|Behind the cameras at the filming of the classic sitcom 'I Love Lucy'|
When I Love Lucy began, the wealthiest person on the set was the cameraman.
Well, the director of photography, really. German native Karl Freund had filmed Dracula and Murders in the Rue Morgue, and won an Oscar for The Good Earth. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz knew him from the film Du Barry Was a Lady, and knew he’d invented a popular light meter, and that he certainly didn’t need to do a sitcom. Yet that’s what Desi wanted him to do.
In Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball, Stefan Kanfer noted that Desi wanted to stage the show as a play, filmed in front of a live audience of 300 with three cameras that were to be synchronized on one sound track. The film could therefore be easily edited from master shot to medium shot to close-up.
That couldn’t be done, Freund told him. Those shots would all have to be lit differently for decent quality.
“Well, I know that nobody has done it up to now, but I figured that if there was anybody in the world who could do it, it would be Karl Freund,” Desi replied.
Intrigued by the project, “Papa” Freund ultimately signed on for union scale. “Papa was loaded anyway,” Desi said. “He could buy and sell Lucy and me three or four times. The money he had made out of the light meter alone, plus a lot of acreage in orange trees he owned in the San Fernando Valley, made him a man of considerable means. The challenge was what got him, and that’s what I was counting on.”