Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz may seem an odd pairing on paper. They have little in common in their backstories, but their chemistry was undeniable. The couple would go on to set the gold standard for all television marriages. And while their off-camera life was complicated, their marriage produced two children and countless hours of great comedy.
Ball and Arnaz met in 1940 on the set of the RKO movie Too Many Girls. Ball, 28 at the time, played Connie Casey who is starting college, not realizing her father has hired bodyguards to watch over her. Arnaz, 23, was making a name for himself as a bandleader. Ball said they fell in love instantly.
They eloped within a year of meeting. Ball was so smitten with her new husband, that costars thought she’d eventually have to come down and the marriage would fail.
“You could tell the sparks were flying with Lucy,” Eddie Bracken, a co-star on Too Many Girls, told People. “It happened so fast it seemed it wouldn’t last. Everybody on the set made bets about how long it would last.”
They were partially right.
Ball divorced Arnaz in 1944, but the couple would reconcile soon after and remarry, Collider said. “I Love Lucy” would play a big part in their reconciliation. Arnaz was spending nights leading his band. He would return home when Ball was preparing to go into the studio for work. They rarely saw one another.
But they stayed in contact after their divorce, and after talking through their issues decided to work it out. However, that would mean they would need to get on a similar schedule.
They would need to find a project they could work on together. But they struggled to find a show that would have both of them as the leads so they went on the road. The couple put together a comedy and music act. Fans loved them. And that show formed the basis for “I Love Lucy.”
Lucille Ball Loved Desi Arnaz Stayed Friendly, Remarried
“I Love Lucy” would last for six seasons. But what brought them together, also drove them apart. The show ended partly because their marriage off-screen was crumbling, and they were tired from the television grind, it was reported.
“People wonder why they got divorced, but I wonder how they stopped from killing each other,” friend Carol Cook told Closer Weekly. “Desi had it together when they were building the empire, but once they attained it, it just wasn’t exciting anymore, and things fell apart.”
They divorced for a second and final time three years later in 1960. Ball married comedian and producer Gary Morton in 1961. Arnaz married Edith Hirsch in 1963. They would stay in those marriages until their deaths.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz stayed close for the rest of their lives, despite feuding the press from time to time, as they had to raise their two children — Lucie and Desi Arnaz Jr. When Desi Arnaz died in 1986, Ball called him. Her final words to him were “I love you. I love you. Desi, I love you,” their daughter said. His last words to her were “I love you too, honey.”
Ball was happy in her second marriage, friends and family said. She didn’t expect to find love after divorcing Arnaz. But she fell for Morton after a friend set them up on a blind date.
“With Gary, I’ve become a woman with a capacity for happiness again,” she wrote to a friend.