‘I Love Lucy’: Desi Arnaz Used a Sneaky Trick to Remember Scripts

by Joe Rutland

Desi Arnaz put his stamp on “I Love Lucy” with his character, Ricky Ricardo. There were lots of scripts to memorize. He used a trick to do so.

Arnaz, who, along with Lucille Ball as Lucy Ricardo, provided CBS with a winning sitcom in “I Love Lucy,” had a photographic memory. This means he could read scripts and totally “get them” in one reading. That’s an amazing feat for a person to achieve.

While Arnaz used this trick, costar William Frawley wasn’t as lucky. Frawley, who played Fred Mertz on the show, often had trouble with his lines. Maybe old Fred could have used a little boost in the memory bank from Ricky.

‘I Love Lucy’ Writers Put Together Scripts That Provided Actors With Lines

Putting those scripts together took time and creativity. Producer-writer Jess Oppenheimer was the lead writer for the show in its first five seasons.

Scriptwriters Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr. were in the “I Love Lucy” camp for all six seasons of the sitcom. They hung around to work on “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” too. Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf joined in the fifth and sixth seasons of the sitcom and, also, wrote for the comedy hour show.

It was their work for which Arnaz would use his photographic memory to get his lines down. He also held down the role of executive producer for “I Love Lucy” as well.

“I Love Lucy” took viewers in by the thousands each week for the hijinx involving the Ricardos and Mertzes. It ran for six seasons on CBS, bringing in millions of dollars for Arnaz and Ball. But the network itself raked in the bucks, too, with advertisers fighting for a coveted spot.

‘Little Ricky’ Actor Says He Connected Most With Arnaz on the Set

Obviously, fans of the show know that the Ricardos had a child. “Little Ricky” was a part of the show in its later seasons.

Keith Thibodeaux, who played “Little Ricky,” felt like he connected most with Arnaz than with other “I Love Lucy” cast members.

Thibodeaux talked about his time as Little Ricky on “I Love Lucy” during an interview back in 2019 with the New York Post. During the interview, Thibodeaux, who was billed as Richard Keith in the show, talked about his relationship with Arnaz.

“I really think the person I identified with the most was Desi Arnaz because of his Latin culture,” Thibodeaux said. “I was a Cajun from Louisiana and our cultures were very similar, and the fact that he was a percussionist and I was a percussionist, we had something in common.”

He said Arnaz’s death in 1986 really hit him hard, much more than the other cast members.