lucille baker

My Top Films of 2015

1. The Lobster - Yorgos Lanthimos

2. Evolution - Lucile Hadzihalilovic

3. Entertainment - Rick Alverson

4. The Forbidden Room - Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson

5. Cemetery of Splendour - Apichatpong Weerasethakul

6. Right Now, Wrong Then -  Hong Sang-Soo

7. Love - Gaspar Noe

8. Mountains May Depart - Jia Zhang-ke

9. Jealousy - Phillipe Garrel 

10. No No Sleep - Tsai Ming-Liang

11. Queen of Earth - Alex Ross Perry

12. Tangerine - Sean Baker

13. Carol - Todd Haynes

14. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - J.J. Abrams

15. Ex Machina - Alex Garland

LUCY AND LIBERACE

S2;E16 ~ January 5, 1970

Directed by Jack Baker ~ Written by Fred S. Fox and Seaman Jacobs

Synopsis

For a high school initiation, Craig goes on a scavenger hunt to retrieve one of Liberace’s candelabras. Liberace loans it to him but Lucy thinks he stole it so she recruits Harry to sneak into the star’s mansion and return it.  

Regular Cast

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

Guest Cast

Liberace (Himself) was born Władziu Valentino Liberace in 1919.  A piano prodigy, he was the son of working-class immigrants, and enjoyed a career spanning four decades of concerts, recordings, television, motion pictures, and endorsements. At the height of his fame, from the 1950s to the 1970s, Liberace was the highest-paid entertainer in the world, with established residencies in Las Vegas, and an international touring schedule. Liberace embraced a lifestyle of flamboyant excess both on and off stage, acquiring the sobriquet “Mr. Showmanship.” Prior to this episode, his only appearance with Lucille Ball was the musical film Best Foot Forward (1943). He died at age 67 after a battle with HIV/AIDS.

Ben Wrigley (Williams, Liberace’s Butler) was a British actor who appeared in My Fair Lady (1964) and Bednobs and Broomsticks (1971). He previously appeared as a ticket agent in “Lucy Flies to London” (TLS S5;E6).  This is the first of his three episodes of “Here’s Lucy.”

Paul Winchell (Carlo, Liberace’s Tailor) previously played himself in“Lucy and Paul Winchell” (TLS S5;E4). He was born Paul Wilchinsky in 1922. Coming into the public eye in 1948, he became one of the most famous ventriloquists since Edgar Bergen. He hosted the enormously popular children’s television show “Winchell-Mahoney Time” (1964-68) in which he shared the spotlight with Jerry Mahoney, one of his most popular characters. He played Doc Putnam in “Main Street U.S.A.” (TLS S5;17) and “Lucy Puts Main Street on the Map” (TLS S5;E18). This is the second of his two episodes of “Here’s Lucy.”  He died in 2005.

Winchell uses an Italian accent for this character.  

This is the first episode of the new year and the new decade.  The 1970s will see the end of “Here’s Lucy” in 1974 as well as Lucille Ball’s return to the silver screen in Mame that same year.  In 1971 Lucie Arnaz will wed Phil Vandervort and Desi Arnaz Jr. made his big screen debut in Red Sky at Morning. At the end of the decade Lucie Arnaz made her Broadway debut in They’re Playing Our Song (1979).

The date this episode was first aired (January 5, 1970) ABC premiered a new daytime drama called All My Children. It is still on the air today!  

Liberace brought $50,000 worth of his spectacular wardrobe to the set, and Lucille Ball hired a round-the-clock security guard to ensure its safety. The tuxedo jacket that lights up in the dark made its debut on this show; Liberace will use it in his act for the rest of his life.

In the 2013 HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra, an aging Liberace (Michael Douglas) compares his domestic life with partner Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) to an old sitcom.  Scott protests: “Why am I the Lucy?” Douglas’s father Kirk made a wordless cameo appearance on a 1966 episode of “The Lucy Show.”

Professor Harkens gave Craig the African mask.

Lucy recalls her initiation into The Swingers in high school.  The double entendre of ‘swinging’ is quickly cleared up by Lucy saying she was in a trapeze club!  For her initiation, she had to get an autographed photo of Rudy Vallee.  Rudy Vallee was a singer popular in the 1920s and '30s who made a guest appearance on the first episode of “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour” in 1957.  He will guest star as himself during season 3 of “Here’s Lucy.”  

Kim guesses that Craig may have to retrieve an item from Engelbert Humperdinck.  Lucy replies “What’s an Engelbert Dumperhinck?”  Engelbert Humperdinck is an English pop singer acclaimed as one of the finest middle-of-the-road balladeers around. In 1969 he released two albums and had three hit singles.

In Liberace’s mansion, he enters and sits at a glass-lid Baldwin grand piano and plays Chopin’s “Military Polonaise” (Opus 40, #1) composed in 1838.  

When Liberace tries on the light-up jacket, he says “This’ll really turn them on in Pasadena!”  He could be referring to his senior citizen female fans.  There was a popular song at the time titled “Little Old Lady From Pasadena.”  Later in the episode we learn that the candelabra loaned to Craig was a gift from a Senior Citizen group. 

In a retrospectively funny line, Liberace says about his many candelabras: “I’ve got closets full of them.” Although Liberace was flamboyant, his sexual orientation was never discussed publicly until later in his life.  When 17 year-old Craig and Liberace are alone (and Craig’s shirt is unbuttoned to the navel) it is difficult not to think of Liberace’s romance with 18 year-old Scott Thorson (inset), who later sued the entertainer in America’s first same-sex palimony case.

At home, Craig gets a phone call from Bill. This is probably a nod to Desi Arnaz Jr.’s friend and bandmate Billy Hinsche.  

Answering the front door, Kim says “It’s probably Craig with his arms loaded down with that something he had to get from a big star.” Lucy replies: “Maybe he’s got his arms full of Jackie Gleason.”   This is a quick joke about comedy star Jackie Gleason’s weight.  Gleason did a cameo as Ralph Kramden in the second episode of “Here’s Lucy” (above). 

Harry is reminded that in college he underwent initiation into the fraternity Delta Delta Tau.  The joke comes when he gives says their initials – DDT. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is a chemical used as an insecticide. In the late 1960s and early 70s DDT was frequently in the news regarding its harmful effects on humans, wildlife, and the environment.  DDT was eventually banned.  

The candelabra is inscribed “To Liberace.  From his Senior Citizen Fan Club in Pismo Beach.” Along with Cucagmonga, Pismo Beach was often used as a punch-line for jokes set about California. It was recently mentioned in “Lucy Goes on Strike” (S1;E16).  Pismo Beach is one of the locations Lucy and Ethel want to visit before returning to New York in “Lucy Gets Into Pictures” (ILL S4;E18).

On their way to return the candelabra to Liberace, Harry holds it forth and says “Lead, kindly light.”  Lead, Kindly Light”is a hymn with words written in 1833 by John Henry Newman as a poem titled “The Pillar of Cloud.”

Sneaking into Liberace’s mansion through the back door, Harry’s shoes squeak! Lucy says “You’d sure be a goofball on 'Mission: Impossible.’”  The Desilu TV spy show “Mission: Impossible” has been a source of humor for “Here’s Lucy,” which even did a whole episode parodying the show: “Lucy’s Impossible Mission” (S1;E6, above).  

Harry and Lucy sing while Liberace plays “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” a song written in 1909 by Gus Edwards and Edward Madden. Lucy says she and Harry first performed the number at the Kiwanis Capers.

When Lucy suggests that Liberace use the whole family on his TV special, Liberace remarks “You’re about 83 short of the King Family.” The King Family was a family musical group that had great success on records and television in the 1960s. They had a TV show on ABC that ran until 1969.  

As the big finale, everyone sings and dances to "I’ll Be Seeing You,” a song written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal in 1938. It was inserted into the Broadway musical Right This Way, which closed after just  fifteen performances.

At the start of the episode, Craig enters wearing an African mask.  The moment is similar to when Ricky Ricardo researched African masks for his Voodoo act during “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” (ILL S2;E16). Ricky Ricardo also briefly wore an African mask in “Cuban Pals” (ILL S1;E28) before singing “Similau.”  

Liberace tells Craig not to worry about returning the candelabra as he has a lot of them. Craig replies: “If Los Angeles ever had a black out – you could light the whole city.” This echos when Liberace was first mentioned by Lucy Ricardo in “The Diner” (ILL S3;E25) in 1954.  

Lucy (about Ricky’s bad mood): Everything went wrong down at the club last night. Right in the middle of his big number, the lights went out all over the whole neighborhood. Everybody got up and, and left and went into the nightclub across the street.

Ethel: How’d they manage without electricity?

Lucy: Liberace was playing there.  He does his show by candlelight. 

In “Lucy’s Show-Biz Swan Song” (ILL S2;E12) Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz sing “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and wangles her way into performing with a barbershop quartet.

In “Lucy’s Barbershop Quartet” (TLS S1;E19) Lucy Carmichael and Vivian Bagley sing “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and wangles her way into performing with a barbershop quartet.

Craig’s collectibles are no doubt supplied by prop master Kenneth Westcott from the Desilu prop supply.  It is likely that all of the items were used in some television program, but the one most recognizable is the female ship’s figurehead.  It was last seen in the background of the Sunset Strip beatnik hangout in “Viv Visits Lucy” (TLS S5;E15).  

In “Lucy Dates Dean Martin” (TLS S4;E21) Lucy Carmichael admires (and later wears) a sequined top once worn by Audrey Hepburn. Dean Martin says “The last time I saw anything that fancy was on Liberace.”

Math Fail!  Liberace says that the Carters are 83 short of the King Family. There were 39 members of the King family, ranging in age from 7 months to 79 years, who appeared on their television show.  Liberace is exaggerating by 48 Kings.

Where the Floor Ends! In the living room scene the camera pulls back to far and reveals the soundstage cement floor.  When this happens in Liberace’s mansion, the tape spike marks are clearly visible for centering of the dance numbers and camera positions.

Sitcom Logic Alert! The ending of the episode ditches all pretense of reality and turns into a musical performance for the studio audience, including Liberace waving to the audience as he exits – stage right!  It is jarring and a sign that – once again - “Here’s Lucy” is unsure of its identity.  

“Lucy and Liberace” rates 3 Paper Hearts out of 5

Let’s face it – even playing himself Liberace is a pretty mediocre actor, so this episode could never be more than a showcase for his talent and opulent wardrobe on which is hung a paper thin plot.  The worst thing about the episode is the complete demolishing of the fourth wall during the final number. Shameless, really.