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Desi Arnaz

Desi Arnaz

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Also Known As: Desiderio Alberto Arnaz Y Acha Died: December 2, 1986
Born: March 2, 1917 Cause of Death: cancer
Birth Place: Cuba Profession: actor, bandleader, musician, singer, director, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

As the conga drum-beating bandleader Ricky Ricardo, Desi Arnaz became a household name and, along with wife Lucille Ball, one-half of an iconic team on TV's most beloved sitcom of all time, "I Love Lucy" (CBS, 1951-57). Unbeknownst to many who deemed him simply a Latin musician who rode his wife's coattails to fame, Arnaz was also a powerful and influential producer, partly responsible for many conventions of television taken for granted today, such as the multi-camera sitcom, filming shows live before a studio audience - not to mention the very idea of the rerun. In essence, Arnaz was ahead of his time in so many ways and, unfortunately in his lifetime, never received the acclaim he so richly deserved.

As the conga drum-beating bandleader Ricky Ricardo, Desi Arnaz became a household name and, along with wife Lucille Ball, one-half of an iconic team on TV's most beloved sitcom of all time, "I Love Lucy" (CBS, 1951-57). Unbeknownst to many who deemed him simply a Latin musician who rode his wife's coattails to fame, Arnaz was also a powerful and influential producer, partly responsible for many conventions of television taken for granted today, such as the multi-camera sitcom, filming shows live before a studio audience - not to mention the very idea of the rerun. In essence, Arnaz was ahead of his time in so many ways and, unfortunately in his lifetime, never received the acclaim he so richly deserved.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Musica (1985) Himself
2.
 Escape Artist, The (1982) Mayor Quinones
3.
 Forever, Darling (1956) Lorenzo Xavier Vega
4.
 The Long, Long Trailer (1954) Nicholas Carlos Collini
5.
 Holiday in Havana (1949) Carlos Estrada
6.
 Cuban Pete (1946)
7.
 Bataan (1943) [Pvt.] Felix Ramirez
8.
 The Navy Comes Through (1942) Tarriba
9.
 Four Jacks and a Jill (1942) Steve Sarto
10.
 Father Takes a Wife (1941) Carlos [Bardez]
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1933:
Family's property was confiscated, father was held as political prisoner for six months and Desi Arnaz and mother fled to Miami during the Batista revolution in Cuba
:
While in high school worked as singing guitarist, relieving the Buddy Rogers Orchestra at the Roney Plaza Hotel in Miami
1937:
Apprenticed under Xavier Cugat on tour for six months
:
Formed own rival rhumba band, Desi Arnaz and his Xavier Cugat Orchestra; first introduced the conga line
1939:
Featured on Broadway in the Rodgers and Hart musical, "Too Many Girls"
1940:
First film as actor, "Too Many Girls"
1940:
Signed two-year contract with RKO
:
Bought five-acre ranch in Chatsworth CA with Lucille Ball, christened Desilu
1942:
Performed onstage in singing, dancing vaudeville act
1942:
Signed by MGM
1942:
First dramatic film role in "Bataan"
1943:
Served in US Army Special Services at Birmingham General Hospital in Southern CA organizing entertainment for returning wounded servicemen
1946:
Formed 22-piece orchestra; introduced signature song, "Babalu"
:
Appeared with band in 61-minute film, "Cuban Pete"
:
Served as musical director of Bob Hope's radio program
1951:
Formed Desilu Productions, with himself as president and Lucille Ball as vice president, to produce the TV series, "I Love Lucy"
:
Starred, produced and directed TV sitcom, "I Love Lucy"
1957:
Sold syndication rights and "I Love Lucy" series back to CBS for $4 1/2 million to finance expansion of Desilu studio
1957:
Desilu purchased RKO Gower and RKO Culver City Studio facilities from General Tire, giving Desilu 35 sound stages
1957:
"I Love Lucy" expanded into the hour-long format, "The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show"
1958:
Desilu went public
:
Hosted Desilu's "Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse"
1962:
Served as executive producer on Lucille Ball's first solo series, "The Lucy Show"
1962:
Sold his shares of Desilu to Ball (she later sold Desilu to Gulf + Western in 1967)
:
Was executive producer of "The Mothers-in-Law"
1982:
Billed as Desiderio Arnaz in small role in "The Escape Artist"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

St Patrick's High School: Miami Beach , Florida -

Notes

"Long overshadowed by the enormous acclaim accorded Ball's role in the durable series, Arnaz' public image--and that within the industry to some extent--tended toward one of a thick-accented, conga-drum-playing extension of his one-time wife. Many close to the situation at the time, however, including Ball herself, credited Arnaz as architect of the couple's great success, possessing a keen business acumen and inherent knack for showmanship that guided Desilu Studios, over which he presided for more than a decade, from a one-show production company to a preeminent Hollywood independent." --Tom Gilbert in Arnaz's Variety obituary, December 3, 1986)

Arnaz did not actually take a producer credit on "I Love Lucy" until the show's third season. Prior to that, Jess Oppenheimer, who has the official credit--never seen on-screen--as "creator" of "I Love Lucy" was the sole producer of the series, per his contract.

Was billed as Desiderio Arnaz for his last film appearance in the 1982 "The Escape Artist". The name was necessitated by Arnaz having relinquised his claim to 'Desi Arnaz' in the Screen Actors Guild records in favor of his son, Desi Arnaz, Jr., so that the younger Arnaz could drop the 'Jr.'.

Arnaz's last TV episodic appearance was on a segment of "Alice" playing a friend of the title character's who was warring with his wife. Arnaz did the guest spot in large measure because the executive producers of the show, Madelyn Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr., has been the chief writers of "I Love Lucy" and many other Desilu series.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Lucille Ball. Actor, comedienne. Married on November 30, 1940; divorced in March 1960; met while filming "Too Many Girls" (1940).
wife:
Edith Mack Hirsch. Married from 1963 until her death in 1985.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Lucie Arnaz. Actor. Born on July 17, 1951; married to actor Laurence Luckenbill.
son:
Desi Arnaz Jr. Actor. Born on January 19, 1953.

Bibliography close complete biography

"A Book"

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