herbert fox

LUCY’S IMPOSSIBLE MISSION

S1;E6 ~ October 28, 1968

Directed by Jack Donohue ~ Written by Robert O'Brien

Synopsis

Lucy mistakenly enters a phone booth meant for a secret agent and becomes embroiled in a mission impossible: to impersonate Middle Eastern royalty!  

Regular Cast

Lucille Ball (Lucy Carter), Gale Gordon (Harrison Otis Carter), Lucie Arnaz (Kim Carter), Desi Arnaz Jr. (Craig Carter)

Guest Cast

Richard Derr (Agent Commander Geller, right) appeared in 8 Broadway shows between 1949 and 1960. His screen career began in 1941, often appearing on televised adaptations of stage plays.  This is his only appearance opposite Lucille Ball.  

The character is named after the creator of “Mission: Impossible” Bruce Geller.

Jack Collins (Agent Johnson, left) appeared on the final two episodes of “The Lucy Show” episode earlier in 1968.  He played Russel Slater on “Dallas” from 1982 to 1987. This is the first of his six appearances on “Here’s Lucy.”  

The character is named in honor of the voice on the self-destruct tape recording heard on nearly every episode of “Mission: Impossible” Bob Johnson, who also is heard in this episode.

Raymond Kark (Magazine Stand Proprietor) was a character actor with a baker’s dozen of TV and film credits.  This is his only one with Lucille Ball.

Kark’s one line of dialogue is spoken off-screen.  

John J. “Red” Fox (Policeman) was best known for playing policemen, which is what he did on five of his eight appearances on “The Lucy Show” as well as three of his five episodes of “Here’s Lucy.”

The policeman has no lines, but is kicked by Lucy to get his attention and says “Ouch!”

Ken Drake (Butler) had 66 film and TV credits, but rarely appeared on sitcoms. This is his only appearance with Lucille Ball.  

Maxine Gates (Dowager, above right with red sash) was nicknamed “250 pounds of pep and personality.” She had a pet alligator named Oscar.  This is her penultimate screen credit.

The Dowager has no dialogue and is not identified.  When the harem-hunting Sultan is about to dance with Kim, Lucy pulls her away and substitutes the Dowager.

Tim Herbert (Mahuli Omar, left) was born Herbert Timberg in 1914. In 1944 he appeared on Broadway in the Jackie Gleason revue Follow the Girls. He made three appearances on “The Lucy Show.”  This is his only time on “Here’s Lucy.” He appeared with Lucille Ball in A Guide for the Married Man in 1967.

The character’s name is never spoken on screen.  Lucy calls him (and others) Sahib.  

Joseph Ruskin (Ambassador Korlik of the Slobtoni Embassy, right) made his screen debut as an uncredited extra on Jackie Gleason’s “The Honeymooners” in 1955. He  appeared in four of the “Star Trek” series, the first being shot at Desilu. He played John Wayne’s director Joe on “The Lucy Show.” Ruskin appeared as foreign operatives in six episodes of “Mission: Impossible” (two of which were two-parters).  This is his only episode of “Here’s Lucy.”

George DeNormand (Party Guest, uncredited) appeared in three films with Lucille Ball from 1937 to 1963. This is the just one of his many appearances on “The Lucy Show” and “Here’s Lucy.” He also appeared in seven episodes of “Mission: Impossible” the final one as an uncredited party guest.

Monty O'Grady (Party Guest, uncredited) was first seen with Lucille Ball in The Long, Long Trailer (1953) and played a passenger on the S.S. Constitution in Second Honeymoon” (ILL S5;E14). He was a traveler at the airport when The Ricardos Go to Japan” (1959). He made more than a dozen appearances on “The Lucy Show” and a half dozen more on “Here’s Lucy.” O'Grady appeared in eleven episodes of “Mission: Impossible” (often also as an uncredited party guest) including one a month before this episode first aired, and one a month after.

Bob Johnson (Voice of Self-Destruct Tape, uncredited) reprises his voice-over role from “Mission: Impossible” on which he was heard in 156 episodes.  He also returned for the 1988 reboot of the show, but by this time his voice was on a disc, not a tape!  Johnson was also a voice-over heard on Desilu’s “Star Trek.”

Uncredited background performers play the other embassy party guests, dancers, and the Sultan of Alzukar.  

The evening before this episode originally aired (October 27, 1968) “Mission: Impossible” aired an episode titled “The Mercenaries” guest starring Pernell Roberts (“Trapper John, M.D.”) and Vic Tayback (“Alice”).  Like “Here’s Lucy,” the show was seen on CBS TV and was produced and filmed at Paramount.  It was episode number 57, the third of season four.  

This episode is a spoof of the TV series “Mission: Impossible” (1966-73) which was a Desilu / Paramount series.  Had Lucille Ball not given the nod to the series in 1966, there would be no Mission: Impossible movies today!  What would Tom Cruise do?  

The episode uses the “Mission: Impossible” theme and original underscoring by Lalo Schifrin. The theme won a Grammy Award earlier in 1968.  The instantly recognizable theme song is saved for the final chase sequence.  

Episode scribe Bob O'Brien co-wrote the screenplay for the Lucille Ball / Bob Hope film Fancy Pants (1950).  He was responsible for 54 episodes of “The Lucy Show.” This was the first of his 24 episodes of “Here’s Lucy.”  He would also write the Lucy specials “Lucy Gets Lucky” (1975) and “Lucy Moves to NBC” (1980), his last screen writing credit.  He died in 2005.  

Actor Joseph Ruskin (Korlik) introduces this episode on the “Here’s Lucy” DVD. He passed away shortly afterward.  

On October 28, 1968 this episode was originally followed on CBS by an episode of “Mayberry R.F.D.” that also featured George DeNormand and Monty O'Grady as uncredited extras.  

Trying to remember the recorded message, Lucy mistakes the word ‘embassy’ for 'NBC’.  Although Lucille Ball was a long-time CBS TV star, she briefly 'moved’ to NBC in 1980.  Although her final series “Life With Lucy” was produced and distributed by CBS, it actually aired on ABC, meaning Lucille Ball was seen on all three of the major networks!  

At the episode’s start, Lucille Ball wears the same light blue tweed suit she wore in the previous episode, “Lucy, the Conclusion Jumper” (S1;E5).  

Kim compares Agent Geller to James Bond, except taller and more handsome. Craig later say the idea of going in disguise is “kinda 007.” The sixth James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was released in mid-December 1967 and starred George Lazenby as 007. The film would have been recently in cinemas when this episode was filmed.  

During the Embassy party the small band plays the Beatles song “Yesterday.” Released in September 1965, the song reached number one on the Billboard charts. Later in the party, the band  plays “The Sunny Side of the Street,” a 1930 song by Jimmy McHugh. It was introduced in the Broadway musical Lew Leslie’s International Revue.

Lucy, Harry, Craig and Kim impersonate the Royal Family of Capazonia.  As an Indian Prince, Craig says that in America he sees many more Nehru jackets. The Nehru jacket is a hip-length tailored coat with a mandarin collar modeled on the Indian garment worn by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964. The jackets were popularized in Europe and North America by the Beatles and the mods, a fashion movement.  Several villains in the James Bond film series appear wearing a Nehru jacket.

As the Maharani, Lucy must improvise a dance routine.  Although it starts off with Middle Eastern moves, Lucy turns it into a square dance.  It then turns into an (American) Indian War Dance and a Charleston.  It culminates with Lucy walking across hot coals and sticking her feet in a tub of champagne bottles for relief.

Although a treat for Lucy fans, the episode would be considered politically incorrect today for the use of dark make-up for Asian characters.  

As the Maharani, Lucy makes her entrance on a litter, just as Lucy Carmichael did when she played Cleopatra for the Danfield Community Players.  

Lucy’s impersonation of a Middle Eastern Maharani is a direct homage to "The Publicity Agent” (ILL S1;E32) where she created the character of the Scheherazade of Franistan.  Even the voice is similar!  In that episode, Lucy Ricardo initially suggests calling the character a Maharani, but Ethel informs her that a Maharani is a Maharaja’s wife, so they settle on Maharincess, combining Maharani with Princess. Lucy later says she’s not a Maharincess but a Henna Rinses, a joke about her hair dye.

This is not the first time Lucy went undercover!  After seeing a James Bond film, Lucy and Mr. Mooney get embroiled in a spy caper that finds her disguised as Broadway star Carol Channing in “Lucy and the Undercover Agent” (TLS S4;E10).  

Another show that was produced by Desilu, “The Untouchables,” was similarly parodied by “The Lucy Show.”  Like this episode of “Here’s Lucy,” it disguised the character’s names, used the original program’s theme music, and employed the show’s iconic voice-over artist, Walter Winchell, who, like tape voice Bob Johnson, was heard on every episode, but never seen.  In that episode, Lucy was also forced to go undercover.  

Lucy’s improvised dance routine feels similar to when Lucy Ricardo had to blend in to a chorus line in “Lucy is Jealous of Girl Singer” (ILL S1;E10) in 1951. Despite every move being scripted and rigorously rehearsed, Lucille Ball was able to make it look convincingly improvised.

At the party, the drummer in the band has the brand name taped over. The drummer for the specialty dance plays the bongos, but it is not timed well with the music playback.  In an earlier episode, Craig’s drums also had the brand name taped over.

When Lucy is perusing photographs of the Royal Family, she is actually holding a black and white  photo of herself and her children used to promote “Here’s Lucy.”  

The magazine rack holds the November 10, 1967 issue of Time Magazine, published a full year before this episode aired.  There is another issue of Time on the rack.  News agents typically only sell the issue dated that week.  

“Lucy’s Impossible Mission” rates 4 Paper Hearts out of 5

Lucy blends her own back catalog with Desilu’s and comes up with some very funny (if improbable) stuff.  The very involved dance routine is a stand alone classic.