Here’s the Most Shocking Surprise About Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s Marriage

I Love Lucy is one of the most impactful and influential shows in television history. The 1950s sitcom paved the way for both women and interracial couples on television and inspired Americans for generations.

But in order to break down barriers, its stars, Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, had to break some rules. One of the most fascinating and surprising details we recently learned comes from Us Weekly. According to the publication, the union between Lucy and Desi began with the couple lying about their ages to prevent the public from discovering that Lucy was actually six years older than her husband (she was 29 when they got married in 1940). At the time, it was widely considered taboo for an older woman to marry a younger man. And so, on their marriage certificate, the couple both allegedly listed their birth year as 1914 (Lucy was actually born in 1911 while Desi’s birth year was 1917).

While Lucy and Desi were trying to be discreet about their ages behind the scenes, the two wound up being revolutionaries in front of the cameras when I Love Lucy premiered in 1951. Lucy and Desi (who played Ricky Ricardo) reportedly became the first interracial couple to appear on television. The show premiered 16 years before Loving v. Virginia — a landmark Supreme Court case that struck down state laws banning interracial marriage in the United States.

lucille ball and desi arnaz in pilot episode of television series i love lucy, 1951 photo by cbsgetty images

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What’s more, I Love Lucy was also one of the first shows to have a pregnant leading lady. But due to the production’s disapproval of showing Lucy’s pregnancy on camera, the word “pregnant” was banned from the show.

‘Being the Ricardos’

Amazon

The Ricardos’ marriage on I Love Lucy was made for television, but Lucy and Desi’s off-screen romance was allegedly filled with years of infidelity and alcoholism. The new Amazon Prime film, Being the Ricardos, stars Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem and explores the couple’s on- and off-screen challenges.

Even though the couple divorced in 1960, they remained coworkers until Desi died in 1986. Before his death, it’s revealed in the book Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz that at the end of his life, he wrote the following words about his ex-wife: “Lucy was the show. Viv, Fred and I were just props. Damn good props, but props nevertheless. P.S. I Love Lucy was never just the title.”

Katherine Tinsley Digital Editorial Assistant Katherine Tinsley is a pop culture and beauty-obsessed journalist.

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