I Love Lucy: Real Marriage of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball That 'I Love Lucy' Got Wrong
16 Things About the Real Marriage of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball That ‘I Love Lucy’ Got Wrong

16 Things About the Real Marriage of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball That ‘I Love Lucy’ Got Wrong

Trista - March 9, 2019

16 Things About the Real Marriage of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball That ‘I Love Lucy’ Got Wrong
Desi Arnaz remarried Edith Mack Hirsch. Wikimarried/ Pinterest.

5. Lucy and Desi Both Got Remarried

Lucy and Desi’s divorce was acrimonious, not just because they had been America’s golden couple, but because of the pain that it caused their children. Little Lucie, who was nine years old at the time, later said, “Part of me probably totally understood why, because we had heard the arguments and that wasn’t fun either. But it was hard. It was very hard. And I didn’t want my dad out of the house. He was out of the house enough. I didn’t want him to go any further away.” The two continued to cooperate professionally and retained dual ownership of Desilu Productions for another two years.

Less than a year after the divorce, Lucy married comedian Gary Morton. Their marriage was more contented and less passionate than her previous one; Gary never embarrassed her or drank too much. Desi also remarried, to a red-headed neighbor named Edith Hirsch, in 1963. Many referred to Edith as “Lucy 2” and felt that he only married her because of how much she reminded him of Lucy. Both Lucy’s and Desi’s second marriages lasted until their partners died in old age, Gary in 1985 and Edith in 1986. They were both capable of long-term, steady relationships, just not with each other.

16 Things About the Real Marriage of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball That ‘I Love Lucy’ Got Wrong
Publicity photo from Here’s Lucy. Pictured are Lucie Arnaz, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Jr. The scene is Carter’s Unique Employment Agency where Lucy works in 1968. CBS Television/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

4. Desi Produced Lucy’s New Television Show

Following the couple’s divorce, Desilu Productions lost some of the shows that it produced. Despite the anger surrounding their marriage and divorce, Desi knew that his wife had incredible talent as an actress and comedienne and that America loved her. He encouraged her to make her own show and offered her a slot in the studio’s production schedule. Studio executives doubted that Lucy would be able to carry her show without Desi co-starring beside her, but The Lucy Show lasted for five seasons, from 1963 until 1968. Though it was produced in color, it would never achieve the same level of success as its predecessor I Love Lucy.

In The Lucy Show, Lucy played Lucy Carmichael, a widow with two children who lives in suburban Connecticut and works part-time as a secretary. Like I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show set its precedents, most notably by featuring a widowed woman whom the nation knew had, in real life, get divorced. Lucy Carmichael’s best friend was Vivian Bagley, played by Vivian Vance, who also played Ethel Mertz. Desi was the executive producer of the show, wanting to help ensure that Lucy continued to succeed in show business. He eventually moved on after 15 episodes, possibly because filming her shows was too painful.

16 Things About the Real Marriage of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball That ‘I Love Lucy’ Got Wrong
Actress Lucille Ball and husband, Desi Arnaz seated in directors chairs at press conference in Los Angeles, Calif., 1953. Los Angeles Times – Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library/ Wikimedia.

3. Lucy and Desi Never Stopped Loving Each Other

There was no question that Lucy and Desi were passionately in love with each other while they were married. They couldn’t stand being around each other and couldn’t stop fighting. Even after getting remarried, though, Lucy and Desi never stopped loving each other; those closest to them believed that they never did get over their divorce. Every year on their anniversary, Desi sent Lucy red and white carnations. Lucy frequently watched reruns of the home movies that they had made together and asked mutual friends how he was doing. The two went on to become good friends.

In their old age, Lucy would frequently check in on Desi when he was dying of lung cancer. Lucie recalled one of her parents’ visits while her dad was dying, “She just said the same thing over and over again. It was muffled, but you could clearly make out it was the same thing over and over again. It was, ‘I love you. I love you. Desi, I love you…’ And he said, ‘I love you, too, honey. Good luck with your show.” When Lucy died in 1989, three years after Desi, her second husband, Gary, said that she is now happy because she’s with Desi.

16 Things About the Real Marriage of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball That ‘I Love Lucy’ Got Wrong
A photo still of Lucille Ball from the 1950s. Flickr/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain.

2. Lucy Became Best Friends With Desi’s Second Wife

When Desi became engaged to Edith, Lucy felt that the pain of watching him get married to someone would be overwhelming, even after being happily remarried for two years. However, she and Edith got on quite well as friends, making the sting of divorce less painful for both Desi and Lucy. Lucy was able to maintain a friendly relationship with her ex-husband and also enjoy camaraderie with his new wife. Little Lucie said of Edith years later after she died, “She was a joy, an absolute joy. Great laugh. She taught me how to drive; she went bowling with us; she took us to the fair. She knew exactly how to handle my dad. She was amazing… I really miss her.”

After marrying Edith, Desi significantly reduced the amount of time that he spent in show business. Edith was able to do some acting, thanks to her husband’s influence, but she never became a household name like Lucy. Despite being in a less tumultuous marriage and relinquishing many of the stresses of his professional life, Desi never gave up drinking and gambling. Still, they were able to enjoy cordial relationships with each other, and Lucy and Desi spent time together with their grandson, Simon.

16 Things About the Real Marriage of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball That ‘I Love Lucy’ Got Wrong
Lucille Ball at her last public appearance at the 61st Academy Awards in 1989, four weeks before her death. Ball’s second husband Gary Morton can be seen on the left side of the photograph. Alan Light / Wikimedia.

1. The Marriage Didn’t Last, But the Show Did

Lucy wanted to produce the show as a last attempt to save a marriage that was already crumbling if nothing else by preventing her husband from traveling around and “catting around.” The marriage ended shortly after the show stopped filming, but in the years since, I Love Lucy has remained a classic piece of pure Americana. It became the longest continually-running show in 2007 when it had aired for a solid 50 years after the end of its production. On what would have been Lucy’s 100th birthday, Google commemorated her with some of her most iconic scenes. And by the time Lucy died in 1989, she was one of the wealthiest women in the world.

The reality is that the stardom that both Lucy and Desi enjoyed together was not at all reflective of their personal lives. On-screen, they were an idyllic couple living a seemingly perfect life together in their Manhattan apartment. Off-screen, their lives were anything but ideal. Both of their lives were fraught with challenges, many of which they were able to overcome, just not together. Nonetheless, without the tumultuous marriage that ultimately ended in divorce, America (and the rest of the world) would never have loved Lucy.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“40 Fascinating Facts about Comedy’s Sweetheart, Lucille Ball”, Sarah January, History Collection, September 25, 2019″

“The Complicated And Dark History Of Lucille Ball And Desi Arnaz’s Marriage,” by Erin McCann. Ranker.

“CBS Loved Lucy.” The Pop History Dig.

“Loving and Fighting Furiously: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.” Love Letters to Old Hollywood. April 22, 2016.

“Lucille Ball.” Internet Movie Database.

“‘They were fighting all the time’: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s daughter reveals how comedy’s golden couple suffered through a ‘horrible divorce’ while her father battled alcoholism,” by Anneta Konstantinides. Daily Mail. August 7, 2018.