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Spotlight: A Tribute to Desi Arnaz and I Love Lucy

This October 15, the groundbreaking comedy series I Love Lucy celebrates its seventieth anniversary. Starring Lucille Ball and her then husband Desi Arnaz, the iconic I Love Lucy was the most popular television series in the U.S. for four consecutive seasons. Arnaz and his production crew pioneered the multi-camera recording format, giving the show a different look than anything else on early fifties television and creating the style that would define the sitcom genre for decades. The show, recorded on 35 millimeter film, also pioneered reruns and helped to launch the syndication industry. The series was honored with five Emmy Awards and remains among the defining achievements in television history. Seventy years since I Love Lucy's premiere, Desi Arnaz’s talents as a performer and vision as an innovator in the medium of television history endure.

  • On November 30, 1940, Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz marries Lucille Ball after they had starred in the RKO film Too Many Girls.
  • The Desi Arnaz Orchestra is featured on Bob Hope’s The Pepsodent Show for the 1946–47 season.
  • Arnaz and Ball establish Desilu Productions in 1950, and go on to produce such iconic series as December Bride, The Ann Sothern Show, and The Untouchables. Arnaz’s creativity and business savvy enables Desilu to change the medium of TV onscreen and at the corporate level.
  • On his thirty-fourth birthday, March 2, 1951, Arnaz and Ball shoot the pilot of I Love Lucy. Ball is pregnant with their first child Lucie during production.
  • In September 1951, Lucy and Desi shoot the first episode of I Love Lucy, entitled “Lucy Thinks Ricky is Trying to Murder Her. ”
  • On October 15, 1951, I Love Lucy debuts on CBS with the second episode filmed, “The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub. ”
  • On January 19, 1953, the couple’s second child, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV, is born. On the same day Ball’s character Lucy gives birth in the episode titled “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” watched by 44 million people.
  • On May 6, 1957, the final episode of I Love Lucy airs.
  • On November 17, 1957, The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show premieres with a special 75-minute episode, “Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana.”
  • In 1958, Arnaz becomes the host of the anthology series The Westinghouse-Desilu Playhouse, which runs for two seasons.
  • After divorcing Ball in 1960, Arnaz returns to weekly television as executive producer of The Mothers-In-Law, in which he also guest stars as a Spanish matador.
  • In 1975, Arnaz publishes his memoir A Book and guest hosts Saturday Night Live in which he spoofs I Love Lucy.