Although I Love Lucy never left TV audiences short on laughs, it was pretty public knowledge the show’s two stars didn’t lead such a fun-filled life off-camera. While there’s no denying Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz loved each other, there were always whispers their marriage was far more tumultuous than their hit sitcom ever depicted.
In a 1991 issue, People magazine interviewed some of Ball and Arnaz’s close acquaintances about their off-camera issues. Here are 15 secrets you probably never knew about their relationship.
1. They were already ‘separated’ when the show started.
|Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz at a charity dinner circa 1945 | Archive Photos/Getty Images|
When the idea for I Love Lucy came to fruition, the married duo was already living two very separate lives — Ball was a rising star while Arnaz was constantly travelling with his band. “That’s the kind of marriage that has failure written all over it,” I Love Lucy director William Asher told People. “You’re separated a while, and before you know it. those giblets begin to jump.”
2. Lucy lobbied for Desi to be on the show.
|Lucy and Desi at home circa 1950 | FPG/Getty Images|
I Love Lucy was the TV concept of a radio show Ball had been on called “My Favorite Husband.” When it came time to cast for television, she insisted that Arnaz be cast as her spouse. Longtime writer Bob Weiskopf told People “she wanted him because she knew that if he went on the road with the band, he’d be catting around all the time. She wanted him at home, where she felt the marriage would have a better chance of lasting, which of course it did.”
3. Lucy had a couple miscarriages before her first child was born.
|Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz with their two children Desi Jr (left) and Lucie | Hulton Archive/Getty Images|
In addition to casting Arnaz in the show, Ball thought starting a family would help keep him at home instead of off causing mischief with his band. But having children proved to be a long and painful process. “Lucy had two or three miscarriages before she gave birth to little Lucie,” long-time friend Lillian Briggs Winograd told People. Lucie Arnaz was born three months before I Love Lucy‘s debut in 1951, and Desi Jr. was born in 1953.
4. Having children curbed some of Desi’s behavior — for a minute.
|Lucy and Desi with Desi Jr. in 1953 | KM Archive/Getty Images|
Bart Andrews, who wrote three books about Ball and Arnaz’s relationship, told People, having children did, in fact curtail some of Arnaz’s bad behavior for a spell. “Some of Desi’s womanizing was alleviated from the moment little Lucie was born,” he told the publication. “I think he felt more sensitive about those things and stopped some of that. For a while, at least.”
5. Desi was the savvy one.
|Lucy and Desi during happy times | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images|
“I could see what she saw in him,” singer Phyllis McGuire told People. “He was flashy, lovable, absolutely charming. And that accent…” Arnaz was also incredibly savvy when it came to business deals. “When they were beginning I Love Lucy, Desi bargained for ownership of those 179 episodes,” co-screenwriter William Lue said. “There was no concept of reruns in those days. A few years later Desi sold them all back to CBS for millions.”