Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball met while filming “Too Many Girls” in 1940. At the time, Lucy was engaged, and Desi was in a very serious relationship himself. But, almost instantly, they were in love. They spent the night together after knowing each other a few days, then called their respective significant others and broke it off. A fitting impulsive start for them.
Their relationship was tumultuous and passionate to say the least – but there was genuine love between the couple even after they were divorced. When Desi died in 1986, the last person he spoke to besides his daughter was Lucy, who had called him on the phone and simply repeated “I love you Desi, I love you” for a few minutes. 16
Lucy and Desi were married on November 30, 1940. They eloped to Greenwich , Connecticut , a few days before. Up until then, they had been telling the press they would never get married, because of how different they were, not to mention how much they fought. They both also lied about their ages on the certificates to make the age gap between them a year, instead of the actual six. Lucy claimed to be 26, and Desi bumped his age up to 25, even though he was only 23 at the time.
Lucy and Desi had two children. The first was a girl, Lucie, who was born on July 15, 1951. Their son, Desiderio IV (who later changed his name to Desi Jr.), was born on January 17, 1953, and they incorporated Lucy's pregnancy with him into the television show to create the character “Little Ricky.”
Both Lucy and Desi were extremely jealous, possessive, and hot-tempered. Many of their phone calls (and they had a lot of them – “We could have bought half of AT&T” Desi claimed 17) consisted of almost nothing but yelling, with either or one both of them accusing the other of rampant infidelity, calling each other names not to be repeated, and eventually slamming the phone down, completely fed up. Lucy was more justified in this – since Desi was not known for his fidelity, a trait he attributed to the way he had been raised. Both his father and grandfather had had mistresses and illegitimate children, although Desi never had any other children but the ones he had with Lucy.
Another strain on their relationship was their respective success. Lucy was getting much better reviews as an actress than Desi, which was a serious blow to his ego. Even in “I Love Lucy,” she was the main star. In public, he blew it off with quips, like when he was talking to a reporter about never winning an Emmy-nomination for the show himself, and he responded, “I'm waiting for them to put in a category of bongo drummer - and if they have one and don't nominate me, then I'll squawk.” 18 But in private, situations like this only worsened his drinking and his womanizing, which led to a worsening of their relationship.
In October of 1944, while Desi was in the service, Lucy filed for divorce. However, the night before she and Desi had gone out to dinner and then spent the night together. She got up, went to court, and then came back home to him. This annulled the divorce because of a California law that the people in a divorce had to remain separate for a year. However, by late 1959, their marriage was unbearable for both of them. Desi eventually said told her he wanted a divorce, and over the next few months, they saw less and less of each other. The divorce was finalized on May 4, 1960, but by that time a lot of the bad feelings had evaporated, so they parted on slightly better terms and remained very close until Desi's death in 1986.