Today is National Classic Movie Day. In honor of this occasion, Classic Film and TV Cafe is hosting “The Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon.” What better way to celebrate National Classic Movie Day by watching an old favorite film?
I discovered I Love Lucy and Lucille Ball on Nick at Nite in 1995. From then on, I was hooked on all things Lucy. When I discovered that she had a film career prior to I Love Lucy, I began looking for Lucy’s films on TCM. One day, TCM was airing something titled The Long, Long Trailer (TLLT) that starred not only Lucy, but Desi Arnaz too! Lucy and Desi in the same film? I’m in! From the first time I saw TLLT it quickly became my favorite film. It is still my favorite film. TLLT also became one of my family’s favorite movies as well. We regularly brought it camping to watch in our small camping trailer that we owned. I have now probably seen TLLT at least a hundred times–I am not exaggerating.
I absolutely love this movie. It is hilarious, has memorable scenes and lines and is just so much fun to watch. As someone who has gone camping almost her entire life (literally, I went camping for the first time when I was six-weeks old) many of Lucy and Desi’s adventures are relatable. While we never stayed in trailer parks, we have dealt with the drama of backing it in, having the trailer collapse, trying to maneuver it in small areas and even dealing with it when it was slightly off-kilter. Lucy’s physical comedy scenes are top-notch and Desi’s no slouch either. My entire family can quote so many lines from this film and it’s to the point where I can almost recite the dialogue alongside the actor on-screen. I never tire of this movie, no matter how many times I see it–it’s the definition of a comfort film.
TLLT plays like a 90-minute Technicolor episode of I Love Lucy. Lucy in TLLT might not be as big a schemer as Lucy Ricardo, but she is the one who goes through the ringer as the result of the ideas she has. Desi’s character is a bit of a hybrid of Ricky Ricardo and Ethel Mertz as he willingly goes along with Lucy’s ideas, but is also the one that is the voice of reason. Lucy and Desi’s character names in TLLT, Tacy and Nicky, even sound similar to their I Love Lucy characters, Lucy and Ricky. Much of the humor of TLLT are the problems that Lucy and Desi experience. These are problems that any naive novice trailer owner could encounter: getting stuck in the mud, not being able to park, trying to prepare dinner in a moving vehicle, driving on a narrow, treacherous mountain road–all things that could happen to the owner of a trailer.
TLLT opens with Desi driving in a downpour, seemingly looking for someone or something. He pulls into a trailer park and enters the lobby. An older gentleman, Mr. Tewitt (Moroni Olsen), is sitting in the lobby. As Desi begins to converse with Mr. Tewitt, we learn that he is looking for his wife, who along with his trailer, has gone missing. Desi has spotted his trailer in this park. Mr. Tewitt tells Desi that his wife is currently out looking at a trailer in the park–it is being sold by a young lady who has had a change in plans and needs to sell. Desi puts two and two together and realizes that that young lady is his wife. As Desi begins to tell Mr. Tewitt his story, the film segues into a flashback.
Soon-to-be-married Lucy and Desi are at home and Lucy is looking at a series of trailer brochures. It seems that Desi has been offered a new position that will take him to different jobs all over the country. It is not clear what Desi’s job is, but Lucy says: “If it (Desi’s job) isn’t a tunnel in Colorado, it’ll be a bridge in Alaska or a dam across the Pacific.” Based on this, I am assuming that Desi works as some type of engineer. Lucy, not wanting to spend her married life living out of suitcases and eating in random restaurants, suggests to Desi that they purchase a trailer. They can travel from job to job and still have a home to return to. Lucy promises to cook and clean and do everything needed to get Desi to agree. With some reluctance, Desi agrees to go to the annual trailer show with Lucy to look at the “Bungalette” trailer that she has her eye on.
At the trailer show, Lucy and Desi locate the “Bungalette” and discover that the brochure was deceptive in how much space was available. This trailer is tiny. It’d be fine for camping, but not as a comfortable space to serve as a home for two adults. Desi is secretly happy that Lucy is disappointed. Undeterred, Lucy keeps looking and soon spots “it” as Desi says. “It” is a gorgeous yellow and chrome 36′ Redman “New Moon” trailer. Lucy and Desi tour the trailer and agree that it’s gorgeous but must be expensive. A salesman, seeing the opportunity to pounce, talks to Lucy and informs her that the trailer is $5345. Of course, it can be paid in installments. 1/3 of the cost will need to be put down as a downpayment. Lucy quickly calculates the downpayment to be roughly $1750 (actually $1763). It seems that she and Desi’s budget for rent is $1800/year(!). Lucy goes to work.
Before he knows it, Desi is signing paperwork and trading in his old car. It seems a new car is needed to haul the trailer. Lucy and Desi purchase a gorgeous pale yellow convertible to haul the gargantuan trailer. Next, we’re treated to the hilarious scene of Desi at the auto shop getting the car fitted with new equipment to haul the trailer. He has a hitch welded to the bumper, trailer brakes are installed and he’s given “block and tackle just in case.” His trunk is full of all kinds of “just in case” crap that the mechanic decides is necessary–though Desi isn’t briefed on the function of any of it. But, at least he has it, right?
After a terrifying first drive with the new trailer, Desi delivers the trailer to Lucy’s home where she and her girlfriends are stocking it with all of the wedding presents and other essentials. This scene is utter pandemonium, culminating with a traumatized Desi cowering in the bedroom after a woman topples a pile of clothes hangers. The chaotic scene is juxtaposed with a glimpse of Lucy and Desi’s fairly tranquil wedding reception. After the reception, with the car and trailer packed, Lucy and Desi are on the road, ready to start their honeymoon!
On their wedding night, Lucy and Desi pull up to a seemingly nice, but noisy, trailer park. The residents are all friendly, a little too friendly perhaps. As Desi attempts to carry Lucy over the threshold, Mrs. Hittaway (Marjorie Main) sees them and for whatever reason assumes that Desi must be carrying Lucy because she’s injured. I would think that Mrs. Hittaway would have seen Lucy walk up to the trailer, but apparently not. Instead of telling the truth, Lucy and Desi concoct some story about Lucy twisting her ankle. Mrs. Hittaway takes charge and devotes herself to administering aid to Lucy. Mrs. Hittaway’s first order of business is getting some food into Lucy and Desi’s stomachs. She orders husband Floyd the Barber (Howard McNear) to go get some food.
Word gets around the trailer park and soon Desi is hosting a neighborhood get together. All the neighbors come over to gawk at the large trailer and also to socialize. Poor Desi spends his evening washing dishes and serving soda to a bunch of people he doesn’t know (and honestly probably doesn’t even care to know. They were only going to stay at the park overnight). Lucy is passed out due to being slipped a sleeping pill by Mrs. Hittaway. The wedding night is a bust.
The next day, eager to get out of the park, Lucy and Desi hightail it out of there and are back on the road. The next day, the newlyweds decide that they want a private evening. Lucy suggests that they pull off onto a remote road somewhere and camp. Desi, not knowing any better agrees. Soon they are driving on some bumpy, muddy logging road, and the trailer becomes stuck and lopsided. Then of course, it starts raining. Desi tries his best to level out the trailer. Lucy attempts to make dinner. She attempts to make eggs by rigging up some wire clothes hangers and forks to keep the pans in one place, but it doesn’t really work. Lucy and Desi end up eating cheese and drinking wine for dinner. Night time comes and Desi is fast asleep in his twin bed on the leaning side of the trailer. Lucy has the twin bed at the top of the lean. She tries to get into bed multiple times, falling out of bed each time. At this point, one might ask, “why she doesn’t crawl into bed with her husband?” To that, I say, “if she did that, then we wouldn’t be treated to the hilarity that ensues when the trailer collapses, the door opens, and out goes Lucy–straight into a six-foot deep mud puddle!
After her impromptu mud bath, morning comes. Desi gets the trailer towed and cleaned up and soon he and Lucy are back out on the road! The next stop is Lucy’s Aunt Anastacia (Madge Blake) and Uncle Edgar’s (Walter Baldwin) home. The newlyweds dream of a short visit where they don’t have to spend any money–or drive the trailer! Desi and Lucy arrive with their trailer (40 feet of train, remember) much to the astonishment of the neighborhood. After some obligatory introductions, Uncle Edgar nonchalantly tells Desi to back the trailer into the driveway. “That way you have use of the car!” he says. Apparently there are so many people living in the home that Lucy and Desi are still sleeping in their trailer.
Desi, not having ever backed the trailer up, pulls out his useless user manual which advises him to “pull into an attractive trailer park, shop for food and start eating!” He finally finds the instructions on how to back the trailer in and gives it a-go. He makes multiple attempts and fails. He drives into yards, plants, crowds of people, and worst of all, Aunt Anastacia’s prized rose. Mortified, Lucy yells at everyone to get back and shut up and she will direct Desi. Lucy gets Desi lined up with the driveway and instructs him to back in. He does a good job, until the carport is shredded due to the trailer being too tall. Personally, I blame Uncle Edgar. He’s the one who told Desi to back into the driveway.
A few days later, Lucy and Desi leave their relatives and get back on the road. Their next stops are uneventful. They visit a nice, quiet trailer park and Lucy fixes a romantic meal. It is at this point that we learn that Lucy has been canning fruits and vegetables in an effort to truly make her house a home. We also find out that she’s been collecting rocks as souvenirs from different places they’ve been on their honeymoon. These aren’t just little pebbles however, these are enormous rocks that probably each weigh 10-15 lbs.
The next day, Lucy wants to learn how to drive the trailer. Desi reluctantly lets her take the wheel and soon regrets it. Lucy drives much faster than he does, passes cars despite the solid yellow line, gets distracted by dresses in the windows… she’s all over the place. Understandingly, Desi is a mess. Lucy assures him that she’s only driving 35 miles per hour. “I am sitting in the suicide seat” he says. Desi’s backseat driving ends up reaching its peak when he makes a comment about women drivers and Lucy understandably gets mad and sits in the backseat, fuming. Their fight continues onto their next stop that evening–a service station on the side of the highway. Lucy and Desi fight about who sleeps in the living room, with Lucy winning. Their fight ends when they hear some frightening highway sounds–in the form of sirens and gunshots.
When morning comes, Lucy tells Desi that she has a solution for alleviating some of the tension between them: she will cook dinner in the trailer while Desi drives. Sounds like a great idea right? It’s not. Not only is it illegal (something Lucy and Desi don’t find out until after the fact), but it’s impossible to cook in a moving trailer. Lucy concocts an elaborate meal: ragout of beef, caesar salad, and angel food cake. While Desi drives, Lucy discovers that everything rocks while the trailer is in motion. Soon, she and her meal are being tossed every which way and Lucy discovers that this was a bad idea. She tries to get Desi’s attention but between the noise of the road and the noise of his “Ragout of Beef” song, he doesn’t hear her. She’s all over the place, her food is all over the place, the trailer is a disaster.
After stopping the trailer, Desi returns to find Lucy bruised and battered. He takes her to the beauty salon to get cleaned up. While in town, Desi speaks with a man who is interested in purchasing the trailer. Thinking that this is a fantastic idea, Desi speaks with Lucy who is vehemently opposed to the idea. Lucy ends up winning and it’s back on the road.
The last big stretch of their trip takes them up a very steep mountain–8,000 feet elevation. The roads are very narrow and are almost completely vertical. This is a very dangerous road for the trailer, but the detour will take them hundreds of miles out of their way. I don’t know, after watching them complete the drive, I think I’d rather take the detour! Desi gets the trailer and car worked on and is advised by the mechanic to not take any extra unnecessary weight. Lucy needs to get rid of her rocks and all her canned fruits and vegetables. Desi tells Lucy of their weight restrictions and she is not happy. While preparing the trailer, Lucy schemes with the manager of the trailer park (where they’re staying) and ends up determining that if the weight is distributed evenly across the trailer, then it should be fine. She then lies to Desi about getting rid of everything.
It’s time to start the big climb. The trip is harrowing. The car’s wheels spin in the dry gravel. The trailer can’t make it around a big curve without Desi having to back-up (with half of the trailer hanging over the cliff!) in order to make the maneuver. They encounter a fellow driver who has to basically drive his car into the rocky wall in order to let the trailer pass. Desi passes him successfully, even though the trailer does scrape against the car while passing. Lucy and Desi have an awkward conversation about a book that Lucy was reading, which ends up turning into a conversation “a beautiful actress who loved squirrels.” I am thinking the “beautiful actress” is Elizabeth Taylor as Desi references Michael Wilding.
While the trailer makes its ascent, Lucy’s rocks and canning jars start coming out of their hiding places and moving toward one end of the trailer. Lucy and Desi finally reach the top of the mountain. They get out of the car for a well deserved breather when suddenly one side of the trailer collapses. Desi opens the door and out falls one of Lucy’s rocks. Livid, Desi starts tossing all of the rocks and jars off the side of the cliff. We are then brought to the beginning of the film.
After Desi has finished recounting the entire story of how he ended up looking for Lucy and his trailer, he ends up finding Lucy in the trailer park. She has sold the trailer to Mrs. Tewitt and is busy packing. Desi returns to apologize, but cannot overcome his ego to do so. Lucy cannot seem to find the words to apologize either. He leaves. It’s looking like curtains for Lucy and Desi’s marriage, until Lucy realizes that she doesn’t want Desi to leave and goes chasing after him. Lucy and Desi apologize, embrace and return to the trailer.
And they lived happily ever after.
5 thoughts on ““The Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon”- “The Long, Long Trailer” (1954)”
I love it when a movie becomes so ingrained in a family’s life that everyone knows the lines by heart. I’m glad that movie is The Long, Long Trailer for you.
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I think it’s a fascinating film to watch because of all the similarities–but also the differences–from I LOVE LUCY! It was also really different to see Lucy & Desi in color about so many B&W episodes of their classic sitcom.
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Great review–your enthusiasm was contagious! I am a longtime and dedicated Lucy fan–all three sitcoms–but have never seen this movie! I really must track it down now. What sold me was your line about it being like a 90-minute technicolor episode of I LOVE LUCY. Your personal recollections of camping and the role this movie has played in your family over the years really captured well what a comfort movie is all about.
My husband can’t watch this movie because the thought of travelling with that trailer is too stressful. Especially when it’s full of rocks! (That part always makes me laugh.)
This is a terrific movie, and I can see why it’s a comfort film. I think it’s awesome that your whole family loves it and can quote it. You know it’s a good film when…
As an aside, I’ve been noticing how often “Nick at Nite” comes up in various blogathons. We never had access to it, so I’m amazed how many people it introduced to classic film.
Not many tv viewers in 1954 ever saw Lucy & Desi in color, nor in outdoor situations away from a closed set. This film offers both. And the appearances by other actors (Marjorie Main, Moroni Olsen, Keenan Wynn, Madge Blake, et al) just add to its appeal. A classic comedy film.