Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Long, Long Trailer

The Long, Long Trailer posterYou know those days when nothing seems to go right? When everything falls apart and it’s all you can do not to break down? Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz feel the brunt of that kind of day stretched into weeks in the 1954 film The Long, Long Trailer, a slapstick comedy similar to recent films such as National Lampoon and Meet the Parents, whose audience can't help but cringe as bad luck rains down on the protagonists.

The film begins with Nicky Collini (Desi Arnaz) driving frantically through the rain to a trailer park in Colorado where he knocks on what is presumably his trailer and yells out for Tacy (Lucille Ball) to open up. The camera pans to a "For Sale" sign tacked to the side of the trailer, which is apparently news to Nicky. He decides to retreat from the rain into the clubhouse where he meets an older gentleman (Moroni Olsen) relaxing in a chair. After a few customary pleasantries and inquiries, the two realize that the older man is here to buy Nicky’s rig and both their wives have gone to measure furniture for it. Nicky exclaims, "I'm telling you, it's a fine thing to come home to your home and your home is gone!" and then proceeds down a different path and asks the man if he and his wife ever fight. When the man answers a bewildered "no," Nicky cries out in exasperation, "No fights? No battles? Then don’t buy a trailer!" And with such an exclamation Nicky begins his upside-down tale of his experiences with the long, long trailer.

The movie is filmed as a flashback from the point of view of Nicky, a successful engineer who travels a lot for his work. The flashbacks begin with the sound of laughter as Nicky ridicules his fiancé Tacy's idea of living in a mobile home, but Tacy soon wins him over with clever pouts and hypnotizing dreams of a mobile honeymoon. The next scene brings the pair to the mobile home show where Tacy falls in love at first sight with the Blue Moon rig, complete with charming doorbell, sunken living room (where Nicky always manages to trip on the stair), and a $5345 price tag; three times the price they had originally had in mind. Lucy convinces her fidgety fiancé that in the end they would actually save money because they would otherwise be living in hotels (words she may need to eat by the end of the film), and Nicky signs the cheque. The trailer is magic to Tacy and misfortune to Nicky as mishaps happen again and again, including the task of learning to drive with a 40 foot trailer creeping up behind him. However, these calamities are put on hold for the lovebirds to be wed and Nicky even puts the trailer in his new wife’s name as a wedding gift. And so the honeymoon, and the bad luck, begin.

After the first leg of their trip, filled with wrong turns, driving embarrassingly slow, and stopping in the middle of a busy traffic light, they arrive at their first trailer park, only to realize that being a neighbour in a trailer park means that they can’t have any privacy, not even to consummate their marriage (a curious consummation seeing as they sleep in separate beds, a rule and regulation of 1950s film and television). After a frustrating night, they pack up and attempt to camp in the wilderness only to get the trailer stuck in a rut on a back-country road. A downpour commences as they undertake the comedic task of cooking and eating dinner while on a slant, culminating in Tacy getting thrown out of the trailer door into an enormous mud puddle, in true Lucille Ball form. Tacy now begins to see the disadvantages to her big, beautiful trailer.

The adventure continues with a much-anticipated week-long stop at Tacy’s Aunt Anastasia’s house, only to have Nicky back the trailer over the the garden, the roses, and then into the garage, all in front of an on-looking crowd of extended relatives. Needless to say, the trip promptly continues the next day. Throughout the catastrophes, the couple is committed to staying together, with Nicky saying that he’d be happy with Tacy even if they had to live in a cave. This leads the movie into a few scenes of rest, relaxation, and beautiful scenery while cruising through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Tacy tries a turn at the wheel and discovers that she’s better at driving the rig than Nicky, which only leads to resentment and another fight. Tacy makes amends by suggesting she cook a pasta dinner while Nicky drives and then they can eat upon arrival at the next destination. Unfortunately, Tacy does not compensate for the turbulent ride and ends up covered in all her ingredients.

The final drama involves the couple driving up the mountain to an elevation of 8,000 feet. Nicky had asked Tacy to get rid of all her heavy possessions, including the large rocks she collected throughout the trip. Tacy can’t bear to part with her memories and so she hides them around the trailer, only to regret her actions when the rocks tumble from their hiding places and nearly topple the trailer off the edge of a cliff. When Nicky opens the trailer door and discovers what Tacy has done, it is the last straw and the pair part unfavorably, with Nicky taking a long drive alone.
This brings us back to the film's opening scene, with Nicky coming back to find his wife gone and his home for sale. The old man who has listened to this tale of woe tells Nicky that he and his wife were unhappy at first as well, but all they had to do was learn to say "I'm sorry." Nicky balks at this idea and then sees Tacy arriving back at the trailer. He grudgingly grabs his things from her and makes his exit in the car, when all of a sudden Tacy races through the rain to the car and the two of them exclaim apologies to one another. They rush inside to make-up, and the audience catches glimpses, through the door banging in the wind, of this eccentric couple embracing in their long, long trailer.

Although this film enjoys kooky mishaps and romantic reconciliations, it denies the viewers any recognition of the Cuban culture of Desi Arnaz. That being said, in one scene Arnaz does rattle off angrily in Spanish as he’s trying to put the trailer on a jack, but these rants are directed only to himself and the prominent use of the English word “trailer” is the only clue to the non-hispanic audience that he is upset with having bought the mobile home. It is also interesting that a character with the Italian last name of "Collini" is spouting Spanish vocabulary. As a result, it can be inferred that the film is more focused on creating an opposition between wife and husband, male and female, rather than one between American and Cuban cultures. The Collinis are portrayed as a typical newly-wed, 1950s American couple trying to find a place to call their own, whether it be on the road or simply a long, long trailer.

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