Their’s was a love story for the ages – even if it did end in divorce.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met and fell madly in love in 1940 while on the set of the film, Too Many Girls. They married later that year on the 30th of November. 8 years later in 1948, Bell cast to play the character Liz Cooper, a goofy wife on the CBS radio sitcom; My Favorite Husband.
The show went on to run for 148 episodes. After it’s success, Ball asked by CBS to develop a similar show for television. She readily agreed to do so on one condition. She would only take on the project if she could work with her husband, Desi.
After seeing a pilot episode of their new show, the studio wasn’t very impressed and turned it down. Ball and Arnaz then set out on a nationwide tour as a vaudeville act in which Ball played a wacky housewife who tried her best to weasel her way into her husband’s show.
After the tour proved to be an enormous success, CBS decided to go ahead and greenlight I Love Lucy. The show went on to run for more than 100 episodes and became one of the most-watched and influential TV shows of all time.
Throughout the series run, Ball and Arnaz started a family of their own. Lucie Arnaz was born in 1951. Their son, Desi Jr Arnaz, was born two years later in 1953.
After 2 decades of marriage and a couple of popular I Love Lucy spin-off series, Ball and Arnaz divorced in 1960. Recently, the story of their often-turbulent relationship presented in Amy Poehler’s documentary Lucille and Desi before their divorce. The film explored who Desi and Lucille were as everyday people in addition to being celebrities during one of Hollywood’s most iconic eras.
Their long and storied journey of falling in and out of love, working and fighting to keep their love alive throughout their darkest moments. It was a tale that the public couldn’t seem to get enough of. To this day, their story is one that is nothing short of captivating.
Join Facts Verse as we take a look back on what went wrong with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’ marriage. At one point they seemed to be each other’s perfect matches. And it’s said that they never stopped loving each other even after finalizing Lucille and Desi divorce. So, what happened.
Desi and Ball Divorced After This Happened
Lucille Ball first filed for divorce from Desi Arnaz back in 1944 after just four years of marriage. Years later when she penned her 1989 memoir, Love, Lucy, Ball revealed that she had filed for divorce due at that time due to Arnaz’s rampant infidelity and drinking problem. Apparently, Arnaz’s vices even had folks in Hollywood talking.
During the summer of 1944, Desi simply stopped coming home. He would spend weeks at a time out partying. But the thing that hurt the most was when Lucille read an article published by Confidential Magazine about her husband’s weekend escapade in Palm Springs.
Fortunately, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were able to reconcile their differences, but Ball filed for a second divorce in 1960 – and that time, she would get her wish.
In their divorce hearing, Ball compared Arnaz to Jekyll and Hyde. Desi would drink and gamble and often seen hanging around other women.
Lucille had hoped for so long that things would change, but they never did. Beyond just the booze and broads, Desi started having frequent temperamental outbursts around their children. That was something that Lucille was simply unable and unwilling to excuse.
In her memoir, she also recalled how Desi would throw tantrums in front of their friends and family. Things got so bad, that they weren’t even able to have a normal social life for the last three or four years of their marriage. Ball would later even call this period of time a ‘nightmare’.
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Barbara Eden Confirmed Arnaz’s Infidelity
In 1957, Barbara Eden of I Dream of Jeanie guest-starred on an episode of I Love Lucy. In Eden’s 2012 memoir Jeanie Out of the Bottle, she wrote about her time on the program. She confirmed that Arnaz was, as she put it, a ‘world-class philanderer’.
She went on to explain that it common knowledge in Tinsel Town that Desi had a penchant for young, curvy blondes and that Lucille deeply upset by her husband’s cheating ways.
Desi, on the other hand, saw things a bit differently. He claimed that the divorce was the result of how much time he and Ball spent at home; while they were working on I Love Lucy. At their divorce proceedings, Desi told the court that he believed one of their biggest problems was how they were both working too hard and were together too much. He claimed that there was never a chance for them to be away from each other to let things “cool off”.
In Arnaz’s own memoir, A Book, which was published in 1976; he recalled how he and Ball’s marriage fell apart months prior to their divorce. He said that the more that their love life deteriorated, the more they would fight, and the less sex they would have.
The more unhappy they became, the more he focused on work instead. And in his downtime, he would drink. In the end, he said that he hadn’t slept in his and Ball’s master bedroom in over a year. Instead of working on mending their failing relationship Arnaz admitted to seeking his needs elsewhere, but he insisted that she did the same.
“Her Temper Got The Best Of Her”
In his memoir, Desi wrote about the day that he told Lucille that he wanted a divorce. That fatefull day, they had an argument in his office. When Ball was leaving the building; he rushed up to her and pulled her aside while she was stopping to have a drink at the water fountain.
When he told her that he wanted a divorce; Arnaz says that Ball looked at him like she wanted to kill him. He explained that their business pressures had succeeded in driving them apart. And they need needed to split up since their personal lives had become so miserable.
Ball then left the building without saying a word. But when Desi came home that evening she gave him a piece of her mind and then some. Reportedly, Lucille told Arnaz that it would be better if he were to die. She said that it would be a far better solution – both to their children and everyone else.
She then apparently told him that she had enough dirt on him to hang him. And that by the time she was through with him, he’d be as broke as a joke.
Arnaz then made his way to his dressing room to give Ball a little time to cool down; but she followed him.
Desi said that he was about to light a cigarette when the fiery redhead came at him with a dueling pistol. She pointed it at him and then pulled the trigger. Fortunately, it was only loaded with blanks. But Desi still took the opportunity to use it’s flame to light his smoke.
He then told her that he knew she didn’t mean everything that she had just said; but asked her for the sake of their children to and let their split be as amicable as possible.
For appearance’s sake, Arnaz told Ball that he wanted her to be the one to initiate the court proceedings. He then told her that they would get a decent lawyer for her and that she would be the one to sue for divorce. After promising her that they would arrive at a fair financial settlement; he asked her nicely not to never threaten him again.
Arnaz and Ball never slept under the same roof again after that night. They filed for divorce, and it was finalized in 1960.
Until Arnaz’s death in 1986, Desi and Lucille remained friends after divorce and often spoke quite fondly of each other. Arnaz reportedly even would continue to send his ex-wife flowers.
Desi married his second wife, Edith Hirsch in 1963 and greatly reduced his involvment in show business. Edith died in 1985 of cancer. After her death, Desi was convinced by his children to seek medical treatment for his decades-spanning addiction to alcohol which had started taking a severe toll on his health.
After Arnaz was diagnosed with lung cancer in 86, Lucille came to visit him. And the two watched VHS recording of old I Love Lucy episodes. On what would haven been their 46th anniversary, she called him and told him that she loved him.
Desi died two days later on December 2, 1986.
Ball too remarried after she and Arnaz’s divorce. She got married to her second husband, Borcht Belt comedian Gary Morton in 1961 and remained by his side until her death. Ball got Morton a job with her production company where she promoted him to producer after teaching him the ropes of the television business.
Ball was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on April 18, 1989 after experiencing chest pains. She received a diagnosis of having a dissecting aortic aneurysm and underwent surgery to repair her aorta. While the procedure seemed to be a success; Ball woke up in the middle of the night with severe back pain on April 26. Later that morning she passed away at the age of 77.
Doctors were able to determine that she had succumbed to a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm that wasn’t directly related to her surgery.
Even though Desi and Lucille weren’t able to keep their marriage alive, it’s still beautiful that they continued to love each other as deeply as they did. Not many people stay friends with their exes, but it’s clear that at least in Ball and Arnaz’s case, they possessed a love that ran far deeper than just romance.
Judging from the description of their home life in those final years, though, it sounds like it was a good thing when they finally broke free from each other.
What are some of your fondest memories of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball? And even though they ended up getting divorced, do you think that their marriage was a fruitful one? Let us know in the comments.
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