BackgroundShortly after the end of the first season of I Love Lucy, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball decided to cash in on their show's popularity by compiling several episodes of the first season of the series into a movie.
A test screening in Bakersfield, California went very well and Desilu (through distributor United Artists) prepared to release the film. But Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer demanded the movie be shelved because they felt it would diminish interest in the upcoming MGM film The Long, Long Trailer which Lucy and Desi co-starred in, and were contractually bound to promote. The I Love Lucy movie was ultimately forgotten.
Format and Framing SequenceUnlike most movies of existing media properties, I Love Lucy: The Movie is framed within the meta-context of a "show within a show within a show". The film is framed around a plot involving a young woman (played by actress Ann Doran) attending the filming of an episode of I Love Lucy. After an opening sequence of Ann Doran's character arriving at the studio, there is a brief introduction as Desi Arnaz speaks to the studio audience and introduces the cast (something Arnaz would do throughout the run of the series).
The film then plays out, with three first-season episodes edited together into a single story: "The Benefit", "Breaking the Lease" and "The Ballet", with new footage included between episodes to help transition the episodes into one coherent storyline. As the series routinely took the format of filming scenes in chronological order, this adds to the "show within a show within a show" format of the film, as viewers watch the cast perform the episodes live. The film itself ends with a "curtain call", as the cast comes out and Arnaz thanks the audience for their support.
Lost and FoundAfter plans for a theatrical release were scuttled by MGM, the film was largely forgotten and the 20 minutes of new footage shot for the film were considered to be lost forever. However, in 2001, the film was found and clips of it were featured in I Love Lucy's 50th Anniversary Special. A screening was held in August 2001 at the 5th Loving Lucy fan convention in Burbank, California.
The film was released on DVD on October 23, 2007 as a bonus disc in The "I Love Lucy" Complete Series boxset.