NY is a joint venture between Desilu Too LLC thru Lucie and Desi IV and local businessmen. The Center hasn't been doing well as of late and was rumored to be losing money. Some key managers were fired or replaced and a Gift Shop closed. Some locals are concerned the operation may be closing down soon. However, the Center has enjoyed a small rebound since and has redirected its focus to promoting comedy and young performers, often hosting comedy shows at its Desilu Playhouse facility. Desilu Too also does business with a marketing firm that specializes in departed celebs, like Elvis, etc. It controls use of Ball and Arnaz image but not the 'Lucy' shows, all of which are owned by CBS Distribution at this time (2014).
On the weak side I think the book comes up short detailing why Arnaz sold his share of Desilu (in 1962 to Lucy for $3,000,000). Although it prepares some detail on Desilu operations after the Ball/Arnaz 1960 divorce it leaves out much of the reasoning behind the 1962 buyout. I was curious why Arnaz wanted to sell and what terms he and Lucy had agreed to. All we get is the standard 'Lucy bought Desi's share of Desilu for xxx'. It could have provided more detail of any interaction between the two owners at that time, or any discussions. Arnaz had wanted out of the company since 1956 or 1957 so it's an interesting point as to why he went out when he did. The book does basically the same when Ball sold Desilu in 1967. Suddenly, the subject comes up without any real backround or history as it follows Ball to Miami where she is forced to make a decision on the sale. Again, the book gives no details and background on the negotiations with Paramount's owner Gulf & Western. That would have added to why Ball sold out. It does detail the program side of Desilu at the time and its efforts to convince the major networks to buy programs they produced and owned. For years 'The Lucy Show' was the only one Desilu owned with most of its cash flow coming from studio rentals to other programs (like Andy Griffith, Gomer Pyle, etc). Desilu eventually sold three programs; Star Trek, Mission: Impossible and later Mannix. Further research showed that Desilu needed something on the air and turned to the shows at the last minute implying the move was designed to improve it's position for potential buyers. Lucy wasn't involved in development of any shows and, unlike Arnaz who actively worked in pilot development, maintained considerable distance from day to day operations. One review at the time said adding the shows increased the value of Desilu by up to $7,000,000. Ball made over $12,000,000 on the sale.
The book follows Arnaz and Ball after Desilu and details their new production companies. It spends considerable time on Ball's second husband, Gary Morton and his role in her life and business affairs. Finally, the book ends with their deaths, Arnaz in 1986 and Ball in 1989.
Overall a good book. And, I'm sure, not the last on the subject. It has been updated at least twice (2001 & 2011). Lucie Arnaz, their daughter, contributes a lot to the book with special insights about her parents home lives. The content she provides more than makes up for what could have been a direct lack of objectivity from her protecting her parents image.
Finally, I find myself rooting for Arnaz. I felt sad the way he turned out. Lucie gave a quote which sums his life up when she noted that, at some point, Arnaz came to realize it was all over, that I Love Lucy was it and that his career in show business was finished. His son noted that his dad should have 'had a house and a boat and stayed in Cuba' where he could have lived the life he was best suited for. It was clear that the pressures of running Desilu and his addictions led to his leaving Desilu, ruined his marriage and eventually led to his early death. Without him Ball would have never become the major icon she did under his direction. You could say that he gave his life for show business and building Lucy into a major tv star and Desilu into the industry leader in tv's early days. Arnaz just never gets enough credit but nearly all the blame in the history of Desilu.
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