MYSTERY GUEST REVIEW:
Lucille Ball's "lost" 1954 WML mystery guest appearance is available on the 1990 Goodtimes Video titled "A Tribute To Lucy," which is a compilation of some of her lesser-known movie and TV appearances, including clips from a pre-"I Love Lucy" appearance with Desi on February 7, 1950 on "The Ed Wynn Show," as well as a February 9, 1956 appearance with Desi on "I've Got a Secret."
This WML mystery guest appearance is edited, but most of if is intact. It starts with Lucy signing the sign-in board, Daly's usual mystery guest introduction, and Dorothy's first question. Lucy uses a hilarious "Martian" dialect that had been used in a then-not-yet-aired 1954 "I Love Lucy" episode where she and "Ethel Mertz" (played by Vivian Vance) dress up as Martians and frighten people on top of the Empire State Building in New York City. On this WML, Lucy also uses a variation of her line, "It's a Moo-Moo."
Highlights of this WML segment include:
Dorothy asking, "What did IT say?"
Steve Allen asking, "Are you a man?"
But the best part was Arlene jumping right in with her own "Martian dialect." Lucy responds, and then turns to John Daly and says, "She knows." (Over the years, Arlene often uses this trick of imitating the disguised voices of the mystery guests.) Finally, we see guest panelist Deborah Kerr, who is sitting in Bennett's chair, whispering to Arlene, "It MUST be Lucy!" Although, there was probably no question in anyone's mind at this point.
Apparently, Lucy was very nervous about coming on, and told the producers ahead of time that she hardly had any voice left. Supposedly this was her first visit to New York in four years. She was there because she was on a ten-day publicity tour to promote the Heart Fund. (Shades of Bobby Darin!) The WML clip ends before we get to see her shake hands with the panel, though we do see her sneak in a "Hi, Steve!" to Steve Allen after being guessed.
This episode is also reviewed in Geoffrey Fidelman's 1999 collection "The Lucy Book," which is a must-have book for Lucille Ball fans! In it, there is a fascinating modern perspective from Steve Allen:
"I had first worked with Lucille on radio doing "My Favorite Husband." I only had a small part then, but it was written by the same folks who wrote for my radio show, Bob Carroll Jr., and Madelyn Pugh. 'What's My Line?' was totally legit, and they hired me for my type. As long as you were witty and urbane and got two or three good laughs, you were a success. Much of the humor on this show came from the comedy of manners. That sort of comedy is gone today, along with manners. Television has become vulgarians entertaining barbarians. As far as that evening went, we really did have to gauge things just on the voices alone. On television, it seemed like Lucy was very far away from us, but in reality it was only about eight feet."
- Rob Johnson (2004)