Transcript:

Interviewer: So tell us what your job was on the I Love Lucy set and a little bit of how you came to be there and get that job.

Emily Daniels: Well, I was the camera co-ordinator and I Love Lucy. I came to get that job, I guess, because I had done three years of the same job in New York. But it was on live there, which is a little bit different. Film was much harder. And it also let's see. Did you ask about.

Interviewer: That's ok. That's good. You also were married to the director. I'm sure that had something to do with the fact. Tell us a little bit about that.

Emily Daniels: That had a lot to do with it. I came along with a director that getting our jobs, our Lucy, were sort of wedding presents because we just were married three weeks before and was a great present. We had a marvelous year.

Interviewer: All right. You just mentioned that you had experience in New York, but that this was harder. Tell us a little bit about what was so difficult about the way you filmed the I Love Lucy show.

Emily Daniels: What was different or different?

Interviewer: Different or Difficult.

Emily Daniels: Well, it was very difficult in the very beginning because we had four cameras and that was because Desi wanted to shoot the show for the sake of the audience. He did not want to have to have them stop after every scene. So he wanted the whole first act to be shot. The films didn't carry enough film to do that. And that meant bringing in a fourth camera who could switch over to a camera as it ran out of film. They didn't know the cameraman when they were going to run out of film because that that was logged up in the control booth where I was. So I had to give them their shots. And at the same time, watch the film guide to tell them, okay, you're out of film. And then the other one would fill in. And it was was very tricky. And it was really not a good system. And they changed it almost immediately. DSE agreed that the the audience could bear to stop after each scene. I think they loved it. They watched everything being set up and each new and. So can't remember where it was.

Interviewer: That's all right. Now, tell me a little bit. You mentioned that you were up in the control booth. Now, when you change the system and you went to the three cameras, were you still calling shots and certain things? You're basically up there flying by the seat of your pants. I would imagine, because even though it's not live TV, there is still a live audience there. Tell us a little bit about the pressure that you were feeling.

Emily Daniels: Well, by the time we got down to three cameras, that was the same as in New York.

Interviewer: So tell me a little bit about the pressure that you were under. Up in the booth, calling the shots, Leive trying not to make a mistake.

Emily Daniels: Well, the pressure was not so great. Once I had gotten rid of having to give out the footage to the cameras because giving shots was just something I was very used to having done it in New York for three years on big shows back there. But you did watch very carefully to be sure that they got the cue of what shot would be or when to move to the next one and be sure they didn't start moving before they were edited out. It. It was just exciting. It was main thing. It was just a lot of fun.

Interviewer: Tell us more about that. Did you laugh at rehearsals? Was it a fun?

Emily Daniels: Oh, hilarious. We all laughed all the time. She was so funny, especially on Vitameatavegamin when they were doing that. And the script comes down. Madeline and Bob had written a lot of suggestions in it and Mark added quite a bit. But then Lucy got hold of it and it kept changing and changing and changing. And everything she tried was just funnier. It was it was a lark.

Interviewer: And Bob. Are you feeling that she's looking at the camera a little bit for you? A little bit. No. What am I. It's better to look at me because, see, audiences know he's there. Even though there's always other people and I know you're conscious of, it's more important to direct it to me than them. OK. Tell us about opening night, the very first time that you shot. And I Love Lucy episode. I gather things were still being worked out. Last minute details.

Emily Daniels: Well, we had already rehearsed in the day.

Interviewer: I'm going to stop you for one second. The very first opening night, however you want to situate us.

Emily Daniels: Well, actually, if you start with a night, I shouldn't go through the rehearsal in the day or the drafts, right.

Interviewer: Just position us to the first show. However you want.

Emily Daniels: Well, the very day of the very first show, we rehearsed in the morning. Then in the afternoon, there was a dress rehearsal with all the cameras doing all their shots. All the costumes, all the makeup, everything. Everybody was getting a little tipsy. And then after the dress rehearsal, the actors got their notes and the cameramen got their notes. And then we had supper and tried to relax. And when the audience began coming in, desis, band began playing. Desi came out and did a warm up. The people went up into the bleachers and Lucy's mother and Desi's mother always sat together and they knew to go up in the very top because up there they could see over all the equipment between them on the set. And the set was filled with four cameras, four camera operators, four men to push those around, two booms to boom men and for men to push the booms around, they had to shift to get the shots. And then on the floor where the floor manager and the electricians and the property men, it was crowded and above two, they had three or four monitors so the audience could see what they were doing.

Interviewer: Yeah, I guess on the phone, perhaps you describe it to me as an incredibly hectic time, that you were still maybe something was still under construction.

Emily Daniels: I forgot about that. Maybe. Before it began. You know, it's Marcus dashing all over the place, checking the actors and checking if everything was right and the costumes were right and Desi was warming up and getting ready. And everybody was just sort of very busy and excited and being sure that you knew what you were going to do. There was pressure then, yeah.

Interviewer: And as you shot the performance and this was the first time that an audience had ever seen this material, it was the first time any of you had a chance to present your show to the public. What were your feelings about how they were responding to the material?

Emily Daniels: Didn't have much time to think about what they were feeling, but their applause and their laughter certainly showed they loved it. They loved it.

Interviewer: So do you. Did you have a sense from that first performance that this was going to be a hit, you were going to have a job here for a while? Things were going to be OK. Can you tell us what your first feelings were?

Emily Daniels: Nothing like that went through my mind. Everybody hoped it would be a hit and would play a year or 13 weeks or whatever the contract was. It played thirtyeight the first year. And they were very well accepted.

Interviewer: All right. Let's jump ahead now to the first night that the first show was broadcast. I know it wasn't the first one that you all shot. But in any case, it's the first one that the American public saw. And I gather some people were at your house, at your home. Is that because you were the only ones you had a television? You know why?

Emily Daniels: Oh no. I think we are. I think it was because we were the closest to the studio and we did rehearse all day that day and the next show. And so Lucy and Desi and the writers, Madeleine and Bob and Jess Oppenheimer, the producer, and Morrie Thompson, the script boy, script man, they all came up to our house right from the studio and we had supper and turned it on and kept our fingers are crossed. Forgot to say, Lucy.

Interviewer: Just stop again.

Emily Daniels: Okay.

Interviewer: Pick up where you add the information.

Emily Daniels: Okay. Ethel was Ethel Mertz. I gotta go back in. Vivian Yeah. Vivian Vance was there, too, with her husband, Phil Oubre. And he was the only woman had never seen the script. Never had heard much about it. And he just laughed so hard all the way through. Just laugh, laugh, laugh. And we thought maybe maybe we had a chance for a hit.

Interviewer: All right, I think I just want you to tell me the beginning of that story, that the night of the first broadcast, you basically invited the crew and the cast over to your home to watch it on your TV set, just if you could set that up for me.

Emily Daniels: Well, but the night it was on the air, the first time we invited the cast, I kind of go back the night that the show is on the air for the first time. We invited the crew. Oh, boy. I'm going.

Interviewer: OK. So you're just going to set up for us. The idea that you were gathered, you invited people over.

Emily Daniels: It's the night I Love Lucy was on the air for the first time. We invited the cast and the producer and the writers up to our house so we could all watch it together. And we had dinner. And then the show went on the air and we sat there and we were all very quiet, except for Vivian's husband, Phil Oubre, who laughed at all the jokes, laughed, laughed, laughed, and it made us feel very good. And it made us hope that we had a hit.

Emily Daniels: Tell us about a typical work week. How did it begin? What was the first step? Was it a read through round the table? And then, you know, how did it proceed? The blocking and then rehearsal and like that?

Emily Daniels: What's the first sentence I start with.

Interviewer: Well, just a typical word like, oh, wait. Monday morning, men and whatever you do.

Emily Daniels: A typical workweek started on Tuesday at 10 o'clock, and we all sat around the table reading the script. The writers were there, the producer was there and the actors and Mark the director and Morrie who held the script and me and they read straight through the script the first time. Then everyone said what they wanted changed or gave suggestions the writers were there and could see something didn't work or an actor didn't like a line, and they quickly wrote those and then read it again. And then after that, the writers went back upstairs to work and the producer and we started blocking the first act. And in the afternoon, we continued doing that. Probably already was afternoon and two Wednesday morning. We block the second act and then began running the whole the whole play. Both of them. And Wednesday night, Mark and I went home and spent the evening blocking the camera shots and getting them in our scripts. Thursday morning, we probably ran at once or twice in the morning at four o'clock. The crew came in to see it, didn't have their cameras, just sat in chairs and watched and laughed. And we went home after that. And then Friday we had run through in the morning dress rehearsal at four o'clock with everything. The cameras were getting their shots. The costumes were on. And after the dress rehearsal was over, everybody got notes. From Mark mainly or from the writers or the producer. And then we had supper and then we began getting frantically excited and getting ready for the show itself, which went on at seven thirty.

Interviewer: OK, Desi certainly was an important player in all of this, and maybe we could just spend a moment talking about him, a lot of people have said to us. Oh, Desi. Everybody just thought he was this bongo player. But that was really deceptive. There was a lot more there than meets the eye. Can you tell us a little bit about how he functioned? Both his warm ups and then his producing capabilities, I guess.

Emily Daniels: Well, there's these warm ups were done just before the show when the audience was coming in sometimes or mostly, and they loved it. They'd get in this mood and they'd go up on the up and the bleachers and sit down and listen. And Desi would come out and do the Lou and various others other favorites of his. And there were about eight or 10 in the orchestra in costume over on the set side of the set as far as his abilities to run the place. He was just absolutely an amazingly creative and wonderful and demanded things and got them from CBS. If he hadn't insisted that. The be shot in one go like that. I don't think they could have done it. He he was the one that insisted that it be done with with film camera and then puppyish freind was brought in to make the lights work, which he didn't want to do because he'd only done it for film one camera. But Lucy talked him into that. And then Mark was the one that sort of put all the cameras together and did the whole thing. So the three of them actually established this together. And it's still in use today. The same three cameras, film system.

Interviewer: Describe Lucy's relationship with her writers. We're going to be talking to them later this afternoon. But I'd like to hear from your perspective how you saw her work with them. In other words, did she just accept what they said and made it her own or did she make changes? What was that back and forth like?

Emily Daniels: I would say they worked very well together.

Interviewer: All right. Lucy and the writers.

Emily Daniels: I think Lucy and the writers worked very well together. She accepted what they brought down. Added to it, they had already written in business and things like that, which she would try. She always had additional things to do that were funnier maybe or helped out, especially that one where she was a ballet dancer. Her foot up, she got caught on the bar. That kind of thing. She did that herself. I remember it was marvelous to watch how her head worked because she just always came up with something funnier and better, maybe not better than the writers, but made the whole show better. And if she wanted to change things, the writers were very happy to let her do that. They were usually improving it.

Interviewer: Now, we've tried to sort of help our audience understand her technique a little bit. And one of the things that has come up is the subject of props, that she was just brilliant with props. And I think there's a story about some toast and whether you should rehearse with the balsa wood toast or whether you needed the real toasts to rehearse with. Can you tell us a little bit, you know what I'm talking about, right?

Emily Daniels: Yeah. That was a toast up pop up toaster, which shot the toast over to her on the other end of the table in the kitchen. And I don't remember this argument. I've read about it later. And it was in one of our shows. I think it maybe it wasn't more than one, two and. I think they started with the balsam wood and it was hard for her to catch and she wanted it to be what was really going to be used on the show. And I don't remember an argument about that, so they used the real toast and she got so she got it every time. It was a wonderful bit of business.

Interviewer: And just tell me, in your opinion, tell. Describe for us sort of Lucy's relationship to her props. Did she rehearse and rehearse, rehearse until she knew she had that prop down? Can you tell us a little bit how she worked with props in general?

Emily Daniels: She worked very meticulously and she did it over and over and over and over until she got it absolutely right. Could do it absolutely the same the next day. She did something called freezing action or freezing her business. She never created something ad libbing on the air show or anything like that. It was frozen by dress rehearsal and never change. I never saw changed anything after that was it was perfect. So it didn't need to be.

Interviewer: What was she like backstage? Was she a funny person, the way some like Robin Williams? I just have to imagine that he's an hysterically funny guy in his real life. Was she?

Emily Daniels: Well, I wasn't backstage that much, but I think mostly she went to her dressing room and was studying her lines or doing something sort of to herself. But I wasn't back there. I'm not really an authority on that.

Interviewer: But you certainly encountered her, she came to your home. You saw her in situations other than on the set. How would you describe her personality in her real life?

Emily Daniels: Rather serious.

Interviewer: Can you start again and tell me in in in real life or however you want to say it, when she wasn't on the stage or when she was not?

Emily Daniels: Well, when she wasn't on the stage, Lucy was not this crazy woman running around with props. She was quite serious and quite quiet and, well, not always quiet because once in a while she'd yell about something, but I don't I don't know what else I can add to that.

Interviewer: Were you surprised at the difference between the zany character and the serious woman? Was that at all?

Emily Daniels: No, I think some other comics are like that, aren't they, that are just are so funny when they have an audience in front of them and are just not in the same world when they're off.

Interviewer: Why did Mark not continue to be the director after the first season?

Emily Daniels: He got a better. Mark, didn't continue after the first.

Interviewer: That was perfect. You got it there again.

Emily Daniels: Mark didn't renew with I Love Lucy for another year because he had had a better offer from another show, Joan Davis show, which actually shot on the next stage. And I guess at that point, Lucy had not won any big awards. She lost the best comedian to race Skelton Red. Red Skelton in February that year at the Emmy Awards. We knew it was a popular show, but it wasn't yet a tremendous hit. So he took more money and left. And he did say later on in his life that it was a big mistake.

Interviewer: I'm glad you brought up the Emmy Awards that year, because I think something significant happened. I think Red Skelton did make a gesture of acknowledgement. Can you tell it? Were you there at that Emmys? Yes. Can you tell me it?

Emily Daniels: Well, Red Skelton.

Interviewer: Tell us you were there at the Emmys, that you were at the Emmy Awards. Sorry, I stepped on you.

Emily Daniels: We were at the Emmy Awards that year and they were held at the Ambassador Hotel. And Red Skelton won the comedian award. It was male and female or mixed together that year. And when he got up to accept the award, he said that they'd given it to the wrong redhead. Took it over and gave it to Lucy. It was it was pretty nice.

Interviewer: That's a great story. All right, sorry, very touching the light. Your husband then after he admits maybe he made a mistake in going away from the show, he did come back to direct two other I to other programs much later with Lucy. Tell me a little bit about that.

Emily Daniels: There was a two hour special. I'm not sure of the title exactly. Something about Lucy meets the president. Something about that, and he did come back and do that. All the old actors were in it from Lucy. Plus a few more. And they got along very well. Did a good show. And then he also worked with her again on the final series where they only shot six, where she was a grandmother with a daughter and daughter, daughter and son in law and two kids. But she still had to behave the way she had when she was Lucy in the first year. And that just didn't go. The audiences couldn't accept it, I guess, because it was canceled after six performances.

Interviewer: And how did that end for her? What was that ending like? Didn't you tell me that there was a party in somebodies home and you don't want to tell a story you told me you wanted to tell?

Emily Daniels: I know I've been thinking it over. I'm not sure it's good? I can tell it also. I'm not sure where it was. That Lucy went to New York and made a movie about a bag lady was woman. I still smell. I don't know where that was and whether that was before.

Interviewer: I think that was just before.

Emily Daniels: Before.

Interviewer: I guess maybe you could just rather than getting into. I don't want big modlin story. But what was her mood from your perspective at the end there when her show didn't go?

Emily Daniels: Well, we had a party for the cast after the last show and. It was in a house that someone had gotten hold of that had no furniture in it. Someone had bought it and hadn't started fixing it up yet. And why it was held there? I'll never know. Could have had it at our house a few blocks away. But anyway, it was there. And we brought in food and drinks. And Lucy was a little late to her than most of us. And so when she came in, she was very serious, wandered around, didn't talk to anybody very much, just kept wandering around the various rooms and looked so sad. And she talked to us briefly. But.

Interviewer: What's your opinion about that? I mean, I think you feel that it was something unjust about.

Emily Daniels: I just thought it was an omen of what was coming or that what had come, which was the end of her career. And it was because three years later, she died.

Interviewer: OK. Just kind of look here. Do you did you know her in those later years? After the Here's Lucy program had ended and before the Stone Pelo and the life of Lucy? Did you know when she was technically retired? Did you ever see her at all? And do you know how she filled her retirement years?

Emily Daniels: We didn't see Lucy much after she'd retired at all. I know Mary, which was her close, close friend that spent a lot of time with her and she played a lot of backgammon. I understand. And otherwise, I really don't know. She had little Lucy to help her and her husband.

Interviewer: Did you know Gary?

Emily Daniels: Not well. He had been doing the warm ups on the show on the last show she did on that series.

Emily Daniels
Interview Date:
1999-11-18
Runtime:
0:27:02
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-st7dr2q20n
MLA CITATIONS:
"Emily Daniels, Lucille Ball: Finding Lucy." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 18 Nov. 1999, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/604
APA CITATIONS:
(1999, November 18). Emily Daniels, Lucille Ball: Finding Lucy. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/604
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Emily Daniels, Lucille Ball: Finding Lucy." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). November 18, 1999. Accessed July 02, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/604

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