I Love Lucy remains a fan favorite sitcom thanks to the brilliant performances by Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz. Considered Hollywood’s golden couple for years, the two parted ways shortly after returning from a family vacation abroad.
Pressure was at an all-time high after ‘I Love Lucy’ ended
Ball and Arnaz tied the knot in 1940. Their relationship was rocky from the start, with Arnaz’s penchant for drinking and other women causing turbulence in their marriage.
“My usual complaint was that Desi only worked at marriage in spurts,” Ball wrote in her autobiography, “Love, Lucy“. “I don’t believe he ever really intended to settle down and become a good, steady, faithful husband. He said I was much too jealous, and so the arguments roared on and on.”
Though I Love Lucy aired its final episode in May 1957, the Hollywood couple was still up to their ears in show business. Ball and Arnaz continued to run Desilu Productions with several profitable deals in the works. The pressure was taking its toll on their marriage, but Ball attempted to salvage their relationship in the spring of 1959 by going on a family trip with their two kids, Lucie and Desi Jr.
“I made my last effort toward a relationship with Desi,” the famous redhead shared. “We took the children, then seven and six. … and 48 pieces of luggage to Europe: Paris, Rome, Capri, and London.”
Lucille Ball felt ‘bitter and unforgiving’
The trip turned out to be a disaster. Between intrusive questions from the British press and Arnaz’s neglect of his family, the vacation brought on more stress for the couple, which resulted in continued arguments.
“Big Desi was restless, uncommunicative, and bored,” she wrote. “When he wasn’t drinking, he spent most of his time on the phone with the studio or checking the Del Mar racetrack, where his horses were running.”
Ball and Arnaz reached an impasse when they returned to the United States, with Arnaz taking up residence outside of their home. The legendary comedian knew their relationship and its explosive history was past the point of repair.
“I was completely disenchanted, bitter, and unforgiving,” Ball revealed. “And the kids saw and heard way too much. … Desi and I came back from the trip not speaking. He moved into the guesthouse and then went abroad again, alone this time, for several months.”
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz divorced in 1960
After their European excursion, Ball and Arnaz made the decision to divorce. She recalled breaking the news to Lucie and Desi Jr.
“When we had finished speaking, there was a silence, an aching silence,” Ball remembered, according to the book Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz by Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert. “Finally, Lucie broke the silence by asking in a small voice, ‘But you don’t have to get a divorce, do you?’ Another silence, and then little Desi asked, ‘Can’t you take it all back – and make up?’”
They continued to work together on-camera in The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour and at Desilu Productions for a few years following their divorce in 1960. Ball bought Arnaz out of Desilu Productions in 1962 and became the first woman to run a Hollywood studio.
“Toward the end of our marriage, he was practically jumping out windows,” the comedy icon remarked of Arnaz. “I was at fault too. … You can’t go on and on for years being miserable about a situation and not have it change you.”
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