I Love Lucy, one of the most endearing sitcoms ever made, was actually a pioneer in the field. When the show debuted, stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz wanted to film in front of an audience, which hadn’t been done before. They invented the concept of the 3-camera sitcom, which would allow filming in front of a live studio audience. Here is a 1952 article from American Cinematographer about the success of this new format.
The first two seasons were filmed at General Service Studios, now known as Sunset Las Palmas Studios. At the start of the 3rd season, the show moved to Desilu’s Cahuenga Studios, which is now Red Studios Hollywood.
The show never made use of real buildings for establishing shots, so there is no “outside” of the Ricardo’s apartment to visit. The sets were also scrapped after the show ended (as was standard during the time). If you were hoping to see the sets from the show, all is not lost. There are a couple recreations at the Lucy-Desi Museum in Jamestown, NY.
The Apartment Set
During the run of I Love Lucy, the Ricardo’s lived in 2 different apartments. The first was a small living room with the kitchen located to the right. Towards the end of season 2, the Ricardo’s move “upstairs” to a larger apartment. This set is laid out the same, but is larger and has a window behind the couch. This set was recreated for the I Love Lucy live theatrical tour, and is now on display at the museum.
The Beverly Palms Hotel
In seasons 4 and 5, the Ricardo’s and Mertz’s temporarily relocate to Hollywood for Ricky to star in a film. The characters move into the fictional Beverly Palms Hotel. A replica of this set is also on display at the museum.
While I Love Lucy didn’t routinely use existing buildings for establishing shots, the episode “LA At Last” shows the Ricardo’s and Mertz’s arriving in Hollywood. They are showing pulling into the “Beverly Palms Hotel” where they will stay for the next few months. The show filmed footage of the car driving along Olympic Blvd and arriving at the Avalon Hotel. The Beverly Carlton (the original name of the hotel) can even be seen in footage from the show.
During these episodes where the I Love Lucy takes place in Hollywood, the show made use of more real-life locations than it did for New York City. In the episode “The Tour”, Lucy and Ethel take a tour of stars home. They leave the tour bus to steal a grapefruit from Richard Widmark’s house. The house used was actually the real home of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. This house is now included on current tours of stars homes, ironically.
The episode “Lucy Visits Graumans” features Lucy and Ethel visiting Graumans Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.
For more information about the legacy of I Love Lucy, please check out my page about the Lucy-Desi Museum and other attractions in Jamestown, NY.