​Red Alert: The Redhead, the Red Scare and Aaron Sorkin’s Big Lie Caught Red-handed

In Being the Ricardos Aaron Sorkin takes a cerebral look at physical comedy, with a complex, multifaceted plot. The intellectual writer/director dramatizes the marital difficulties of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem), the rivalry between Ball and her I Love Lucy co-star Vivian Vance (Nina Arianda), the vicissitudes of television sponsorship and network protocols regarding sex. Ricardos also visualizes Ball’s creative process and deftly, cleverly cuts from color to black and white, with flashbacks that enable Sorkin to revisit classic scenes from the sitcom. Defying celluloid stereotypes, the Cuban-born Desi is portrayed as a shrewd businessman and innovative TV producer who helped introduce the three-camera setup for shooting sitcoms before live studio audiences. Sorkin’s biopic also tackles the heady, heavy topics of TV’s first major interethnic marriage and the Hollywood Blacklist.

The other feature that Sorkin’s look back at 1950s television most reminded me of was 2005’s Good Night, and Good Luck. But with one glaring difference: While George Clooney’s tribute to legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow illumines actual events, Being the Ricardos falsifies history. Sorkin’s two-hour, 11-minute movie is put under the magnifying glass here by a Hollywood Blacklist historian who consulted several other Blacklist scholars and film historians, sought repeatedly (futilely) to interview Sorkin and did extensive research into the subject online and in books, such as Victor Navasky’s Naming Names and Ceplair and Englund’s The Inquisition in Hollywood.

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Ed Rampell was named after legendary CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow because of his TV exposes of Senator Joe McCarthy. Rampell majored in Cinema at Manhattan’s Hunter College and is an L.A.-based film historian/critic who co-organized the 2017 70th anniversary Blacklist remembrance at the Writers Guild theater in Beverly Hills and was a moderator at 2019’s “Blacklist Exiles in Mexico” filmfest and conference at the San Francisco Art Institute. Rampell co-presented “The Hollywood Ten at 75” film series at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and is the author of Progressive Hollywood, A People’s Film History of the United States and co-author of The Hawaii Movie and Television Book.    

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