Sections: Latin Roots/Yankee Roots | The Cast, Crew, and Set | I Love Lucy—On the Move | Theme Songs | Legacy 

Desiderio Alberto Arnaz III, y de Acha was born into a prominent family in Santiago de Cuba, but when the family’s fortunes were dramatically reversed by the Batista Revolution in 1933, Arnaz immigrated to Florida the following year. After performing for a time with a rumba band in Miami and with the famed Xavier Cugat Orchestra in New York.

Lucille Desirée Ball’s origins were less patrician. She was born in Jamestown, New York; her mother was a pianist and her father, a telephone lineman. An avid performer from early childhood, she enrolled in drama school in New York City at age seventeen, but failed to impress the instructors. After working as a waitress and fashion model, and, occasionally, as a Broadway chorus girl, she was hired to appear as a Goldwyn Girl in the 1933 film Roman Scandals. Some forty more films followed during the next six years, before she met Desi Arnaz, shortly after his arrival at the RKO studios. They were married on November 30, 1940.

Stardom in the 1940s

Arnaz got his first big break in 1939 when, at age twenty-two, he was cast on Broadway in Rodgers and Hart's Too Many Girls. The following year he was signed to repeat his role in the film version of the musical, which costarred Lucille Ball.

Scrapbook page showing press coverage of Arnaz’s debut role on Broadway in Too Many Girls, 1940. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (001.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0001p1]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Desi Arnaz’s Appearance at Miami Beach’s Rumba Casino, 1941

Arnaz became an American citizen in 1943 and served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps for the remainder of World War II. After the war, he formed the Desi Arnaz Orchestra and toured extensively; for a time he was also featured as the musical director of Bob Hope’s radio show, and he briefly hosted a musical radio program, Your Tropical Trip.

Scrapbook page showing advertisements and press coverage surrounding Arnaz’s appearance at Miami Beach’s Rumba Casino, 1941. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (004.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0004]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Publicity Photographs of Ball and Arnaz, ca. 1945

Ball continued her career in Hollywood, making twenty-eight more films between 1940 and 1951. She became known as “Queen of the B’s” (the so-called “B movies” were usually lower-budget and shorter-duration than the top-billed films).

Scrapbook page showing publicity photographs of Ball and Arnaz, ca. 1945. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (006.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0006]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Photographs of Arnaz Boating, ca. 1945

Scrapbook page with photographs of Arnaz boating, ca. 1945. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (008.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0008]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Ball with her First Automobile in Hollywood, 1933

Scrapbook page with images of Ball and her first automobile shortly after her arrival in Hollywood, 1933. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (009.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0009p1]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Ball at the swimming pool at their Desilu “ranch” in Chatsworth, California, ca. 1942

In 1941 Ball and Arnaz purchased their first home, a five-acre “ranch” (or “ranchito,” as Arnaz referred to it) in the then-rural Chatsworth district of Los Angeles. They christened it “Desilu,” a combination of their own names that would later become world-famous as the name of their production company.

Scrapbook pages with photographs of Ball at the swimming pool at their Desilu “ranch” in Chatsworth, California, ca. 1942. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (012.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0012]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Arnaz at the swimming pool at their Desilu “ranch” in Chatsworth, California, ca. 1942

Scrapbook pages with photographs of Arnaz at the swimming pool at their Desilu “ranch” in Chatsworth, California, ca. 1942. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (013.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0013]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Mr. and Mrs. Desi Arnaz

Scrapbook page with a photograph of Ball and Arnaz, in the late 1940s. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (016.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0016]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Ball’s and Arnaz’s Second Wedding on June 19, 1949

By the late 1940s, Ball and Arnaz still had no children. And Ball came to attribute this—at least in part—to the fact that they had been married by a judge and not in a church. In 1949 the two were married again at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Canoga Park, California. Ball and Arnaz continued to live at their Desilu ranch with daughter Lucie (b. 1951) and son Desi, Jr. (b. 1953) until the family moved to Beverly Hills in 1954.

Image from scrapbook page showing Ball and Arnaz following their second wedding at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Canoga Park, California, on June 19, 1949. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (026.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0026p1]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Ball and Arnaz Working Together

In 1948 Ball starred in a new CBS radio show, My Favorite Husband, a domestic comedy in which Ball played Liz Cooper, the “wacky wife” of banker George Cooper. Ball had wanted Arnaz to costar, believing that working together would provide some stability for their famously tempestuous marriage. However, the CBS executives opposed the idea on the grounds that Arnaz would not be believable as a typical American husband. Two years later, when CBS suggested transferring the show to the new medium of television, Ball again asked that Arnaz costar. Again, the network opposed the idea, but after Ball and Arnaz created a vaudeville show and toured for several months with great success, the CBS executives relented and set in motion preparations for a broadcast project that would forever change the face of television.

Scrapbook pages showing photographs of Ball and Arnaz in their vaudeville show, 1951. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (022.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0022]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

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Ball and Arnaz in their vaudeville show, 1951

Scrapbook pages showing photographs of Ball and Arnaz in their vaudeville show, 1951. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress (024.00.00). [Digital ID # lucy0024]. All scrapbooks donated by Lucie Arnaz. Rights to the images in the photographs and scrapbook items in this collection are the sole property of Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr./Desilu, too, LLC

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/i-love-lucy/latin-rootsyankee-roots.html#obj10

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Sections: Latin Roots/Yankee Roots | The Cast, Crew, and Set | I Love Lucy—On the Move | Theme Songs | Legacy