14. Their Marriage Rocked the Status Quo
America in the 1940s was a place of intense racism. While Jim Crow laws in the South and other forms of institutional racism were primarily directed at African-Americans, at best, people were tolerant of Latinos. The thought of a mixed-race marriage was appalling, particularly among two rising Hollywood stars. All that alongside the fact that Desi’s contract said he couldn’t get married. When he suggested to Lucy that they elope, she said, “But I thought we decided that we couldn’t get married.” His response was, “That’s right, but we are,” Desi replied. Their relationship took on one of the darkest aspects of American history.
Lucy proposed a radio show, My Favorite Husband, to her studio executives. They loved the idea, except for the part about her husband being Latino. Lucy insisted that Desi would appear with her, but when they continued to refuse, she did what we would expect a fiery red-headed actress to do: she dropped the studio and went on tour with Desi. They traveled across the country and performed the show in theatres as a slapstick vaudeville act. The audiences couldn’t get enough of the wife’s zany antics. CBS realized that there was something to the show, and in 1951, I Love Lucy premiered on the silver screen.