He always loved Lucy…even until the end.
He is best remembered for his role as Ricky Ricardo on the American television series sitcom I Love Lucy, starring with Lucille Ball, to whom he was married at the time. Arnaz was also internationally renowned for leading his Latin music band, the Desi Arnaz Orchestra. He and Ball are generally credited as the inventors of the rerun in connection with I Love Lucy. Arnaz is also partially credited with introducing the multi camera set up for the situation comedy, and using film for this method
Arnaz was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1986. He died several months later on December 2, 1986, at the age of 69.
Facts about ‘I Love Lucy’
1. CBS DIDN’T THINK AMERICANS WOULD BUY THAT LUCY WAS MARRIED TO A “FOREIGN” MAN.
When CBS approached Lucille Ball with the offer of turning her popular radio show My Favorite Husband into a television show, she agreed on one condition: that her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz, would be cast in the role of her husband. The network wasn’t convinced that American viewers would accept an average housewife being married to a “foreign” man with an indecipherable accent, even though Lucy and Desi had been married more than a decade.
2. LUCY AND DESI HAD TO TAKE THEIR SHOW ON THE ROAD TO CONVINCE THE NETWORK BRASS.
Desi had a successful career touring the country with his rhumba band. This was one of the major reasons Lucille wanted him to be cast as her TV husband (to keep him off the road and close to home). In an effort to show the network, and any potential sponsors, that they could work together as a comedy team, they created a vaudevillian type skit that was inserted into the middle of Desi’s performances with his Orchestra during a tour in the summer of 1950. The audiences erupted in applause over Lucille’s antics. The skit not only convinced the network executives that the couple could, in fact, be convincing as husband and wife, the skit was such a hit that they incorporated it into episode six of I Love Lucy’s first season.
3. THE SHOW BROKE GROUND IN SEVERAL WAYS, SIMPLY BECAUSE THE ARNAZES WOULDN’T MOVE TO NEW YORK.
Lucille and Desi wanted to work in Los Angeles. But in 1951, the majority of television shows were broadcast from New York, and that’s where network ponder Philip Morris wanted their show to be filmed as well. In those days, the U.S. wasn’t wired for television from coast-to-coast so shows broadcasted live could only be transmitted a certain distance. Shows were preserved on kinescopes (a movie camera aimed at a TV monitor that recorded the show in negligible quality) and shipped to distant stations.
Philip Morris let their objection be noted to I Love Lucy being performed in California and the kinescopes sent to New York; their biggest cigarette market was up and down the east coast and they wanted the best TV picture quality for that area. Desi suggested that the show be filmed with three cameras, the first for a sitcom. Using 3 cameras, it would be set like a stage play, which would provide the same quality picture for every market. But multi-cameras had never been used on a situation comedy before, and there were many problems and obstacles involved and one major hurdle was accommodating a live studio audience (Desi knew that Lucille performed best with immediate audience feedback).
Desi hired legendary cinematographer Karl Freund to help solve the 3 camera problems, and along with writer-producer Jess Oppenheimer and director Marc Daniels, they built a set with the necessary filming equipment strategically placed throughout. CBS did not like the additional expense involved in this huge undertaking but Desi struck a deal; Desi and Lucille would take a large cut in their pay but their newly branded company, Desilu Productions, would retain ownership of the films. The amazing quality of the 35 millimeter film was one of the reason that ‘I Love Lucy’ became so popular in rerun syndication many years after its original broadcast, and Desilu’s ownership of the entire series made Lucille and Desi the very first millionaire TV stars.
4. ONLY LUCY WAS ALLOWED TO MAKE FUN OF RICKY’S FRACTURED ENGLISH.
After a few episodes were filmed, it became an unwritten rule that only Lucy would ever poke fun at her husband’s English pronunciation problems. The writers had allowed other characters to make remarks, but in each case the “joke” was met with stony silence from the studio audience. For some reason, it seemed cruel when anyone other than Lucy making fun of Ricky’s English.
5. SMOKING WAS REQUIRED ON-CAMERA.
I Love Lucy almost never made it to the air because CBS had trouble securing a sponsor for the show. Then, tobacco giant Philip Morris signed on at the 11th hour. As a result of this new sponsor, lots of smoking was featured in each episode, and the name “Philip Morris” was worked into the dialogue whenever possible. There was, however, one small problem: Lucille Ball was a Chesterfield girl. Lucille figured out a way around her dilemma, she would have a stagehand grab any on-camera Philip Morris packs and switch out the contents with Chesterfield cigarettes. No one was the wiser.
Final Words To Lucy
The last words Desi Arnaz spoke before his death were to Lucille Ball. He had talked to her on the phone. Lucille Ball would later let his last words be known to the world. She said “His last words were this…..I love you too, Honey. Good luck with your show.” So even in his final moments….he always, loved Lucy. How touching.
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