I've been asked several times (most recently by my uncle Tim, who, along with my sister Emily, is inspiring me to go different directions with this blog) for a little more information on Lucy and Desi. After all, by the time "I Love Lucy" debuted in 1951, they'd already been married for nearly 11 years. So here's the short version of their romance:
Lucy and Desi met in 1940, during the filming of a musical called "Too Many Girls", which Desi had starred in (his first big break into mainstream performance) on Broadway. When RKO bought the film rights and cast Lucille Ball, they also brought several of the original cast members from New York, Desi among them. Desi, of course, played the Latin lover, and Lucy the igenue.
The story goes that the first time Desi saw Lucy, she was in costume for another film she was completing, "Dance, Girl, Dance" (1940) with Maureen O'Hara, in which she played a burlesque dancer. She was in a dress slit to the thigh, dressed to the nines. Desi took one look at her and exclaimed, "What a hunk of woman!" and was hooked. Lucy was the same, as she would reflect years later, jokingly, "It wasn't love at first sight! It took five minutes."
They dated for a brief time, and discussed why they could never marry (he could be a womanizer, she was 6 years older and Protestant, he Catholic, he was performing as a musician in New York, she was under contract in Hollywood). Nevertheless, they couldn't get enough of each other, and whisked themselves away to Connecticut and eloped on November 30, 1940.
They had their share of problems, but were so in love with each other, they always made it work somehow. Desi was in the army from 1943-46, and that was one of their harder times. Lucy filed for divorce in 1944, but they reconciled the night before they were to appear in court.
Even after they divorced in May 1960, Desi still sent Lucy flowers (her favorites--red and white carnations) on their anniversary. When Desi died in December 1986, Lucy was the last person he spoke to. To sum up their relationship, Desi is famously quoted (in his autobiography) as saying simply, "I Love Lucy was never just a title."