The '50s are nifty for May sweeps specials

Saturday, May 3, 2003

Television returns to its mid-century roots with a biography of the medium's favorite comedienne, a reunion of America's favorite sitcom couple and a splendid reworking of a decadent drama from Tennessee Williams.

The rest of this three-hour movie unfolds in a series of flashbacks leading us up to this unhappy denouement. We flash all the way back to young Lucy's (Madeline Zima) flirtation with rebellious flapperhood during in the roaring '20s. She later meets an imperious young Bette Davis (Priscilla Bonnet), and claws her way from chorus girl to cigarette girl to the RKO stable of B-movie stars. There she befriends A-list comedienne Carole Lombard (Vanessa Gray) and her beau Clark Cable (Charles Unwin), and runs into a rising young Cuban actor, singer, bongo player and on- and off-screen Latin lover named Arnaz.

"Lucy" is at its best before Lucille Ball becomes TV's Lucy, and at its weakest when York has to reenact the classic comedy routines we all know so well.

But after a chaste marriage to the impotent Mr. Stone (Brian Dennehy, seen briefly at the start), Mrs. Stone begins to enjoy and then crave the pleasures of the flesh, particularly those of the young Paolo (Martinez).

"Spring" is the kind of smart, sexy movie that Hollywood just doesn't release in theaters anymore. Don't miss it.

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