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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

71 Years of Desilu ♥

 Happy anniversary, lovelies! 

There are so many off screen and on screen Old Hollywood couples that I love. Carole and Clark, Viv and Larry, Bogie and Betty, Kate and Spence (they count!)... all absolutely adorable and big favorites. But there's one couple that always come out on top for me: and yes despite the divorce, it's Lucy and Desi.

And today is their would-be 71st wedding anniversary! Alright, so they were both divorced from each other and had been married to different people at the time of their deaths, but LET'S BE FAIR: a lot of us disregard that. :) And with no disrespect to their second spouses, Edie and Gary, for I'm sure they made them very happy for those marriages did last. But these two will forever remain as Lucy and Ricky in our hearts for sure.

Lucy and Desi had met on the set of "Too Many Girls," a 1940 B movie where they did not even play one another's love interests. But the "B movie queen" and the "Cuban glamour boy" hit it off from the start. Well, actually, their first impressions of one another were not that good. Desi saw Lucy for the first time in a gold lame dress with a slit up to her thigh and a black eye, fresh off the set of "Dance, Girl, Dance." He could not believe this was the girl that was going to play an ingenue. His impression of her changed and fast later that day, when he saw her in what he would later describe: "a pair of tight fitting beige slacks and a yellow sweater, with beautiful blond hair and big blue eyes." He asked her if she would like for him to teach her how to rumba, as it "may come in handy for the picture," but it never did.

They did go out that night, for dinner and dancing. A few days later, co-star Eddie Bracken threw a beach party for those working on the picture. After this encounter they consummated their relationship and broke their engagements to their previous significant others. 

Being together was rocky, however. They were barely ever able to spend time together because Desi was on the road, touring with his rumba band, while Lucy was going about the country publicizing for pictures or either back at the studio making them. They fought a lot on the phone, often accusing each other of having other affairs. The country was fascinated by their romance, but no one thought it would last and both Lucy and Desi had told themselves marriage was out of the question.

Six months after their first meeting, on November 29th, 1940, Desi returned to New York with an idea in his mind and went to Lucy's hotel room. She was busy giving a interview to a reporter entitled, "Why I Will Always be a Bachelor Girl." Desi became impatient, threw the reporter out, and then told Lucy he had everything arranged for her to elope with him that weekend if she wanted to. He'd even waived the three day permit. Lucy said, "I knew things wouldn't be normal when I started going with you," but they decided they loved each other a lot, so there wasn't much else to worry about.

They drove out to Greenwich, Connecticut the next morning. They had to hurry to be back in time for Desi's show at the Roxy. They planned to get married at the Justice of the Peace's office, but the Justice wanted something nicer so he suggested a local country club. The bride wore a black fur jacket because that was all she had, but neither seemed to care much. The wedding ring was a cheap one from Woolworth's - the ring had been the only thing Desi had forgotten about, and all the jewelry stores were closed because it was Saturday, so this was the only thing Desi's business manager was able to dig up. Lucy said, "I love it!" and kept it always, even when it turned skinny and green and Desi bought another, bejeweled ring.

So they were married: with the Woolworth ring, at the Byram River Beagle Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, about noon, on Saturday, November 30th. They were not able to make it back to the Roxy in time, and when  the manager angrily asked Desi where he was, he replied in his trademark accent, "I'm in Connecticut." When the response was "CONNECTICUT??!", he said blissfully, "I've been marrying Lucille."

Friends, family, and the country gave it six weeks while personally they each gave their marriage three (weeks). But this union would last twenty years, spawn a television empire, two children, and the great television show of all time. It was a bumpy road. For years they were apart, and for the next decade they were constantly together. She would suffer many miscarriages. There was drinking and philandering. But when it was really boiled down it: you could always tell they loved each other.

Here's a walk down memory lane of their marriage. The quotes, by themselves and people who knew them, were found in various places, mostly from their autobiographies or statements made to a 1992 edition of "People" magazine. ♥

"But the telephone conversations back and forth during that time, the bills for them - Jesus, we could have bought half of AT&T....

The New York hotel operators listened to everything that went on, particularly if they knew you. They all knew Lucy and they all knew me. They were in the habit of listening to our arguments, and were accustomed to the fact that after one of us hung up on the other, five minutes later there would be another call.

One this particular night, in which this did not happen or at least did not happen yet, the operator herself, bless her soul, called Lucy and said, "Why haven't you called him back?"
["A Book" by Desi Arnaz. Desi remembers their furious fights on the phone and the bills they racked up screaming the word "WHAT?" over and  over, because 1940's long distance connection was so bad.]

"After the short ceremony, we ate our wedding breakfast in front of a bright fire in the club's lounge. Outside, a fresh mantle of snow hung on the pine trees. After all the indecision we'd been through, Desi and I were dazed with happiness. We kissed each other and the marriage certificate again and again. It still has my lipstick marks on it.

'I'm going to keep this forever and ever,' I told Desi, clutching it to my black-wool covered bosom. This marriage had to work. I would do anything, sacrifice anything, to make Desi happy."

["Love, Lucy" by Lucille Ball. Lucy's account of the original November 30th]

"Before they did the series, he was a bandleader coming home at three or four in the morning. And by then, she was up and on her way to makeup at RKO. She used to say, "We just can't keep meeting in the Supulveda tunnel."
[Charles Pomerantz, Lucy's publicist]

"Before the show began, they had already been seperated. An actress and a bandleader. He was on the road; she was a working  professional. That's the kind of marriage that has failure written all over it. You're seperated a while, and before you know it, those giblets begin to jump."
[William Asher, Lucy director]

"When they were having the baby and we did the show about the birth of Little Ricky, Desi was terribly emotional about her. He was really crazy about her. You could feel how they felt."

[William Asher, Lucy director]

"Both times I was pregnant, I mooned for hours over a baby photograph of Desi, hoping by some magic I would have a baby who looked just like him. Then we did a show where Lucy tells Ricky she is having a baby. .... [describes scene].... When we did this scene before an audience, Desi was suddenly struck by all the emotion he'd felt when we discovered, after ten childless years of marriage, that we were finally going to have Lucie. His eyes filled up and he couldn't finish the song; I started to cry, too. Vivian startled to sniffle. The director wanted retakes at the end of the show, but the audience stood up and shouted, "No, no!"

["Love, Lucy"by Lucille Ball. Lucy's account of the famous pregnancy episode, in which they broke character with their tears. The scene she describes is the one that we see on TV screens everywhere today.]

"Even after she'd married Gary, whenever she'd see me, she would always take me over to a corner and say, 'Have you heard from Desi lately?' She wanted to know how he was getting along. There was always that great, great love there."
[Jim Bacon, family friend]

"Maybe I'm the romantic, but there was a great, great love there, there really was. Desi was very unhappy about the breakup, and I think she was too. I don't think either one of them ever got over it."
[William Asher, Lucy director]

"I put the phone up to Dad's ear in the bed. And he gave me a look that said, 'Who is it?' And I said, 'It's the redhead.' He just listened, and I heard what she said. She just said the same thing over and and over again. It was muffled, but you could clearly make out it was the same thing over and over again. It was, 'I love you. I love you, Desi, I love you.' You could even hear the intonations of the voice change, how she meant each one, the interpretations. And I just sat there, trying not to show him I was listening, because I had to hold the phone. I couldn't get out of the room; he couldn't hold the phone. And he said, "I love you, too, honey."
["Desilu", account by Lucie Arnaz. This event occurred on November 30th, 1986: Lucy and Desi's would-be forty sixth wedding anniversary and two days before Desi died.]

Take a minute to get a little "I Love Lucy" in your day today! 

Ciao! :)

PS: Aren't you all thrilled Robert Osborne is coming back to TCM? I can hardly wait to hear, "I'm Robert Osborne," again!


moviechick9620 said...

oh dear this is lovely! i was just writing one myself! hopefully it will be up by the end of the day... you did a great job with this and again... just GREAT:D

Maggie said...

I adore this post! What a lovely tribute to this beautiful couple (yes, I believe they were a beautiful couple in spite of all their hardships). Even though it was difficult and sad, I think the divorce gave them a chance to have a healthier and ultimately happier relationship. They never denied that they still cared about each other, and it's obvious they loved each other until the day they died. Have you ever read "I Loved Lucy"? It's a terrific and honest book about Lucy in the last decade of her life and it includes a very touching chapter about how grief stricken Lucy was when Desi died. Though my favorite way to picture them is as a young, happy couple at the Desilu Ranch in Chatsworth. :) Anyway, kudos to you for this wonderfully beautiful post! :)

Samantha said...

Oh I love this! I always remember reading somewhere that Gary said, after Lucy died, "She's happy. She's with Desi now." That sentiment always makes me cry. Their arguments were fueled by what kept them together: intense passion. I think their love story is one of the most wonderful stories in the world.

StanwyckFan said...

It's gorgeous, Rianna. I mean, your love for these people is just so beautifully obvious - I love it!

Rianna said...

Brigitte: Why, thanks, I'm glad you liked it. :) I'll be sure and check out your blog as well!

Maggie: Thank you! I agree with you that they were a beautiful couple, despite the hardships. And I also think that the divorce was best for the two of them as they were able to move forward in relationships that were more stable, but they got along so well after the divorce, and always loved and cared about each other. I haven't read "I Loved Lucy," but it's one I'm hoping to purchase soon. I am the same: my favorite way to picture them is on their ranch, like in their home movies! I think those Chatsworth days were truly their Glory Years.

Samantha: Thanks so much! Yes, I remember seeing that quote somewhere before, I believe it's from a Lucie Arnaz interview, but I'm not sure. I think it's true, however. :) They fill me with such sentiment too. I agree, I think passion was both a pro and con for them. And yes, they will always be my favorite couple! :)

Natalie: Thanks so much for the lovely words, dear! I'm really happy my love for them shone through because I do love them quite a lot. :)

Dani said...

This really was a lovely post. I didn't know much about them and certainly appreciated learning all of this. I bet they had a pretty exciting life. All of the old time stars seem to have had exciting lives.
Also, I loved the scene when Ricky finds out about Lucy's pregnancy, I thought it was moving and emotional. And real. Now I know why I had these thoughts when I watched it earlier this week.
And, as I told you, the video is great, so keep up the good work ;)

Rianna said...

Thanks so much, Dani! I'm glad you learned something about Desilu from this, and they really did lead exciting lives.
That episode, I think, is my favorite and it was one of Lucy's, too. On an episode of the Joan Rivers show a few years before she died, Joan asked Lucy which episode would she like to put in a time capsule, and she said "The baby show." The fact that the tears were unscripted and real makes it even more moving.

Anonymous said...

What a cute video! I love Lucy & Desi!! "I Love Lucy" is my favorite show. Frank Sinatra's vocal was great too! :)

Rianna said...

Thanks a lot, I'm glad you liked this!

Werner (from Germany) said...

I just re-discovered Lucy & Desi, one of Hollywood's greatest true love stories! Accidentally I found your website and started reading all these moving testimonies of love. You did a great job! Lovely site!

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