Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz divorced twice.
Often, it is difficult to figure out exactly where a particular legend got started. When it comes to the supposed two divorces of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, however, it is quite simple how one might think that the couple had been married and divorced twice.
The pair met in 1940 during the filming of the movie version of the Broadway musical, Too Many Girls (which was a Rodgers and Hart musical)…
The pair eloped in November of 1940.
Here is where the legend begins – their marriage was not a smooth one from the start. Ball wanted children, but suffered a miscarriage in 1942. Almost from the get go, Arnaz began having affairs, something that was only exacerbated when Arnaz was drafted in 1942 (he was classified for limited duty due to an earlier knee injury). So in 1944, Lucille Ball filed for a divorce from Arnaz.
Clearly, that’s mostly where the idea began that they were divorced – she did, in fact, file for a divorce. However, the day before the divorce would become finalized, Desi met with Lucy and the pair kissed and made up. Lucy dropped the suit. In fact, at the time, most folks in the media figured it was just a publicity stunt.
The second part of the legend comes from 1949, where the pair, in a sign of their re-commitment to each other, and also to make up for the fact that they did not have a proper wedding the first time around, had a large wedding – also, in 1949, Ball was just coming off a popular radio situation comedy that led directly to the pair developing for television the show that ultimately became I Love Lucy.
So taken from afar, you have Ball filing for divorce and the pair having a wedding in 1949 – sure looks at a glance like they divorced then re-married, doesn’t it?
But that was not the case.
After two more miscarriages, Ball and Arnaz had their first child in 1951, the same year that a certain show called I Love Lucy began (a second child would follow two years later).
Years after I Love Lucy was off the air, though, the couple DID divorce in 1960. Again, the stress from running their production company, Desilu, had led Arnaz to drinking, drugs and womanizing again.
The pair did stay good friends the rest of their lives, even as they both re-married (Arnaz was married to his second wife longer than he was married to Lucille Ball!), and in fact, Lucille Ball was the last person to speak to Arnaz before he died in 1986 (Ball would pass on in 1989).
The legend is…
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