HomeEntertainment‘I Love Lucy’: Desi Arnaz Wore Lifts in His Shoes, Often Listed Wrong Height in Publications

‘I Love Lucy’: Desi Arnaz Wore Lifts in His Shoes, Often Listed Wrong Height in Publications

by Jennifer Shea
KM Archive/Getty Images

“I Love Lucy” star Desi Arnaz was a gifted businessman and an iconic straight man to his wife Lucille Ball’s madcap comedienne, but he had his insecurities. And one of those was his height.

The truth is, Arnaz was 5’9” tall. As long as Ball, at 5’7”, didn’t wear heels, he still stood taller than her. But she often did, and when that happened, she loomed large over Arnaz.

As Desi Arnaz Jr. once told an interviewer, according to Mental Floss, his father “was a Cuban with a Latin male’s pride.” He couldn’t stand to look smaller than his wife. So he made some tweaks.

For one thing, Arnaz started wearing four-inch lifts in his footwear. And he gave his height as 5’11” in official biographies. Moreover, on “I Love Lucy,” he had them add an extra cushion, unnoticeable to viewers, on the Ricardos’ loveseat. That way, he would look taller than Ball while seated and would get some extra leverage with which to stand up onto his platform shoes.

All that effort paid off, and Lucy and Ricky Ricardo went down in television history as a traditional married couple in which the husband rules the roost.

Arnaz Was a Visionary on ‘I Love Lucy’

In multiple ways, Arnaz was ahead of his time with his innovations on “I Love Lucy.” He demanded three cameras to capture all the action, which was revolutionary at that point but which has since become the norm for sitcoms even today. And according to NPR, Arnaz also went for 35 mm film rather than kinescope, which dramatically improved the TV show’s visual quality.

As you might imagine, the studio was not eager to foot the bill for that pricey setup. So Arnaz agreed to pay for the filming on the condition that he and Ball would own the individual shows themselves. It was a fateful business decision that upended the old paradigm of artists having no ownership stake in their own work.

And that decision came in handy when it was time for Ball to give birth to Desi Jr. Ball needed a break. The network needed to air episodes of “I Love Lucy.” So Arnaz hit on a solution. They could air the old episodes, or rerun them, again.

The invention of the rerun led to the invention of syndication, of re-airing episodes of a show on another TV channel. That process made television a cash cow.

Meanwhile, Arnaz and Ball would go on to become television’s first millionaires. And after all of Arnaz’s innovations, does anyone really care how tall he was?