The Facts of Life
Everybody associates Lucille Ball with her husband Desi Arnaz, but she also had a professional and personal relationship with Bob Hope. The Facts of Life was one of four films the legendary comedians made together, along with Sorrowful Jones, Fancy Pants (before) and Critic's Choice (after).
Ball and Hope had a different rapport with each other. Hope was more of a natural comedian than Desi; in Hope's first extended scene in Facts, for example, he does stand-up. In watching I Love Lucy, or her movies with Desi, there's more of a sense of Lucy as the special one, even though the spotlight is on both of them. Lucy's the one doing the crazy things: stuffing eggs down her blouse, driving a lawnmower out of control, etc.
With Hope, it feels more like a match-up of equals, at least here; they both have so much experience, not just as comedic actors, but as actors, and it shows whenever they're on screen together. Desi was an actor, but he was also a musician and a producer, careers about which he was equally passionate.
In Facts, Ball and Hope are friends who cheat on their spouses with each other. Age plays a role, but for laughs: in one scene, they swim on the beach at night, but when they're about to kiss, she catches a cold; in another, they both squint at their playing cards until they both admit they need their glasses after all. It's not Brief Encounter.
Ball and Hope start their affair while on vacation; the problems arise when they go back home and attempt to recapture the magic. The moments are funny, but they're also tinged with a little sadness, too: in trying to evade their respective spouses, they're like teenagers sneaking out of their parents' houses to rendezvous at Lovers Lane.
Facts was released in 1960, the same year as Lucy's divorce from Desi, as well as the end of the I Love Lucy spin-off, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. According to the book, Desilu, by Coyne Steven Sanders & Tom Gilbert, Desi was charged with "extreme cruelty" and "grievous mental suffering" as a result of his drinking and womanizing. Lucy knew how their fans would react to the news:
..."I received eight thousand letters at the time of the divorce announcement and read most of them," Lucille said later.... "They said, 'Why isn't there something you can do?' They didn't know I had been trying to do it for years. I was painfully aware of the feeling the American public had for Lucy [Ricardo] and their need for Lucy and Ricky as a happy family. The awareness held up my decision for a long time, until I couldn't allow it to do so anymore. Lucy solved a lot of marital problems for our viewers, and the idea of finding a laugh in a hopeless situation worked for Desi and me for a long time, too."Their separation was amicable, all things considered; in fact, Ball and Hope tried to get Desi to appear in Facts, but he said his TV production commitments left him with no time.
Lucy would go on to meet comedian Gary Morton and marry him a year later; they'd stay together until her death in 1989...but that is another story.
Other Lucy & Desi movies:
The Long Long Trailer