A photo showing Lucille Ball in a white net jacket and black dress.

The Nitty-Gritty On Lucille Ball's And Desi Arnaz's Whirlwind Romance

Home / News / The Nitty-Gritty On Lucille Ball's And Desi Arnaz's Whirlwind Romance

By Favour Adegoke on December 27, 2021 at 9:15 AM EST

When Desi Arnaz saw Lucille Ballfor the first time at the commission of RKO pictures in the early 1940s, no one would have thought that a relationship would eventually form between them.

After seeing her, the actor made a derogatory remark about the appearance of the then movie actress. According to author Darwin Porter, Arnaz wasn't impressed at all. "He wasn't impressed at all, calling her a' 10-cent wh-re,' a 'p–a' — the Spanish word for prostitute." He also said that Ball, who was five years older than Arnaz and dressed like a cheap burlesque dancer, was dressed for a role in the movie "Dance, Girl, Dance."

Later in the day, she would reappear in an elegant yellow sweater, beige pants and heels, and perfectly set hair.

"Their relationship kick-started about immediately," Porter added.

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Their marriage would sire two kids and countless hours of innovative TV. They would help herald the era of combined broadcasting, and their production company, Desilu Pictures, would produce movies like "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "Mission: Impossible and Star Trek." 

Though their marriage lasted only two decades, love and mutual respect remained between the stars until death.

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People Placed Bets On Their Marriage

Because it was tumultuous from the very beginning, Ball tried to exit the union in 1944 when she filed for her first divorce. Her reason for the divorce included Arnaz's infidelity and his heavy drinking.

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His new touring schedule also required him to be frequently away from his wife. When he was at home, his performances would keep Arnaz away into the wee hours of the morning, while Ball's studio sessions often meant she was preparing to go to work at the time he was returning home.

After a bit of back and forth, they reconciled. Promising to spend quality time together, Ball and Arnaz searched for projects that would allow them to team up professionally and personally. The project turned out to be "I Love Lucy," the Emmy-winning sitcom that ran for six years, changing the television landscape forever and making the couple household names.

They Were Very Protective Of Each Other

While they worked on "I Love Lucy," other co-stars who had the opportunity to work with them on the project could see the couple's marriage both on-camera and behind the scenes. One of them was NicoleKidman, who admitted that the couple's marriage was a layered one.

"It was fraught," Kidman responded. "There was an enormous amount of passion and love and pain and tears and fighting. But ultimately, he was deeply protective of her, and he was brilliant at protecting her. She was protective of him. She believed in him, and he believed in her," Kidman added. "Could they give each other what they completely desired and needed? No. But they got a lot."

He also added how the duo had a close but volatile marriage.

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"I like to focus on their successes as a partnership because, as I've said, all relationships end," Kidman told NPR. "They could end because somebody dies – They could end because you break up. They could end because you get separated and can't get back — whatever it is, they all end. We know that."

However, he chose to focus on the pair's accomplishments as a couple and as business partners.

"This, to me, was what you would call a successful relationship," Kidman noted. "There were two beautiful children. There was an amazing creative partnership that created gold. I mean literally. I don't just mean financially. I mean for the world that exists as a timeless piece of entertainment that can still make us laugh. That is a successful relationship."

Ball Initiated Another Divorce

According to People, Charles Pomerantz, Ball's longtime publicist, recalled that "At one point during their marriage, the magazine Confidential came out with a story saying Desi was a womanizer. I gave an advance copy to Desi, and Lucy said, 'I want to read this story.' It was during a rehearsal day, and she went into her dressing room. Everybody was frozen on the set. She finally came out, tossed the magazine to Desi, and said, 'Oh, hell, I could tell them worse than that.'"

Unfortunately, Arnaz's drinking and womanizing continued, and the couple split in 1960. "It got so bad that I thought it would be better for us not to be together," Ball explained.

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The Pair Remained Friends

Two years after the divorce, Ball paid Arnaz an alleged $2.5 million for his company shares, becoming the first female CEO of a major Hollywood production studio. She steered Desilu to tremendous success before selling the company five years later to Gulf + Western/Paramount for $17.5 million.

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Later, both would remarry; Ball to comedian Gary Morton in 1962 and Arnaz to Edith Hirsch in 1963. On December 2, 1986, Arnaz would eventually die from lung cancer, and Ball would pass away three years later from the rupture of her aorta. But their love and respect for one another endured while alive, and this can still be seen and appreciated in the rebroadcast of "I Love Lucy." 

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