In an unassuming little apartment on East 68th Street lives a woman torn between two lives. On one hand, she longs to be on the stage, singing and dancing for an audience. On the other, she fights to be a normal stay-at-home wife and mother for the safety of her family, because she has a secret that could cost her everything. She didn't leave Jamestown, New York, for NYC because she was abused or abandoned; she left because she was the child of the most dangerous mob boss in a town that was notable for its involvement in the bootlegging game. Forced to change her name and disappear into the Witness Protection Program, she left the place where she was born to make a life for herself in the big city.
No, this is not a subplot from Season 3 of Boardwalk Empire. This is the story of Lucy Ricardo, protagonist of I Love Lucy, one of the seven wonders of the sitcom world. Until now, the show was a harmless look into what happens when you give a housewife a funny personality and subpar motor skills. But under the surface, it shows you that no matter what you do you can't fully escape your past.
6Lucy Never, Ever Mentions Her Father
Throughout the six-season run of I Love Lucy, Lucy's father, much like her natural hair color and sense of responsibility, is demonstrably absent, even though the rest of the family appears in multiple episodes. Ricky, Lucy's husband, regales us with stories of his childhood in Havana from the first season onward, and the whole family goes to Cuba together in the sixth season to visit Ricky's relatives. Way to rub it in, bro.
And to force Lucy to work in a cigar sweatshop for some reason?
Lucy's mother comes to stay with them and travels with the family to California. We even meet several other people from Lucy's past, including her former babysitter and her damn pediatrician, in an episode titled "The Passports," in which she needs to verify her birth certificate. But her father? Never given a passing thought.
Lucy even avoids mentioning him in situations where it is appropriate and expected to do so. In the episode "Housewarming," Lucy encourages her friend Ethel to become friends with their neighbor Betty Ramsey, and during the conversation, Ethel and Betty discover they are both from Albuquerque. Lucy, finding herself left out of the conversation, develops hives from not being the center of attention for nine seconds and begins to throw in comments about her childhood as well.
Lucy: I'm from Jamestown.
Betty: (ignoring Lucy totally) Oh, my goodness, it certainly is a small world. So you're Ethel Potter.
Ethel: (also ignoring Lucy totally) And you were Betty Foster.
Lucy: I was Lucy McGillicuddy.
In that conversation, we are told the names of both Ethel's and Betty's fathers, and although Lucy is begging to be included in the dialogue, she still never mentions her father's name once, like she is talking about Bloody Mary or Beetlejuice instead of her own dad. It is almost as if she is purposely hiding his identity for some reason, and mentioning her maiden name doesn't really count, because McGillicuddy isn't even her maiden name. It's her mother's.
This is the moment Lucy realizes everyone thinks she's a bastard.
In the episode "Lucy Goes To Scotland," we hear her specifically state that the McGillicuddy clan are her mother's ancestors. If her mother's maiden name is McGillicuddy, her father's name certainly isn't.
We aren't talking about the Smith family or the Miller clan, here. This is an uncommon enough name that you wouldn't have found two unrelated McGillicuddys in a town of that size. It is such a rare name that outside of this show, most people have never even heard it at all. Hell, the network thought having an interracial couple was risque and wouldn't let them use the word "pregnant" when Lucy had her baby. They certainly wouldn't have been cool with hinting at an incestuous family background in a show seemingly devoted to slapstick homemaking. Even in the quote above from the conversation between Ethel, Betty, and Lucy, she never says her father is a McGillicuddy, only that she was Lucy McGillicuddy when she was in Jamestown. Careful choice of words, Lucy!
5Lucy Makes Decisions That Are Startlingly Mafia-Esque
When Lucy is faced with a dilemma, she often comes up with a solution more suited to Al Capone than Donna Reed. For example, in the episode "The Freezer," Lucy and Ethel order two sides of beef thinking they are going to get maybe 60 to 70 pounds of meat. Instead, they find out that they ordered several hundred pounds of beef and have no idea what to do with it. I bet the outcome will be something cute and ultimately redemptive!
Some of that will end up in the beds of their enemies.
No, no it won't be. They decide to put it in a baby stroller and wheel it down to the butcher so they can undersell him and steal his customers while literally standing in front of his meat counter. This could only be more mobster-like if they told people it fell off a truck.
"It'd be a shame if something happened to that pretty hat of yours."
In the episode "The Sublease," the Ricardos decide to sublet their apartment and end up making more than double their rent from the tenant who moves in, splitting the profit with the Mertzes. After finding out the all-male nude review went out of business and they no longer have a job lined up for Ricky, they want to take their apartment back, but the tenant refuses to leave. Rather than talking to the Mertzes and asking for the whole of the profit to stay in a hotel or finding another reasonable, normal solution, Lucy decides to trick her way into the apartment and fake a murder to freak the guy out so he'll leave. Somehow, we don't think most average housewives would consider faking a murder a solution to anything except getting out of a timeshare sales pitch.
This is what happens when women are barely allowed to leave the house.
In the episode "The Business Manager," when faced with the prospect of actually living within her budget, Lucy decides in her infinite wisdom to run a credit scam at the grocery store instead of picking up a part-time job or going on a game show or writing an article for Cracked.
Lucy is totally eyeing up whether Ethel can fit in that oven.
Not only does she run a credit scam, she does so knowing it is going to come back and bite their new business manager in the ass instead of her. Only through an accidental stock market windfall does she squeak by that one with no criminal charges.
In the episode "Lucy Wants To Move To The Country," Lucy dresses like a gangster and pretends she has a gun to get out of a financial contract. She obviously knows a thing or two about how to intimidate people. This is all fairly serious criminal behavior.
Lucy's Jamestown influence seems to have no end. Committing perjury? Yep, she does that in the episode "The Courtroom." Cutting the power to the neighborhood? Of course, in "Ricky And Fred Are TV Fans." Faking a fucking kidnapping? She does that in the episode "Lucy Cries Wolf." Recording people's conversations to blackmail them? Yep, in "Oil Wells." Starting a phony charity to swindle people? Oh yeah, in "Ricky's European Booking." The woman seems to commit a serious, felony-level crime in every other episode.