‘I Love Lucy’: Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball Fought Over a Work Trip That Took Too Long

I Love Lucy stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were head over heels in love. The couple was married from 1940 until they divorced in 1960. Ball once described a big fight she had with Arnaz that made him “hopping mad” after she took too long to come home from a work trip.

Lucille Ball had to travel for work

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz |  Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz | Phil Burchman/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Ball’s career was taking off and she had to leave New York and travel to the Midwest for a few media appearances. She and Arnaz kept in touch through telegram and telephone calls. In her book, Love Lucy, Ball said one telegram in particular reduced her to tears. In the message, Arnaz told her he loved her repeatedly.

This was a tough time for the couple because earlier they decided they couldn’t get married. Ball said they approached life differently and traveled too much to make the relationship work. Arnaz also signed a contract with RKO which said he couldn’t get married for five years.

Desi Arnaz was angry Lucille Ball took so long to come home

Ball’s trip to Milwaukee took longer than expected. Instead of one day, the trip stretched out to five days, delaying her trip back to New York. Before she got the news her trip would be delayed, Arnaz called Ball and asked her to promise she would come straight back to New York so they could discuss their relationship more. However, things didn’t go as planned and Arnaz wasn’t thrilled.

A snowstorm caused Ball’s co-star, Gloria Jean, to get stranded. Consequently, the executives at RKO asked Ball if she would extend her trip. Arnaz was so upset that he would make an angry call to Ball every night and ask when she was returning to New York, according to Ball.

At one point, Arnaz accused Ball of starting a romantic relationship with another man. He suspected she was dating an actor named Joseph Cotton. Ball said Arnaz thought there was a “big thing” going on between them and she was stalling so she could spend more time with Cotten.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Ball said she didn’t even know who Cotten was because she was too busy with work to notice. She described herself as being “boiling mad” after that phone call. After she hung up, she said she looked up to see Joseph Cotten in the hotel lobby. He walked right past her. Much to her surprise, he was staying at the same hotel.  

The I Love Lucy actor decided to hurry back to New York so she could smooth things over with Arnaz.  She said Cotten was still in the lobby when she came downstairs and he was kind enough to drive her to the airport.

Why Desi Arnaz was mad about Lucille Ball’s trip

Ball made it to New York and waited at her hotel for him. When they reunited in the evening, she found out why Arnaz was so angry with her. Ball said he had been planning to elope with her. He had to postpone it five times and he was getting frustrated with all the delays. The couple got married the next day, on November 30, 1940.

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