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Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter (1991)

This made for TV movie tells the story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It begins in the 1930's when they met as actors under contract at RKO and ends with their divorce in 1960. In between ... See full summary »


Charles Jarrott


William Luce (story), William Luce (teleplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frances Fisher ... Lucille Ball
Maurice Benard ... Desi Arnaz
Robin Pearson Rose Robin Pearson Rose ... Vivian Vance
John Wheeler John Wheeler ... William Frawley
Bette Ford ... De-De
Edith Diaz Edith Diaz ... Mother Arnaz
Matthew Faison Matthew Faison ... Harry
Liane Langland ... Maureen O'Hara
Patrick Cronin ... Doc Bender
Alan Oppenheimer ... Arthur Lyons
Joyce Blair ... Roxana
Don Keefer ... Grandpa Ball
Roger Rose ... Cousin Larry
Jim Brochu ... Max
Rance Howard ... Bernie


This made for TV movie tells the story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. It begins in the 1930's when they met as actors under contract at RKO and ends with their divorce in 1960. In between we see how their careers developed, their often rocky marriage, and how they came to develop the groundbreaking and iconic "I Love Lucy" show. Written by hlahorner

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Could they learn to love each other as much as the world loved them? See more »


PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

10 February 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (PFL)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Producer Larry A. Thompson planned to expand the movie into a three-part trilogy that delved further into the lives of Lucy and Desi, but the ratings weren't what the network hoped for so plans for subsequent films were scrapped. See more »


References The Big Street (1942) See more »


I'm Afraid That I Love You
by Paul Loomis & Stan Radliff
See more »

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User Reviews

Lucy and Desi would spin in their graves
30 January 2007 | by friggleSee all my reviews

I looked forward to this film in advance of its presentation, and suspected Lucie Arnaz's negative comments were un-founded. Ms Arnaz, I do apologize.

The story line made for a "C" average Television movie at best. Unfortunately, the subject matter was one the most viewed and known in the 20th century. When the presentation of re-created scenes and actors from "I LOVE LUCY", the grade fell to a D-. The portrayals of "Lucy", "Ricky", "Fred" and "Ethel" were an insult to "Ball", "Arnaz", "Frawley", and "Vance". Fisher's attempt to re-create the "Lucy Ricardo" bits were sloppy. Immediately after its initial TV Presentation, the local TV station did a news segment on it. They cut back and forth between Fisher's Lucy and Ball's Lucy.... it was night and day.

Let me close by saying that the performers in this piece are "quality" professionals, and should be commended for many of their past performances....just not this one.

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