Desi Arnaz was a man of many talents, but perhaps he is best known for his long relationship with TV legend Lucille Ball. Together, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball appeared on the beloved show I Love Lucy. Desi Arnaz played the role of Ricky Ricardo, a witty and charming man. The two also co-founded Desilu Productions, which was originally created just to market their show. After the show had run its course, however, Desi Arnaz continued to produce other television series through Desilu Productions.
Aside from acting, however, Desi Arnaz was also a musician, bandleader, comedian, and producer. While many people remember him for his acting, Arnaz actually began his career in music. As soon as he finished high school, he formed a band called the Siboney Septet, which grew quite popular in Miami, Florida. He was eventually hired by Xavier Cugat to tour in his band as a singer and a conga drum player. After he got a taste of stardom, he decided to form his own band; the Desi Arnaz Orchestra.
After the Desi Arnaz Orchestra became a hit, he appeared on Broadway, where he got his first taste of acting. He performed in the production Too Many Girls. The musical was a smashing success, and RKO Productions bought the rights to turn it into a movie. They cast Desi Arnaz in the film version, and he got to act alongside Lucille Ball. While working together, the two fell in love. They married on November 30th, 1940.
From there began a long and loving relationship. The two weren’t just romantic partners; they also worked well as artistic partners. When Lucille Ball was encouraged to turn her popular radio series My Favorite Husband into a television show, she insisted that Desi Arnaz play her husband, so the two could spend more time together. Her request was granted, because the two had a natural onscreen chemistry.
While the two appeared to have the perfect marriage onscreen, however, it was far more turbulent in real life. Despite their passionate love for one another, there were quite a lot of problems with their marriage, and after two decades together, they eventually divorced.
In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at the interesting life of Desi Arnaz, as well as his relationship with Lucille Ball. Their marriage had a lot of ups and downs, so we’re going to examine it all; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Make sure you stick around, because we’re also going to reveal how Desi Arnaz’s infidelity ultimately destroyed their relationship.
They Were the First Onscreen Interracial Couple in America
When Desi Arnaz, a Cuban-American, and Lucille Ball, a white woman, appeared as an onscreen couple in I Love Lucy, they became the first onscreen interracial couple in American history. In fact, CBS was initially nervous to cast Desi Arnaz as Lucy’s husband, afraid that the decision would be met with a lot of backlash. Thankfully, Lucille was so insistent, and Desi Arnaz was such an accomplished actor, that they eventually agreed. As a result, the couple went down in American television history.
I Love Lucy first aired on October 15th, 1951, and at the time, racist ideologies meant that interracial couples were still considered quite controversial. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then, and views about racism have changed a lot. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz both paved the way for future onscreen interracial couples.
Desi Arnaz Cheated on Lucille Ball… A Lot!
Sadly, their relationship wasn’t always as perfect as it may have appeared on television. In reality, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball had a rocky marriage. In January of 1955, the incredibly popular tabloid Confidential released an issue titled “Did Desi Really Love Lucy?” The article provided proof that Desi Arnaz had been spotted with a prostitute.
Despite the public backlash that Desi faced, he was seemingly unabashed. In fact, he even said to a close friend “What’s she upset about? I don’t take out other broads. I just take out hookers.”
After the article was released, Lucille was forced to put on a brave face, although the publicity of her husband’s affair had likely shaken her to her core. She had someone else purchase a copy of the magazine, too ashamed to purchase it for herself. After reading it, she tossed the magazine on the ground in front of a crowded set and exclaimed, “Oh, hell, I could tell them worse than that.”
Even though Lucille responded to the situation with her iconic grace and wit, the whole affair was extremely humiliating for her.
Desi Arnaz Had a Troubled Childhood
Desi Arnaz was born in Santiago de Cuba on March 2nd, 1917. His full name is Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha, III, although he went by Desi Arnaz for the sake of brevity. His father, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Alberni, II, was the youngest mayor in the history of Santiago de Cuba, and he also served in the Cuban House of Representatives. This meant that, growing up, Desi and his family had a lot of money. At one point, they owned three ranches, a manor, and even a vacation mansion located on a private island. For a time, it seemed that Desi had an idyllic childhood.
In 1933, however, the Cuban government was overthrown during the Cuban Revolution of 1933, and Desi’s father was imprisoned and his property confiscated. After his father was released, Desi and his family moved to Miami, Florida, where they had to make a new life for themselves. Thankfully, Desi’s talent and resourcefulness turned him into a star in his new country.
Lucille Ball Knew Desi Was a Womanizer from the Start
When Lucille Ball met Desi Arnaz on the set of the film Too Many Girls, she was given a lot of warning. By that time, Desi had already earned himself the reputation of a womanizer, and Lucille Ball knew exactly what kind of behavior to expect in a relationship with him. His charming and witty nature, however, won her over. After the two had known each other for only six months, Desi asked for Lucille’s hand in marriage, and to her own surprise, she said yes.
Nobody expected the relationship to last long, least of all Lucille. In an 1980 interview with PEOPLE, Lucille even admitted, “Everybody gave it about a year and a half. I gave it six weeks.” Lucille’s friends and family were no doubt shocked when the marriage lasted two decades.
Many Hollywood marriages end in utter disaster. Despite the turbulence of Lucille and Desi’s relationship, however, they were able to settle things in a rather surprising manner. Make sure you stick around until the end of the video, because we’re going to reveal how Lucille and Desi managed to avoid a lot of drama during their divorce. And if you’re enjoying this video so far, please take a moment to like the video and subscribe to our channel for more!
The Couple Separated Before I Love Lucy Began
Early on in their marriage, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz nearly called it quits. Desi had come home intoxicated on several occasions, and Lucille was growing concerned that her husband was unfaithful to her. In September of 1944, she filed for divorce, reportedly “to teach Desi a lesson.” The separation was short-lived, however, and one reporter announced that Lucy had “walked out of court into Arnaz’s arms.”
They Invented the Rerun
Initially, CBS thought that the couple was crazy when they requested to shoot I Love Lucy on high-quality film. However, they offered to pay for any expenses, so long as they were allowed the majority of the film rights of I Love Lucy. The high-quality film meant that the show could be broadcast nationally, and the couple was able to use the hard copies of the film to play reruns. This changed the history of television for ever, and it made Lucille and Desi a good deal richer.
The Show Decided to Use Lucille’s Pregnancy to Their Advantage
In an unprecedented decision, the creators of I Love Lucy decided that, rather than hiding Lucille’s pregnancy in 1952, they would use it as part of the story. At the time, however, talking about such things was considered risque, so they always used euphemisms rather than outright saying Lucy was pregnant. It was a bold move in the 1950s, but audiences loved the twist. In the episode “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” they even had the character go into labor around the same time that Lucille Ball gave birth to her second child, for continuity reasons.
They Had a Civil Divorce
In 1960, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz knew that their relationship had run its course. Desi’s infidelity, coupled with an increased dependency on alcohol, had drained the love from their relationship. However, they kept their divorce very civil. In fact, they didn’t even use lawyers!
The two even remained friends long after their divorce. Towards the end of their lives, they grew close once more. Two days before Desi Arnaz died of lung cancer in 1986, he had a long conversation with his ex-wife and close friend on the phone. It was the date of what would have been the 46th anniversary of their wedding.
Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball were a power couple for two decades, but there were a lot of underlying struggles. Were you more surprised to learn that Lucille Ball already knew her husband was a womanizer, or that they remained close friends even after their divorce? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!