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Desi Arnaz: 1917-1986: Bandleader, Entertainer, Producer - Happy Tv Couple

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By 1948, the year Milton Berle first appeared on television, television sets existed in one million American living rooms. In one year's time, Uncle Miltie's popularity had driven that number to four million. Arnaz and Ball formed Desilu productions in 1948 to handle their various appearances and projects. A year later, the two were remarried in an official Catholic ceremony. By 1950 they were both successful radio stars. Arnaz was the bandleader for Bob Hope's radio show, then was the host of Your Tropical Trip, a game show.

While still making films during the late 1940s, Ball starred as the flaky housewife in a hit radio comedy called My Favorite Husband. When CBS television decided to put My Favorite Husband on the air, Ball demanded that Arnaz be cast to play her husband. The studio balked—who would believe Ball married to a "wop?" one executive exclaimed, according to American Heritage, confusing his ethnic slurs. "What do you mean nobody'll believe it?" Ball shot back, "We are married." The pilot was shot and called The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show. On it, Arnaz played a bandleader, essentially recreating his real-life persona. Even still, CBS executives wanted to "Keep the redhead, but ditch the Cuban," according to American Heritage. To appease CBS, Arnaz made an offer. Ball and Arnaz agreed to a huge salary cut, in exchange for sole ownership of the show. Thinking they weren't giving up much, CBS executives quickly agreed. They could not have been more wrong—the deal turned out to be the bargain of the century for Ball and Arnaz. Fifty years after the show's premiere, a single episode of I Love Lucy cost $100,000 to air. It was a multi-million dollar error for CBS.

For the first time in their marriage, Ball and Arnaz were working and living together for an extended period of time. Their new schedule provided a chance for them to work on their relationship and have children. "All their hopes, plans, and dreams for a happy future were wrapped up in that sitcom," daughter Lucie Arnaz later wrote in the book I Love Lucy. Lucie Desiree Arnaz was born in 1951, before the show's debut. Ball and Arnaz played Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, a lovable couple who endeared themselves to the world through the television. Ball played the scatterbrained housewife and Arnaz was a Latin bandleader who acted as her straight man, bursting into fits of Spanish when exasperated with his wife. Through it all, Arnaz always attributed the show's success to his wife, and stepped back and let Ball be the star. After Lucy became pregnant with the couple's real-life son, Desi Jr., Little Ricky—their fictional son—arrived on the show. 44 million people—more than 70 percent of the American television audience—tuned in to watch the episode. Life was cheerful both onscreen and off for the Arnazes. The show won Emmy awards for Best Situation Comedy in both 1952 and 1953.


Desi Arnaz: 1917-1986: Bandleader, Entertainer, Producer - Always Loved Lucy [next] [back] Desi Arnaz: 1917-1986: Bandleader, Entertainer, Producer - Young Latin Bandleader

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