While things seemed like they were fun and games on the set of “I Love Lucy,” behind the scenes, Desi Arnaz was very serious about his accent.
Cuban immigrant, Desi Arnaz moved to America in 1934. After arriving in the US, Arnaz would create one of the most successful production companies in Hollywood, known as Desilu Productions, alongside his on and off-camera wife, Lucille Ball.
Despite becoming quite a successful businessman and actor in showbusiness, he could never escape his Cuban accent. Arnaz had issues with anyone who poked fun at him about it, even though fans found it cute. Arnaz harbored resentment to anyone who made fun of his accent while on the set— except for one person.
‘Lucy Hires a Tutor’
Along the same lines of Lucy being the only one able to poke fun at Desi’s accent, the writers of the show came up with an episode titled “Lucy Hires an English Tutor.”
The synopsis of the “I Love Lucy” show explains that Ball is concerned with her and Arnaz’s unborn child learning perfect English. So she hires a grammar teacher.
In this scene, Ball asks Arnaz asks to read a children’s book out loud. Ricky starts off fine, but gets stuck on the word “bushes.” He says “booges.” The reading continues and Lucy continues to correct Ricky on his mispronunciations.
Desi Arnaz’s Unwritten Rule On the Set Of ‘I Love Lucy’
After “I Love Lucy” taped a few episodes, Arnaz instituted an unwritten rule that no one could make fun of his accent except his wife.
Due to his pronunciation problems, the show’s writers had allowed other characters to make remarks about it. Still, the writers wrote that the “joke” would get a response of silence from the studio audience. As a result, the silence made it seem cruel when someone other than Lucy mocked his poor English.
In addition, the unwritten made it seem as if Ball’s teasing was coming from a place of love for Arnaz.
The couple unfortunately divorced in 1960 after Arnaz’s alcohol abuse and infidelity became too much. Even though their relationship ended in divorce, their contribution to the entertainment industry will go down in television history. At the time, the show having a mixed-race couple was highly controversial and practically unheard of before then.
In fact, Ball had to put her career on the line to get Arnaz the part. She went against the network and finally persuaded them to cast Arnaz in “I Love Lucy.” As a result, the show became an undeniable success in Hollywood.