For 40 million viewers across America, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were the perfect image of a happily married couple.
Even decades later, reruns of the show feature the kind of love that still inspires women to search for “their Desi.”
But you can’t believe everything you see on TV.
It’s true that Ball and Arnaz shared a bond that impressed their friends and family, but their life at home wasn’t as cheery as it looked on I Love Lucy.
Desi and Lucy were never a typical couple, but they seemed downright mismatched when they met on the set of the movie Too Many Girls in 1940.
She was 28, and a b-actress at the beginning of her movie career.
He was 23, a Cuban-American bandleader, and – as Lucy admits – not her type.
But the couple fell head over heels in love with each other, and started a whirlwind romance.
Arnaz was actually engaged to another woman when he met Lucy, but just six months later the couple were married.
One of I Love Lucy‘s directors remembered the pair as “the kind of marriage that has failure written all over it,” and their relationship definitely had a rocky start.
Early in their marriage, Ball struggled to keep Arnaz happy, as his hectic schedule sent him on tours across America.
“Lucy always wanted to please him,” a friend of Lucy’s told Closer.
“If he wanted something, she would get it for him. If they were seated and he needed more room, she would slide over. I found it surprising because she was such a strong, independent lady, but when it came to Desi, she was very old-fashioned.”
By 1944, the marriage was already on the rocks. The couple even briefly separated after Ball filed for divorce, on account of Arnaz’s drinking and womanizing.
But the birth of their first child, Lucie, seemed to calm Arnaz down, and gave him a reason to stay close to home.
Soon, Ball would have an even better reason: their own TV show.