Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz seemed to have everything they could ever want in the 1950s. The couple starred in The Lucille Ball show together, playing a married couple just like real life. Millions of viewers tuned their television to the right channel every single week to catch up on their latest antics. There was no mountain too high for them to climb – or at least that’s how it appeared on the outside.
On the show, their marriage was perfect. But the couple was falling apart off-screen as Arnaz cheated on Lucie over and over again. Their marriage ended in 1960, which was actually the second time they divorced.
Arnaz didn’t become famous because of The Lucille Ball Show. He was a young star-to-be when he met the famous and hilarious Lucille in 1940. They starred together in Too Many Girls, a musical comedy that proved to be a small hit for RKO Pictures.
Desi and Lucie married 2 months after the film was released to audiences across the country. It is mostly remembered for having brought them together, but it didn’t take long for Desi to drive his wife to the edge.
In 1944, Lucie filed for divorce for the first time. Just four years into their relationship and Lucille already couldn’t stand it. This one didn’t stick and in 1950 she was proud to announce Arnaz as the co-star in her new namesake show.
She didn’t just invite Arnaz to be on her show. Lucie really forced the issue, much to the annoyance of one Bob Weiskopf, an original writer for The Lucille Ball Show.
“At the time the consensus was, ‘What the hell do we want with a Latin bandleader who can’t speak English?” he told People all the way back in 1991. “She knew that if he went on the road with the band, he’d be catting around all the time.”
The show went on to be a smash hit and continues to be one of the most popular television shows of all time. It was watched by more people than any other television show while it was on – a title held by only a handful of shows for more than one or two seasons.
The success didn’t have the intended effect on Arnaz, and he stepped up his now-infamous womanizing. Rumors swirled in the media about his possible affairs and it didn’t take long for Lucie to catch on. After their first divorce, she knew that he could be bad. She just never knew how bad.
Desi wrote a memoir years later detailing his struggles with alcoholism at that point in his life. He was in charge of Desilu Productions while his wife was off being famous and it took its toll on him.
But Lucille just couldn’t handle him at the end of the day, so they divorced in 1960.
“They were fighting all the time. Their divorce was horrible. And then there was the alcoholism,’ Lucie Arnaz, their daughter told Closer Weekly. “We didn’t have any abuse, but we did go through some pretty hard stuff and that’s why my parents didn’t stay together.”
Were you aware of the struggles behind this famous comedy couple? Share in the comments!
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