Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met in 1940 on the set of the movie "Too Many Girls," They married six months later. She was a 28 year old actress, and he was a 23 year old musician and band leader.
Their marriage was a stormy one with arguments, fights and reconciliations. As a band leader he travelled a lot and this put a strain on their marriage. Desi drank too much on the road and when he drank, he was a womanizer. When Lucy was offered a sit-com, she insisted Desi be given the role of her on-screen husband. She thought this would keep him at home and their marriage solid.
"I love Lucy" was an unprecedented success and set milestones in television. It was the first inter-racial marriage on a television show. When Lucy became pregnant with their son Desi Jr., they wrote it into the script and made it part of the story. Lucy kept winning the love of her fans but Desi was the businessman. He managed to build the empire of DesiLu Productions which became one of the big television money makers of all time.
Desi protected Lucy, both as star and as wife. She deferred to him in anything that was related to business but she was the star. He never seemed to resent her being the main attraction.
When Desi stayed off the road tours and they started raising their family, their life together seemed to settle for a while. But the mix of two volatile people could not stay calm for long. There were always fights. When Desi drank, he became boorish and unmanageable and he turned to prostitutes. Screenwriter Bob Weiskopf said Desi’s attitude regarding his womanizing was, "What's the matter? I love her(Lucy). When I go out with women, they're usually hookers. Those don't count." Some insiders said that his visits to prostitutes were just that-visits. He usually just sat and drank with them.
They separated more than once before finally divorcing in 1960 after 20 years of marriage. Both remarried. Lucy married Gary Morton, but even after her marriage she would run old home movies over and over and ask friends how Desi was doing. Desi married Edith Hirsch, an actress whom friends thought looked a lot like Lucy. Desi said, “All I can say is that I loved her (Lucy) very much and in my own peculiar way I will always love her.”
Desi died of lung cancer in 1986. One of his last conversations was a phone call from Lucy during which they both said, “I love you.” She attended his memorial service, her grief obvious in the way she suddenly aged after his death. She died three years later.