At the risk of exposing an opinion that may be slightly outside the “mainstream,” I do not, in fact, love Lucy. I do love Annabel, though, who is played by a twenty-seven-year-old Lucille Ball during her time as a film star before an admittedly pioneering gig on one of television's most memorable shows. While television Lucy is certainly the most recognizable, Miss Ball made several pictures during the '30s and '40s, and after 1935 she was even credited for her roles. These films reveal Miss Ball as a stunningly beautiful young woman with a knack for more than just comedy.
Annabel – The Films
Comedy was certainly the centerpiece of the Annabel films, 2 of the 6 (s… i… x…) films in which Lucille Ball played in 1938. She stars as Annabel Allison, another in a long line of lovely alliterative names common during the period. Annabel is a fading star at Wonder Pictures, and her publicist, Lanny Morgan (Jack Oakie), is doing everything he can to put her back on top, with predictably comedic results. In The Affairs of Annabel, he convinces her to pose as a maid, and she ends up in the middle of a kidnapping plot. Annabel Takes a Tour sees our heroine embroiled in an affair cooked up by her publicist that she believes is real.
Affairs of Annabel, The / Annabel Takes a Tour
Genre: Comedy/Classic Comedies
Annabel – The Furs
Let's see, both of these films were from 1938 and featured a Hollywood star, a waning one, but a star nonetheless. That means big fox furs for the lead, and they look amazing on the youthful Miss Ball in both films.
The Affairs of Annabel – 1938
There's a reason I combined both these films, and that reason is The Affairs of Annabel. There's only one memorable fur in the film, it occurs at the very end as Annabel and her publicist are ready to “live happily ever after,” to so speak. She's wearing 2 of those fox stoles I have such a love-hate relationship with.
They make for lovely close-ups, though.
This is about 10 seconds before the credits roll; if you're wondering how long, you'll need to wait to see it.
Annabel Takes a Tour – 1938
In the follow-on about Annabel having an actual “affair,” she wears a much nicer selection of furs. To start, we don't see Annabel in fur, though; we bookend a bit with Frances Mercer in one of the same fox stoles as Annabel wore to close out The Affairs of Annabel.
The sequence is early in the film, where she meets with her publicist about Frances Mercer's character's higher popularity. It's a long sequence, and this outfit is well filmed throughout.
I've no doubt mentioned my affinity for big collars in the past; this one certainly qualifies and looks spectacular in all closeups.
One more, another favorite moment at the very end of the sequence as Annabel's thoughts turn to her rising popularity and her silver fox muff rises to her chin.
Finally, near the end of the film, Annabel arrives in this stroller-length lynx coat, another beautiful fur Miss Ball wears well.
Again, there was no shortage of close-ups while framed with this thick lynx fur coat.
Were I to complain, it would be about the lack of collar or cuffs, but that complaint would be rather hollow; I admit, this is a beautiful coat.
If your only exposure to Lucille Ball is as a shrill, demanding 50's housewife, then you're missing out on a much more beautiful and accessible actress from these early films. She wore furs in quite a few of the films from this period. These films showcase a vibrant actress with amazing comedic skill that wasn't quite watered down to a single note as it would be later.
The Affairs of Annabel
Fur Runtime: approx 2 minutes
Film Runtime: 68 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 3%
Annabel Takes a Tour
Fur Runtime: approx 6 minutes
Film Runtime: 67 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 11%