Film Title: Forever, Darling
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Silent or Talkie: Talkie
- Lucille Ball
- Desi Arnaz
- James Mason
- Louis Calhern
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met on the set of their first movie together, Too Many Girls in 1940. This was many years prior to their success as a couple on the legendary “I Love Lucy” show. All in all, they made a total of three films where they starred opposite each other. The second came in 1954 with “The Long Long Trailer”, a comedy in which their roles closely mimicked their I Love Lucy characters. Then in 1956, the two teamed up on the big screen for the last time in “Forever, Darling”, a similar but different situation that placed them in the comforting arms of fate…and second chances.
Lucy and Desi play Susan and Lorenzo Vega, a couple whose marriage begins in the same perfect and beautiful manner that most marriages do. They passionately kiss each other at the front door every morning before Lorenzo heads off to work. They gaze into each other’s eyes like smitten teenagers, barely able to stand being apart for the length of a work day. Then as the years progress, their goodbye becomes a quick peck on the cheek and a routine step at the start of the day. Things are obviously on a steady decline. Lorenzo is a chemist, working at a company where he is struggling to invent a ground-breaking new pesticide – the success of which demands that he work long hours. In his quest for cornering the insect control market, Lorenzo is unintentionally ignoring Susan at home. She begins to lose patience, regardless of the fact that her husband is finishing a project that will set them up financially. Just as she reaches her wits end, she has a visitor, a very familiar looking visitor. She initially suspects that the man is an intruder, since he seemed to appear out of thin air. But Susan notices something intriguing – the man is the spitting image of James Mason. After running around the house like a crazy woman trying to hide, Susan realizes that she can’t seem to shake the man, so she finally confronts him with an interrogation. As it happens, the man is Susan’s guardian angel, and has taken on the appearance of James Mason based on her inner most desires. Mason is a face that she trusts. His message is a simple one – her marriage to Lorenzo is worth saving, but she must act quickly before it’s too late. Lorenzo is planning on taking his new pesticide on a camping trip in order to test it. In the interest of rekindling the marital flame, the angel suggests that Susan accompany her husband on the journey. This would give them a chance for some long overdue “alone time”, and provide a more peaceful backdrop for capitalizing on it.
As they set out on the adventure, all seems to be going well. They arrive at the location and set up camp – even laughing off the minor trouble they have pitching the tent. The next morning Susan prepares coffee as Lorenzo frantically goes over the details for testing his new invention. He is to be visited by a potential buyer interested in using his product once it tests successfully. This is Lorenzo’s big break, so to speak. As he begins the process of mixing the necessary ingredients, things begin to go slightly awry. Susan has become bored with the trip, and it seems like nothing but a repeat of their mundane home life with different scenery. She tries to refrain from voicing her opinions, knowing that it will only add more stress to her husband. The guardian angel continues to make random appearances, assuring her that this is only a temporary situation, and that the foundation she’s built with Lorenzo is far too important to throw away in the face of a few roadblocks. Susan agrees with him, but she still can’t help her feelings of being second-best to Lorenzo’s career. On the day of the big insecticide test, the buyer arrives to a meet a disheveled Lorenzo, who is trying to maintain his togetherness. In his haste, he realizes that the ingredients were mixed incorrectly and the test fails. Once alone again, Lorenzo sits against a tree and agonizes over the missed opportunity. Susan does her best to comfort him but his frustration far outweighs any attempt for consolation. Perhaps this whole trip was a mistake. Perhaps Susan wasn’t as supportive as she could’ve been. Perhaps the guardian angel was wrong. Maybe the marriage was doomed from the very beginning. Do Susan and Lorenzo have a strong enough bond to get through this disappointing time?
Forever, Darling was a chance for Lucy and Desi to expand. They’d had more than their share of spats on television, but the audience always knew it would end happily. Here, they were thrust into an everyday real-life situation, miles from the far-fetched antics of Lucy Ricardo and her famous husband. It was no coincidence that the guardian angel looked like James Mason – Mason played the part himself. Admittedly, it will always be difficult to completely separate Lucy and Desi from their most memorable claim to fame; however, in this film they seemed to emulate themselves. Susan is hurt by the fact that she cannot be more involved in her husband’s activities, and that she is almost blatantly left out of the most important details. Sound familiar? The major difference here is that there are no hair-brained schemes, and no easily persuaded neighbors to pull into the mix. Susan is alone with her melancholy thoughts, and though Lorenzo can sense that his work is throwing a monkey wrench into his personal life, he doesn’t seem to have the ability to prioritize. Susan is the only one that can see her guardian angel, so when she verbally responds to his comments, Lorenzo appears even more confused – possibly sensing that his wife is losing her mind. To the contrary, the angel is the impartial voice of reason for both of them. He doesn’t judge Lorenzo, but rather sympathizes with his desire to build a better life. Susan understands that her husband’s preoccupation is not an intentional disregard for her, but she wants what any wife wants, an attentive and affectionate husband who can balance work and home.
Desi Arnaz had a very successful music career in addition to his work in television and movies. More often than not, the movies he starred in would be accompanied by a song or two that he’d written and performed. Forever, Darling was no exception. The song, which shared the same name as the film, became a hit on its own merit. In one particular scene, Lorenzo serenades Susan and the genuine attraction of their real-life romance shines through the fabricated characters they portrayed.
Forever, Darling was released on DVD in 2006 as part of “The Lucy-Desi Collection”. The set also includes their other two films, Too Many Girls and The Long Long Trailer. The running time for this movie is just over 90 minutes. In addition to the film itself, there is a small bonus feature, a behind-the-scenes segment from the MGM Parade TV series, episode 22. Aside from that, only the theatrical trailer is offered. The audio and video transfer is great, so the only lacking is in the amount of bonus features. The other 2 films in the set have more. It’s a bit strange, considering the amount of work that Lucy and Desi have both done, that further additives were not packed on to this disc. Surely there were candid shots of them on set, as well as interviews they likely gave about the film’s opening. Had they been a less popular duo, a shortage on material would be justified. But this is Lucy & Desi!
Sometimes, it’s nice to take a break. We took a break from the Ricardos, as did Ball and Arnaz. However, when you’ve created such personalities, certain expectations fall into place for all future work. Since we’re dealing with two of the most talented people in the history of entertainment, those expectations are met with ease. Forever, Darling is a tale about married life and the problems that can arise out of nowhere. More than that, it’s about the true meaning of “forever”. Forever means through good and bad, and though that has become a cliche, most people never consider that anything bad can happen. This misconception often leads to dispute, as was the case in this movie. We know that nothing will always be effortless and carefree, but where perfection can sometimes lack, compromise can always make up for.
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