Lucille Ball Was ‘Terrified’ to Marry Desi Arnaz

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were married from 1940 until their divorce in 1960. During that time, they had two children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. The I Love Lucy stars were one of America’s favorite couples, but Ball said she was “terrified” to marry Arnaz.

How Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met

Lucille Ball |  David McNew/Getty Images
Lucille Ball | David McNew/Getty Images

Ball and Arnaz met on the RKO lot. In her book, Love, Lucy, Ball said Arnaz had a strong reaction upon meeting her. According to her, he took one look at her and blurted out, ‘Whatta honk of a woman!’

Ball said she was dressed up because she was doing a scene for the movie Dance, Girl, Dance, alongside actor Maureen O’Hara. Her hair was long and she was wearing an outfit she described as a “slinky” gold dress with a slit up to her thigh.

Ball said she also felt strongly for Arnaz when she first laid eyes on him. She first saw him during a performance before they were formally introduced. Ball said she couldn’t stop staring when she saw him perform for the first time. She was charmed by his personality and appearance.

Why Lucille Ball was ‘terrified’ to marry Desi Arnaz

Ball said she was “terrified” to marry Arnaz and wondered if she had “chosen wisely.” She described marrying him as the “boldest” thing she had ever done. One thing Ball worried about was if Arnaz would be possessive. She also worried about her ability to make him happy.

Settling down with Arnaz made Ball feel uneasy at first. She said she usually dated older men. She had also built a stable life for herself and she was concerned that Arnaz’s tendency to socialize with women would be too much for her to handle. She said he seemed to be “headed in another direction,” and that caused her to doubt her decision.

Lucille Ball felt Desi Arnaz needed her

Ball had her doubts about Arnaz, but she was still drawn to him. She felt that he needed her. He was charming and outgoing, but Ball said underneath it all was “a homeless boy who had no one to care for him, worry about him, [or] love him.” Ball also said she could only imagine Arnaz as the father of her children. She truly believed this was the man she was supposed to marry.

Arnaz and Ball eloped in November 1940. Although they previously decided not to get married because they were too different and Arnaz’s contract stated he couldn’t get married for five years, they moved forward. They were deeply in love and didn’t want to spend another day apart.

The couple decided to elope the day after Ball returned from a business trip. Arnaz had his manager run out to buy her a ring from Woolworth’s at the last minute. Ball had nothing else to wear on such short notice, so she got married in a black wool outfit. It might not have been a picture-perfect wedding, but Ball said she and Arnaz “were dazed with happiness.”

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