Lucille Ball Was ‘Basically Unhappy” Throughout ‘I Love Lucy’ According To Show Producer

Despite the enormous success of classic television comedy I Love Lucy, its star Lucille Ball was a painfully unhappy woman, according to the show’s producer, Jess Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer stated that the redheaded actor went into the series hoping it would change the direction of her marriage to Desi Arnaz. Instead, the show’s extraordinary success contributed to the end of the couple’s union.

Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in a scene from 'I Love Lucy'
Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in a scene from ‘I Love Lucy’ | CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Desi Arnaz’s marital infidelities were numerous

A scene from 'I Love Lucy'
A scene from ‘I Love Lucy’ | CBS via Getty Images

Unfortunately, the most pleasant portion of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s marriage seems to have been their courtship.

After their whirlwind meeting in 1940 on a movie set, the couple decided to run away to marry and eloped that year. Within just a few years, it was apparent to Ball that her husband was not faithful and didn’t seem to want to change.

The two had been through a near-divorce and a number of miscarriages as well, until the birth of their daughter Lucie in 1951. It was a good year, because it also brought good news from CBS.

The network was aware of the success of Ball’s radio show, “My Favorite Husband,” and wanted to bring it to television. Although CBS did not initially want Arnaz to co-star with his wife, Ball refused to budge – it would star both of them or no deal.

Lucille Ball hoped having Arnaz at the helm of ‘I Love Lucy’ would help

I Love Lucy producer Jess Oppenheimer, in his book, I Love Lucy: The Untold Story revealed the behind-the-scenes attempts to get Ball to change her mind about having her husband share top billing with her. It was clear her mind was made up. The couple rarely saw one another due to their hectic schedules, and she was unwilling to create even more distance between them.

“For years, [Ball] had been trying to promote the career of her husband, Desi,” he said. “She was unhappy because they were separated so much of the time; while she was in Hollywood, he was always on the road with his band. And that put a strain on their marriage, which was rocky enough even when they were in the same city.”

Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in 1941
Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in 1941 | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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The comedic actor’s request, Oppenheimer wrote, was being declined on all sides and all the way up CBS’ executive chain.

“Hubbell Robinson, another CBS bigwig, nixed the idea completely, claiming that nobody would believe that an all-American redhead like Lucy was married to someone like Desi. Lucy had a good answer for that one – ‘What do you mean, nobody’ll believe it? We are married!’ But CBS remained unconvinced.”

In the end, CBS brought I Love Lucy onboard, meeting many of Ball’s conditions.

Ball was a very ‘unhappy’ woman during the show’s run

Despite getting Arnaz on the CBS show with her, according to its producer, it was obvious Ball was anything but content.

“For Lucy, who was basically unhappy, the only release she had was in her work. But she had an unhappy home life with Desi. She was anxious to get away from it.”

Oppenheimer notes that, from the start of the series, the couple’s relationship was doomed.

“It was clear that something was wrong,” he wrote. “Desi had his 38-foot power cruiser, which Lucy didn’t like at all. After we would finish filming a show, Desi would go down to his boat at Corona del Mar with his drinking, card-playing buddies, and Lucy would go back to the ranch.”

“Unless they had something to do together for publicity, they wouldn’t see each other again until the following week when they both arrived on the set for the first read-through.”

The power struggle between the couple continued until the show’s end in 1957 and the conclusion of their marriage in 1960.