‘Lucy and Desi’ producer Jeanne Elfant Festa on discovering surprise of old Arnaz family tapes [Exclusive Video Interview]

When the process of gathering materials for “Lucy and Desi” started, producer Jeanne Elfant Festa remembers was not prepared for the discovery that Lucy Arnaz Luckinbill would find. “I was in her pantry. I was literally stretching and I looked up and I saw a lockbox. I said ‘Lucy, what is that?’” she tells Gold Derby during our Meet the Experts: TV Documentary panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). Arnaz discovered that the surprise of the lockbox contained several of Lucy’s tapes that included recordings from after Lucy and Desi were divorced as well as Desi, Vivian Vance and the kids reenacting their favorite scenes from “I Love Lucy” with Lucy directing them. “It was just so beautiful because it also instilled the relationship that we all wanted to cling to, which is the throughline of the film. They maintained that respect and love for each other until the very end and that was a beautiful thing.”

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“Lucy and Desi,” which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video explores the romantic and professional relationship between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in how they met, created “I Love Lucy” and subsequently became one of the most powerful couples in Hollywood. The documentary marks the directorial debut of Emmy winner Amy Poehler. The doc scored five Emmy nominations including Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special. Festa won that category in 2020 for the documentary, “The Apollo.”

Festa believes that the biggest misconception that people have about Lucy and Desi’s relationship was how much they were outsiders to the Hollywood scene. “They had the massive success of ‘I Love Lucy’ and they played another character in ‘The Long, Long Trailer,’ which is a massive success. At the same time, in order to get to that point they had to really push their way into rooms that they weren’t invited into and they had these innovations that people said can never be done.” It was a testament to the spirit and perseverance that they both showed in being able to conquer these seemingly impossible tasks. “I don’t think people really know all that Desi Arnaz did and it was his tenacity; never take no for an answer and just do it yourself.”

Festa has many great memories of watching “I Love Lucy” with one that clearly stands out as her favorite. “It’s the one with Harpo Marx when they’re mirroring each other. I always was a Marx Brothers fan and I always loved ‘I Love Lucy.’” It was something that was always on her television set which led Poehler to make a very astute observation. “Amy used to say it was like it came with your TV set. That’s what it was like for you. It was just that warm, fuzzy feeling that you would want to watch.”

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