I Love Lucy stars Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball hoped starring together on the series could salvage their strained relationship.
“They did the show so they could be together because my dad was always on the road and they never saw each other,” said Lucie Arnaz, the couple’s daughter. “So my parents thought, ‘Well, this is going to save our marriage, and we can have a family.’ They gave the country this wonderful creation, but they never got what they wanted — to stay together,” she says. “… [But] they loved each other until the end.”
Unfortunately, their relationship didn’t last. Ball and Arnaz divorced in 1960. Though they both remarried, all of those who knew them felt the I Love Lucy stars belonged together.
“Maybe I’m the romantic, but there was a great, great love there, there really was,” said William Asher, the director of I Love Lucy. “Desi was very unhappy about the breakup, and I think she was too. I don’t think either one of them ever got over it,” said Asher.
Despite their onscreen happiness, Arnaz himself felt that being together on the show actually worsened their relationship. The “Cuban Pete” singer said: “I think one of the problems was that we were both working too hard and were together too much. There was really no chance to be away from each other and let things cool off.”
The Final Words Between the Stars of I Love Lucy
Even so, Ball and Arnaz remained in love until the end.
“I could hear her say, ‘I love you,'” Lucie recalled. “She said it five times in a row. And he was nodding and saying, ‘I love you too, honey.’ He died in my arms. None of us realized it at the time, but the day they last spoke was Nov. 30, their wedding anniversary.”
She also recounted the final conversation between her parents in the book, Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Lucie explained: “I started them off, like two kids on a first date. I couldn’t get out of the room. And he said, ‘I love you, too, honey. Good luck with your show.’”
Sadly, Arnaz passed away two days later of lung cancer. As a result, his final words of encouragement to Ball carried even more weight.
“I can say that he died with me in my arms and that we loved him so much,” Lucie said around the time her father’s passed away. “I can tell you not to smoke, and I can tell you that [he] would like to be remembered as the man who was responsible for Lucy. The ‘I’ in I Love Lucy. And that he loved all of you very much.”