|Directed by||Alexander Hall|
|Written by||Helen Deutsch|
|Music by||Bronislau Kaper|
|Distributed by||Loew's Incorporated|
|Box office||$2.29 million|
Forever, Darling is a 1956 American fantasy romantic comedy film directed by Alexander Hall, written by Helen Deutsch, and starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, and James Mason. In the film, Ball stars as a wife who tries to save her struggling marriage to a chemical engineer (Arnaz) with the help of her guardian angel (Mason). Louis Calhern and Natalie Schafer co-star in major supporting roles.
Originally intended for William Powell and Myrna Loy, the script took the interest of Ball and Arnaz, who were interested in doing another film for MGM after the success of The Long, Long Trailer. The film was produced during hiatus of I Love Lucy.
MGM released the film on February 9, 1956. Unlike The Long, Long Trailer, the film received mixed reviews and lukewarm commercial response.
After five years of marriage, chemical engineer Lorenzo Xavier Vega (Desi Arnaz) tends to neglect his wife Susan (Lucille Ball) in favor of his work. When she wishes aloud that she had a more attentive spouse, her Guardian Angel – coincidentally the mirror image of her favorite movie star (James Mason) – appears.
The angel advises Susan to take a greater interest in Lorenzo's career, so she agrees to accompany him on a camping trip to test the revolutionary new insecticide he's developed. However, Susan's dream of a second honeymoon turns into a nightmare when everything that possibly could go wrong does. She becomes determined to save her marriage before it's too late.
- Lucille Ball as Susan Vega
- Desi Arnaz as Lorenzo Xavier Vega
- James Mason as The Guardian Angel
- Louis Calhern as Charles Y. Bewell
- John Emery as Dr. Edward R. Winter
- John Hoyt as Bill Finlay
- Natalie Schafer as Millie Opdyke
- Mabel Albertson as Society Reporter
- Ralph Dumke as Henry Opdyke
- Nancy Kulp as Amy
- Willis Bouchey as Oliver Clinton
Marilyn Maxwell also makes an uncredited appearance as herself, in a fictional film she co-stars in with Mason.
The script originally entitled Guardian Angel had been written by Deutsch in the 1940s as a vehicle for William Powell and Myrna Loy and had been languishing unfilmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for several years. Later, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were slated for the film, but it eventually fell through.
Following the success of their 1954 film The Long, Long Trailer, Ball and Arnaz had signed a two-picture deal with MGM to in an attempt to set up a film unit for Desilu Productions. MGM head Dore Schary suggested Guardian Angel to the couple as the first picture of the deal. Ball believed the project would bring the couple closer together, and they agreed to do it. It was the first time Desilu was involved in feature film production.
In March 1955, Cary Grant was the reported choice for the guardian angel; however, his demanded salary was too high, so the role went to Mason. Alexander Hall — who was Ball's boyfriend at the time she met Arnaz — was hired as the director. Arnaz felt the script was weak, and brought in I Love Lucy writers Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll, Jr. to make uncredited changes; the duo's contribution was the slapstick camping sequence in the final third of the film.
Filming commenced in mid-June 1955, while Ball and Arnaz were on hiatus from filming I Love Lucy. Though mostly filmed at Desilu Studios in Culver City, California, some scenes were filmed on location in Yosemite National Park. Filming wrapped on July 12.
The title song, with lyrics by Sammy Cahn and music by Bronislau Kaper, was recorded by both Arnaz and the Ames Brothers, who performed it over the opening credits and ultimately had the bigger hit. The tune became an Arnaz family tradition, sung by Desi at special events, including his daughter Lucie's marriage to actor Laurence Luckinbill.
Promotion and reception
Ball and Arnaz promoted the film via a cross-country train tour aboard a special car provided by the Santa Fe Railroad, with stops in Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York City, and Ball's hometown of Jamestown, New York. The film opened at the Loew's State Theatre, where the newlywed couple had performed their first vaudeville act in 1941.
The film received mixed critical reception. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times described it as a "thin, overdrawn, weak caper", while Time Out London calls it a "fitfully amusing offering." Most notably, programmers at Radio City Music Hall, where Trailer had premiered, refused to let the film open there because they found it "sub-standard".
According to MGM records the film earned $1,912,000 in the US and Canada and $376,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $188,000.As a result of the disappointing results, MGM and the couple mutually agreed to cancel the deal, and Desilu did not produce another film until Yours, Mine, and Ours eleven years later.
- Heaven Can Wait (1978 film), where Mason plays a similar character
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- "Forever, Darling". Turner Classic Movies. Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved September 5, 2016.
- Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz by Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1993, pg. 102 (ISBN 0-688-11217-X)
- "Forever, Darling". Turner Classic Movies. April 20, 2006. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
- Ball of Fire by Stefan Kanfer, Alfred A. Knopf, 2003, pg. 180 (ISBN 0-375-41315-4)
- "FOREVER, DARLING (1956)". AFI. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
- Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, pg. 103
- Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, pg. 119
- Ball of Fire by Stefan Kanfer, pg. 180
- "Time Out London review". Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2007-11-28.
- Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, pp. 103–104