“It’s a fine thing when you come home to your home and your home is gone!” – Nicky (Desi Arnaz)
Marriage is a decades-long road trip with plenty of bumps, and here to explain it is a married couple just starting out, literally in a car and trailer.
Made during I Love Lucy’s television success, The Long Long Trailer brings together Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as Tacy and Nicky, newly weds who decide to buy a mobile home instead of a stationary one so that Nicky can get between civil engineering jobs around the country and they can save money. Of course, nothing goes as planned, as they end up buying a higher powered car to drag their trailer and run into other expenditures on the way. By the final, suspenseful mountain climb, their marriage is in danger of doing the same thing their home threatens to do — fall off a cliff into the abyss below.
Vincente Minnelli’s 1953 film offers audiences the chance to see their favorite TV comedy couple in color and on the big screen, but it goes further than to act as a a simple Hollywood supplement. Although the characters are peculiarly like Lucy and Ricky, they have different motivations. Tacy wants to save her new family money and help her husband’s career, not advance her own presence in his life. Meanwhile, Nicky wants to support her and, despite his misgivings, chooses to be on her side. Their experience is rocky at best, but they stick together (much like their television counterparts).
But the film also incorporates just the right amount of Lucy and Ricky to appeal to viewers. The studios thought The Long Long Trailer was doomed to fail because Americans could just watch the couple on TV instead of paying for a movie ticket, but the allure of the starring couple was exactly what moviegoers wanted to see. The 1950s lacked top-grossing romantic comedies as more people flocked to see Alfred Hitchcock mysteries and politically charged movies like On the Waterfront. This offered an escape to enjoy a full 90 minutes of the comedy they saw every day in their living rooms. Minnelli knew what he had with the two stars and played to the same strengths that carried the television show. Ball and Arnaz excelled at two things: slapstick and romantic chemistry.
One of the most Lucy-like moments in the film is when Tacy decides she’ll get a head start on dinner inside the trailer while Nicky drives to their next stop. Her menu includes a Caesar salad — which gets tossed right onto the floor as Tacy herself becomes caked in flour from another planned dish. Other small moments include Nicky’s first encounter with the shower system and the partnership it takes to get the car and trailer out of Tacy’s family’s driveway.
But that partnership is what contributes to the film’s main message: that no mountain is too steep or trailer is too long to disintegrate a good marriage. Tacy and Nicky’s love for each other is what gets them through the problems, including the major fight that starts the film and initiates Nicky’s telling of the story. Together, they can conquer anything if they agree to work through it together, something Lucy and Ricky (and Lucy and Desi) continued to teach for the next decade.