Today would have been Desi Arnaz’s 95th birthday. The Cuban-born musican and television pioneer had a remarkable life and career. Here’s a look at some things you might not know.
He was born into money:
Born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III in Santiago, Cuba, the showman was the grandson (on his mother’s side) of one of the founders of Bacardi rum company. His parents owned a mansion, three ranches and a vacation home on a private island—all confiscated when Fulgencio Batista took power and Arnaz’s father was jailed. They left to Miami after his release.
He was on Broadway before he was in Hollywood:
He starred was in the Broadway musical Too Many Girls in 1939 and then headed west to Hollywood to make the show’s film version, where he met then B-list starlet Lucille Ball and married her the following year. They would later divorce because he, you guessed it, had too many girls.
He served in World War II:
Arnaz was drafted to serve in the military but a knee injury kept him on limited service. Instead, he served on the USO, keeping up morale via his music.
I Love Lucy’s groundbreaking pregnancy episode was his idea:
Up to this point, pregnant women were allowed to be shown onscreen and the word pregnancy was not permitted, but when Ball became pregnant and started showing during filming, Arnaz persuaded CBS to write the pregnancy into the script, even enlisting a priest, a rabbi and a minister to help him in his cause. CBS gave the green light on everything but the use of the word pregnancy, which Arnaz got around by saying that Lucy was expecting—or rather, in his trademark heavy accent, ‘spectin. An iconic moment was born.
He changed sitcoms forever:
Among his innovations as producer of I Love Lucy: The multi-camera setup, filming shows live before a studio audience and the idea of the rerun.