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Laughter and Agony in Minnelli's The Long, Long Trailer

Or, “Isn't This Fun, Honey?”

3. 1946 to 1975

2. 1946–1955

  1. Joe McElhaney

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf053

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

McElhaney, J. 2011. Laughter and Agony in Minnelli's The Long, Long Trailer. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 3:2:50.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

Abstract

In 1951, a radio writer and producer named Clinton Twiss published an anecdotal memoir about the experiences he and his wife Merle encountered with their purchase of a 28-foot long trailer. The purchase came about after the couple, working steadily for 10 years, decided to take a two-year sabbatical and travel the country, visiting each of the 48 states. The Long, Long Trailer recounts various comic mishaps that occurred in relation to what Twiss and his wife came to call “the monster.” The book's popularity resulted in its sale to Hollywood, where the producer Pandro S. Berman assembled the project for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The screenplay was assigned to the husband and wife writing team of Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich and the direction to Vincente Minnelli. Hackett, Goodrich, and Minnelli had already collaborated on Father of the Bride (1950) and its sequel, Father's Little Dividend (1951), two domestic comedies that were enormous hits for MGM (they had also collaborated on the 1948 musical The Pirate), and the suitability of their collective talents in adapting the Twiss material must have seemed obvious. As in the first two domestic comedies, the film uses a framing device: an exhausted male protagonist narrates a chain of events that have brought him to the state in which we initially find him. In the case of The Long, Long Trailer, though, the protagonist tells his story to a character within the film's diegetic world rather than, as in the first two films, directly to the camera; and the state in which we find him is less exhausted than borderline hysterical. While a modest critical success, The Long, Long Trailer was a major financial one, reportedly becoming the highest grossing comedy in the history of MGM up to that time (Minnelli 1974, 275). Twiss did not live to see the adaptation, having died suddenly in 1952.

Keywords:

  • Minnelli;
  • Lucille Ball;
  • Desi Arnaz;
  • postwar;
  • television;
  • comedy;
  • travel;
  • women and domestic space