The Aaron Sorkin Lucille Ball movie focuses on one fictionalized tumultuous week in the couple's lives in 1952 as they confront accusations of infidelity in their marriage, in addition to accusations that Lucille Ball is a communist. One is a crisis that could end their marriage and the other is a crisis that could destroy their careers on their hit TV sitcom I Love Lucy. The plot is summed up in the movie's tagline, which explains that the couple is "threatened by shocking personal accusations, a political smear, and cultural taboos." The last part pertains to the discovery that Lucy is pregnant. While all of these events did happen, the Being the Ricardos true story reveals that they didn't happen in a single week like in the film.
This manipulation of the timeline is arguably the biggest inaccuracy with Aaron Sorkin's movie, and it has been pointed out by Lucy and Desi's daughter, Lucie Arnaz, who despite having an executive producer credit on the film, hasn't held back in criticizing the movie's truthfulness and condensing of events. "He's taking some theatrical license and sort of cramming a couple of true events that did happen, they just didn't happen at the same time." Aaron Sorkin admitted that while the three points of friction between Lucy and Desi in the film are historically true, he took creative license by condensing them into a single week in the movie. "They all happened, they just didn't happen in the same week," Sorkin stated during a Q&A after a screening of the film.
Yes. Whether it was the network executives and sponsors' own xenophobic attitudes, their concern over the public's perception of such a depiction, or both, they were hesitant to get behind a TV show that prominently displayed interracial marriage in the early 1950s. They "said the public wouldn't believe I was married to Desi," Lucille Ball later recalled. In order to prove them wrong, Lucy and Desi set out on a vaudeville-style road tour. The success of the tour emphasized the public's acceptance of them, as well as their chemistry as a couple. CBS executives agreed to the show. -Lucy Desi Museum
In conducting our Being the Ricardos fact-check, we learned that I Love Lucy was an adaptation of Lucille Ball's popular radio comedy My Favorite Husband, which she starred in opposite a white actor, Richard Denning. The three writers who wrote for that show all came on board to write for I Love Lucy and are depicted in Aaron Sorkin's Lucille Ball movie.
The series, which debuted in 1951 and aired for six seasons, is known for achieving several television firsts. While exploring the Being the Ricardos true story, we learned that the sitcom included the first ensemble cast, it was one of the first shows to be shot on 35mm film instead of being broadcast live, and it produced the first millionaire television stars. It was also pioneering for its use of a live studio audience and multiple cameras all filming at the same time. The I Love Lucy Christmas episode was one of the first holiday specials to air on TV. It was withheld from rerun syndication for decades, and then in 2013, CBS aired a colorized version of the Christmas episode, which attracted 8.7 million viewers.
I Love Lucy was one of the very first shows to be shot in Los Angeles and was part of a trend that shifted television production away from New York City, establishing Hollywood as the television production capital of the United States. In 1952, it became the first sitcom to reach number one in the Nielsen ratings (it remained there for four of its six seasons). As a result of its success, it was used as a blueprint for countless TV shows that followed. Lucy and Desi paid out of pocket to have the TV series shot on high-quality film, under the agreement that they would own the reels. This led to another first, as Desilu Studios invented the concept of the "rerun." Syndication profits helped them to further grow their studio. -Lucy Desi Museum
Her own personal favorite was the grape-stomping episode, titled "Lucy's Italian Movie." A fan-favorite as well, the episode finds Lucy stomping grapes at a winery in Italy and then getting into a hilarious grape fight. Nicole Kidman recreates the scene in the Lucille Ball movie Being the Ricardos.
Yes. I Love Lucy was shot before a studio audience of 300 people. Many were tourists who were visiting Hollywood and wanted to see a taping. In the process of answering the question, "How true is Being the Ricardos?" we learned that before each episode, Desi Arnaz would act as emcee and warm up the crowd. This included introducing the cast to the audience. -Lucy Desi Museum
In the early 1950s, the Cold War was ramping up and the threat of communism was an ongoing concern. Senator Joseph McCarthy led a controversial campaign to target alleged communists both in government and other institutions, including Hollywood. This led to many of the accused being blacklisted or fired from their jobs. While some of the accused were indeed communist supporters, others were not and ended up being wrongfully ostracized from society. Baffled by Lucy becoming a target of the government, a person in the movie asks incredulously, "Lucille Ball is a threat to the American way of life?"
The Being the Ricardos true story confirms that Lucille Ball was accused of being a Communist. In real life, it happened in 1953. According to sealed testimony that Lucille Ball gave to an investigator from the House Un-American Activities Commission, she admitted that she had registered to vote as a Communist in 1936. However, she stated that she had never voted for a Communist candidate or "to her knowledge" had been a member of the Communist Party. She explained to the Un-American Activities Committee that she had registered as a Communist at the urging of her grandfather, who identified as a socialist.
Yes. A Being the Ricardos fact-check reveals that Lucy and Desi divorced in 1960, in large part due to his appetite for alcohol and other women. She claimed that being married to Desi was a "nightmare" and not at all like it was on their TV show. Lucy eventually bought his shares in Desilu Productions, which marked another first as she became the first woman to run her own television production company. Lucy and Desi remained friends up until his death from lung cancer in 1986. She reportedly wept at his funeral. Lucy followed him in death three years later when she succumbed to a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.
No. Actor Javier Bardem is not Cuban. He was born in Spain. Cuba was a Spanish colony for more than 400 years, and broadly speaking, both Cuba and Spain are considered part of Spanish culture. However, this doesn't mean that some fans and critics haven't pointed out the movie's lack of authenticity in the casting of Bardem as Arnaz.
Their daughter, Lucie Arnaz, responded in a Facebook video by reminding fans (many of whom wanted to see Debra Messing in the role) that the movie is not a remake of I Love Lucy. It's the story of her mother, actress Lucille Ball. "Here's the deal and what you should understand: We're not doing a remake of I Love Lucy," she said. "No one has to impersonate Lucy Ricardo [or do] any of the silly things. It's the story of Lucille Ball, my actual mother—not Lucy Ricardo—and her husband, Desi Arnaz, my dad—not Ricky Ricardo."
Yes. The true story behind Being the Ricardos confirms that the Cuban-born Desi Arnaz faced racism in his career. Lucille Ball commented on this later in life during an interview with Barbara Walters. "I knew what he had suffered, really, and how he did not deserve that. And just because he was Cuban and once a bongo player did not warrant calling him any of those names. And he worked very hard and got a lot of respect for what he did, and they forgot about that."
Despite facing a certain amount of discrimination, especially early in his career, Desi Arnaz loved the United States. He wrote in his memoir that he knew of no other country where "a sixteen-year-old kid, broke and unable to speak the language," could rise up and reach the level of success that he had.