The Long, Long Trailer (1953) – A Review
|Desi Arnez and Lucille Ball in The Long, Long Trailer|
Newly married Tacy and Nicky Collini (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez) have just made a huge investment in their future. Tacy has convinced her reluctant husband they should buy a trailer – a home on wheels. This will be about the same cost as a stationary one, have all the amenities of a wonderful home, plus it will allow them to easily move anywhere they want and stay together with Nicky’s traveling work.
It sounds like a great idea. but this trailer adventure becomes a mounting nightmare of skyrocketing costs, frayed nerves, ongoing tension and slapstick comedy. The optimistic vision of a happy movable home life Tacy had looks like an impossibility and once these newlyweds hit the open road it’s one problem after another. Can this new marriage survive the struggle of hauling a long, long trailer behind them?
By 1953 their hit television show I Love Lucy made Lucy and Desi the most famous couple in the world. Everyone loved them and couldn’t get enough of them. It was somewhat of a no-brainer for the pair to team up for a big-screen comedy.
Oddly enough MGM was somewhat hesitant about the idea thinking why would audiences go out to pay to see the husband and wife team when they could stay at home and watch them for free. They felt this was a bit of gamble, even if fans would be treated to seeing them in glorious color. But Ball and Arnez were confident and they were proved right. The Long, Long Trailer became a big hit.
Fans of Lucy and Desi would probably like the film more than casual viewers. It’s basically a series of mishaps they have involving their co-star of the movie – the 36-foot Redman ‘New Moon’ model trailer.
It’s basically Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House on wheels. There’s Desi’s sticker shock. He has trouble driving it. There’s the bumping of heads on the ceiling and various slapstick. And in one of the most famous sequences in the movie, Lucy attempting to cook dinner while being rocked around in her new moving home.
Director Vincente Minnelli (who I was surprised to learn directed this) sprinkles some nice scenery of Yellowstone Park and films the stars to make them look as glamorous as possible. At times the amount of gauze they must of used over the camera lens is just too much. Fans might have been excited to see Lucy in all her bright red-haired glory, but the black and white shows are just fine for me and end up being much funnier.
The movie is something of a time capsule of that period in 1950’s America where mobile homes were the exciting new novelty. Visions of new endless highways being open to everyone, countless destinations to travel to, including National Parks with beautiful views and the culture of mobile-home residents were something that all sounded inviting. Pair that up with Lucy and Desi at the height of their fame, you got something that sounds like all the makings of a comedy classic. Uh, not really.
It’s mainly all just fluff and nothing particularly hysterical. It’s like an extended episode of their television show. Their characters names are even reminiscent of their television characters.
I was actually surprised at how much funnier Desi is in this than his wife. He gets the most laughs throughout the movie as he begrudgingly tries to please his wife taking on this mobile nightmare. He’s quite good at doing all the required panicked, stressed, flustered reactions as he deals with trying to haul this rig.
Lucy by comparison is more sedate than her television counterpart. She’s basically a pleading wife giving Desi a nonstop list of requests. Her real highpoint is that cooking scene.
They have a short musical interlude while driving breaking into the song ‘Just Breezin’ Along With The Breeze’. It caught me off guard, but I suppose it wasn’t such a surprise to audiences back then and they were much more acquainted with seeing that happen.
When I say the trailer is their co-star I really mean that. Unlike their television show they are given no human support in all of this. There is not one stand out supporting actor who comes in to lend the film a hand.
It’s funny how the movie trailer promotes Keenan Wynn and Marjorie Main, but I think they total about five minutes in this movie. Wynn is just an annoyed traffic cop who’s maybe onscreen for two minutes and doesn’t say much. Their encounter with nosy trailer park neighbors and Taci’s family doesn’t result in any laughs.
Most of the gags either get tedious or are very forced. Probably the most effective sequence is the climactic mountain drive. Desi and Lucy have to navigate up a steep dangerous mountain road with the weighed down trailer and it manages some amusing comic tension.
Other than some sporadic giggles there’s not much to warrant watching this. This should have been a hysterical travelogue-type of comedy, but it just ends up being a movie with a unique, fun-sounding premise, with two popular stars that never picks up any speed or delivers the laughs as it should have. It’s as clunky as that trailer they’re hauling.