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How Desi Arnaz Ruined His Marriage (To Lucille Ball)

Even though I Love Lucy never failed to make the TV audience laugh, it was a matter of public knowledge that the show’s leads didn’t enjoy such a lighthearted, happy-go-lucky life off-camera. While it’s impossible to deny that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz loved each other, there were always rumors that their marriage was a lot more turbulent than their hit sitcom suggested.

The fiery redhead performer from Jamestown, New York, and her charismatic Cuban actor and musician husband were an unlikely pairing. But beyond that, they’re not exactly the most conventional fit for the stuffy, button-down domain that was Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s. But that didn’t stop Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz from becoming America’s favorite couple both and on and off the screen.

Their union produced two beautiful children, as well as countless hours of trailblazing television. They helped usher in a new era of syndicated broadcasting and the production company that they founded, Desilu Pictures, would help launch such iconic series as Mission: Impossible, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Star Trek.

Even though their two-decade-long marriage was full of hardship and turmoil, Ball and Arnaz had a love and mutual respect for each other that remained between them until death. But not to sugarcoat things entirely, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why their marriage inevitably failed and How Desi Arnaz Ruined His Marriage.

Desi And Lucille Already Separated When The Show Started

When the idea for I Love Lucy was first developed, the married couple was already living two very separate lives. Ball was a rising star while Arnaz was busy touring around with his band which he fronted. William Asher, I Love Lucy’s director told People magazine that he foresaw their marriage coming to end. When people are separated for a while, sooner or later someone is eventually going to start sleeping around. And sure enough, Asher was right. Arnaz, in particular, was infamous for his infidelity.

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And don’t go running off just yet, Keep watching to find out why Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz eventually filed for divorce in 1960.

Lucy Fought For Desi To Be On The Show

I Love Lucy was based upon a radio show Ball had worked on called ‘My Favorite Husband’. CBS commissioned Ball to recreate the magic of that radio show in the form of a television sitcom about a ditzy newlywed and her impetuous adventures. But the network was apprehensive when Ball demanded any show that she would appear in must also include Arnaz. CBS brass apparently worried that American television viewers wouldn’t accept Arnaz’s strong accent.

Not backing down, Ball and Arnaz opted to take a similar-themed Vaudeville-style stage show on the road instead. The theater audiences ate it right up. The live touring show was a huge success and CBS eventually yielded and Ball and Arnaz went on to create and star in I Love Lucy, a weekly sitcom about a young couple, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, and their neighbor friends Fred and Ethel Mertz played by William Frawley and Vivian Vance respectively.

Drawing often from their own life experience, the onscreen charm of the couple and Ball’s signature comedic stylings helped drive the series to became the number one show in American for four years in a row, then number two and three respectively over its six-year run.

As Ball and Arnaz prepared to launch the show, Lucille gave birth to the couple’s only daughter, Lucie Arnaz in 1951. Just two years later as the series was scoring high marks in the ratings department, their lone son, Desi Arnaz Jr. would appear in utero onscreen when Ball made history as being the first pregnant woman ever to appear on primetime. Ball gave birth to her son on January 19, 1953, the same day her character gave birth on I Love Lucy.

Having Kids Curbed Some Of Desi’s Philandering Behavior For A Time

Bart Andrews, who wrote three books about Ball and Arnaz’s relationship, believes that having children did, in fact, curtail some of Arnaz’s bad behavior – at least for a minute. Some of Desi’s playboy tendencies alleviated from the moment little Lucie was born. He likely felt more sensitive about those kinds of things and stopped some of running around and boozing for a bit. But having kids only proved to a band-aid fix for Lucille and Desi’s marital problems. Soon enough, Desi was right back at it, sleeping around behind Lucille’s back and lying to her about it.

They Slept In Separate Bedrooms

Child actor Keith Thibodeaux, who played Little Ricky on I Love Lucy, recalled that his TV parents didn’t even sleep in the same room at their Beverly Hills mansion towards the end of their marriage. Thibodeaux told People that one time at their home in Palm Springs, Ball told her chauffeur to drive her down to the Indian Wells Country Club. When she walked in to have a drink, Arnaz waltzed on in with a couple of women on his arm. When he saw Lucy at the bar, he turned around and ran off. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why their marriage inevitably failed and How Desi Arnaz Ruined His Marriage.

They Tried Their Best To Not Fight Out In Public

While everyone knew that Ball and Arnaz’s marriage was not an exceptionally happy one, those close to the couple told the press that they tried not to tiff in front of other people. Given the nature of their marital problems, that probably wasn’t that easy of a task.

They never had any huge spats on set. Arnaz’s upper-class upbringing made him more likely to keep matters private. The last thing he wanted was to put on display for all the world to see, he and Lucille’s dirty laundry. But even though they kept their bickering behind closed doors, that didn’t in the least bit make any of it easier for either of them.

Desi And Lucille Tried To Divorce Multiple Times

It’s well-known that Ball and Arnaz tried to get divorced even before I Love Lucy started filming seeing as how they spent so little time together. They almost got divorced on a couple of occasions during the 1950s but for one reason or another, that didn’t happen. It was always Lucille that put a stop to that before it could take hold. At one point, she decided enough was enough and devised a plan to take her kids out of Hollywood and move to Switzerland, but of course, that never happened. Ball stayed in New York to do Broadway. It was while she was living there that she met her second husband, Gary Morton, but we’ll touch on him a bit more in just a bit. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why their marriage inevitably failed and How Desi Arnaz Ruined His Marriage.

Ball Was The One To Suggest That They Separate

Pregnancy and child-rearing were things that Ball had long hoped to experience. She had previously suffered several miscarriages before conceiving her daughter, Lucie. But as viewers at home tuned in every week to witness their latest, often absurd adventures, Ball’s marriage to Arnaz was buckling under pressure. He was working 14-hour days as their Hollywood careers took off, but at home, the stress gave rise to verbal quarreling and accusations of further infidelity by Desi.

But just as they did in I Love Lucy when Ricky and Lucy would make up just as the credits would roll, Ball and Arnaz patched things up and found common ground in their relationship over and over again. But as can expected, that pattern wasn’t very sustainable.

At one point while they were still together, a magazine published a story saying that Desi was a womanizer. Charles Pomerantz, Ball’s publicist gave an advance copy of the article to Desi and Lucy took it back to her dressing room to give it a read. Everybody on set waited with bated breath until she finally came out, threw the magazine to Desi, and proclaimed that she could have told them worse than they did.

But even the publication of that article, Arnaz’s drinking and philandering continued and the couple finally divorced in 1960. Ball told the court that things got so bad that she was the one to suggest that perhaps it would be better if they weren’t together. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why their marriage inevitably failed and How Desi Arnaz Ruined His Marriage.

Lucille And Desi Stayed In Touch After Divorcing 

As troubled as their marriage most certainly was, Ball and Arnaz remained close even after their divorce – even when both of them eventually remarried to other people.

Associated Press reporter Jim Bacon recalled that even after Ball married Gary Morton, whenever she’d see him, she would always take him over to a corner and ask him if he had heard from Desi lately. She wanted to know how he was getting along. Even after their marriage dissolved, Ball and Lucille always had a lot of love for each other.

Desi Married Lucille’s Doppelganger But His Alcoholism Worsened Over Time

After finalizing their divorce in 1960, Arnaz got remarried in 1963 to Edith Mack Hirsh, a woman who bore a striking resemblance to his first wife. The couple remained married until 1985, a year before Arnaz passed away.

Arnaz died from lung cancer brought on by a lifetime of heavy smoking, but alcohol was the one vice that got visibly worse in the later chapters of his life. Desi’s alcoholism was something that Ball always wanted to keep out of the public eye. While the public knew full well that Desi was a heavy drinker and womanizer, Lucille always wanted to keep it private and never let it hurt him. She maintained that level of empathy for her ex-husband in the later years even when she was a huge star and Desi was down and out.

Desi and Lucille Were Still In Love Right Up To The End

Although their marriage was was replete with trials and tribulations, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz kept their relationship going as close friends even after they divorced because they really were always in love. Perhaps it wasn’t of the romantic variety, but they never stopped caring intensely about each other’s well-being. Desi was very distressed after the breakup and so was she. And as far as we can tell, neither one of them ever really got over it. 

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s whirlwind of a romance was unlike any other. And while they ultimately went their separate ways, they never really exited each other’s lives entirely. Their existences were far too entwined to ever fully turn a new leaf. While they both went on to remarry and pursue separate life paths, they never stopped loving each other. 

Do you think that Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball should have worked through their problems and stayed together or do you think they did the right thing by filing for divorce? Let us know in the comments section below.

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