Newly married Tacy and Nicky Collini (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) 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, it will have all the amenities of a wonderful home, plus it will allow them to easily move anywhere they want and stay together while Nicky’s travels for work across the country.
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. 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 Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz 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 on the tube. They felt this was a bit of gamble, even if fans would be treated to seeing them on the big-screen in glorious color. But Ball and Arnaz were confident and they were proved right. The Long, Long Trailer became a big hit.
It’s basically a series of mishaps they have involving their co-star of the movie – the 36-foot Redman ‘New Moon’ model trailer. And there are some definite laughs when they take to the road.
It’s basically Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House on wheels. There’s Desi’s sticker shock at the mounting costs. He has trouble driving this monster on wheels. There’s the bumping of heads on the ceiling and various slapstick in confined spaces. 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 sparkling 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 the makings of a comedy classic.
Well, there’s some amusing moments in it, but overall it’s just ok.
It’s mainly all just fluff and nothing particularly hysterical. The Long, Long Trailer plays like an extended episode of their television show. Their characters names are even reminiscent of their television characters. I’m sure hardcore Lucy and Desi fans love this film more than casual moviegoers.
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.
There’s a short musical interlude while driving as the couple break 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 musical scenes pop up in movie. It gives a chance for Arnaz to belt out a tune, which fans loved.
When I say the trailer is their co-star I really mean that. Unlike their television show they are given no human supporting characters in the film. There is not one stand out supporting actor who comes in to lend the film a hand, enlisted in doing a memorable comedic scene with the couple.
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.
A lot 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 narrow mountain road with the weighed down trailer and the whole sequence manages some amusing comic tension.
Other than some sporadic giggles there’s not much to warrant rewatching The Long, Long Trailer for me. It’s meant to be a breezy travelogue-type of comedy with Lucy and Desi. It has a fun, unique sounding premise with its mammoth yellow co-star, and it does manage to get some laughs out of it, but not enough to fill that trailer they’re hauling. It’s fine, but I had hoped for more.
If you’re in the need of a Lucy and Desi movie definitely choose The Long, Long Trailer over their follow-up film Forever Darling, which is almost unwatchable.