Actress and singer, Lauren Bacall defined an era. She was known for her distinctive voice, sensual looks and style, and was named one of the greatest female stars of Classic Hollywood Cinema by the American Film Institute. The face of film noir, she has won Tony Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and numerous Academy Award nominations. With all of her success, it comes as no surprise that the actress had an amazing home…
The Most Expensive Real Estate in New York
Bacall passed away in 2015, a month shy of her 90th birthday, leaving behind an amazing Central Park apartment. When the home hit the market, insiders and fans finally got an inside look of the apartment Lauren called home. The apartments surrounding Central Park are some of New York City’s most expensive properties.
Lauren had the luxury of calling one of these mansions home for 53 years! Following her death, the apartment went up for auction at the price of $26 million!
A Nine-Room Estate
The flat is located in the historical Dakota building on the Upper West Side. The large nine-room apartment doesn’t feel like an apartment at all, rather an entire house placed inside of the gorgeous architecture of the Dakota Building.
As you would expect from a Hollywood star, the master bedroom is 22 feet wide and is connected to a private study, bathroom, and walk-in closet. The apartment’s balcony overlooks Central Park, so you can just imagine what springtime is like in the estate, a total dream!
Rustic Red and Royal Blues
Of course, the kitchen is far beyond your average New York City kitchen. It is an eat-in kitchen that opens up into a 24 by 19-foot dining room and family room. Lauren’s dining room brings French elements together with a perfect color palette, both rustic reds and deep blues are found in the small details of the upholstery, furniture, and, the art featured in the room.
The wall hanging may seem like a simple poster, but it is The Bell Époque French by Jules Cheret, sold for a whopping $7,000.
The actress and singer was a fan of French-inspired design, a preference that is evident in her furniture choices. In addition to the poster hanging in her dining room, Bacall had several other French posters hanging on the room’s other walls.
She complemented the posters with fine collectible china that she hung next to the framed posters. The decorative lamps are pieces are scattered throughout the rooms of her home.
An 18th Century Piece
It’s no secret that Lauren was partial to French design, but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t admire art from other countries and periods as well. One of the more important items in her home was her antique George III oak Welsh dresser, from the late 18th century, a piece that held her collection of fine china.
Though George III style furniture typically uses mahogany, the dresser was made from oak – a unique choice for pieces from that time.
The Master Bedroom
It seems as though Bacall saved the pop of color for her own bedroom. Considering most of the rooms in the estate are blue, brown, and white, it’s surprising that Bacall chose lavender and pink tones for her own room – colors that aren’t seen anywhere else in her apartment.
Other than the gallery wall behind the bed, the room has a clear view of Central Park. Imagine opening your morning to a panoramic view of the green and beautiful Central Park!
The Master Suite
As you may have already noticed, Bacall liked to fill every inch of a room with collectibles, furniture, and art. Surprisingly enough, the master suite is the only room where something new is placed. Adjacent to her decked out fireplace, there appears to be a very modern-looking tongue.
The grey couch adds a cozy touch to this room, and behind it, you’ll see a bookcase full of books and collectibles. We would give anything to relax with some reading while enjoying this fireplace!
To the right side of the fireplace of the master suite, there is the perfect display of Bacall’s collection of decorative candlesticks and artwork. The theme of these framed portraits is ships and floral designs. Bacall loved using accents of color.
The walls of the apartment are 13 feet high, so it makes sense that Bacall would want to fill the space with art. The apartment was catered to an art collector seeing as there’s a lot of art that seems synonymous with the house’s existence.
The Guest Bedroom
Another interesting, yet the unsurprising choice of color, Lauren chose bright and sunny, yellow walls. Above the bed hangs a very pricey 1920s Spanish art piece. The piece, which depicts a woman holding a basket full of fruit, was painted by Andrew Segovia and sold for a staggering $18,750 at auction.
Though the walls are a cheerful shade of yellow, the bedspread and rug are a shade of sky blue. In the right corner of the room, you will notice a unique, shelving piece that adds an interesting touch to the room’s style.
Palettes of Blue
Even when the styling of a room was formal. Bacall knew how to paint a room the perfect shade to add that extra chic touch. She chose to paint the living room a gorgeous shade of robin’s egg blue — which brightens up the entire room and works with the room’s natural light.
The collection of blue accents tie the room together, everything from statutes on the fireplace to her gorgeous couches.
Her Baby Grand-Piano
And of course, what’s a luxurious New York apartment without a grand piano? Bacall’s piano is by Mason & Hamlin, a premier New England based piano company that was founded in 1854.
The piano sold for $6,875 through the original value was likely much more. Although we’re sure it sounded great, it doesn’t seem like Lauren was playing much in her old age. The piano became more of a display table for her old family photos.
Perfectly Accented Couches
These comfortable couches were chosen to accent her living room’s wall color. Patterned furniture is often hard to pull off, but these really pull the room together. The white contrasts the dark wood of the fireplace and coffee table perfectly.
Bacall’s apartment holds five working fireplaces, a rare occurrence, especially in a New York City property. This living room fireplace is accented with a deer head above its mantle – a nod to her love of wildlife.
French Style Mirrors & Antique Dressers
Each one of Bacall’s apartment’s rooms is massive, allowing her to hold an impressive collection of antique furniture. This room features an ornate French-style mirror that rests on a Regence Provincial Walnut Commode, a mid-18th-century piece that sold for nearly four thousand dollars.
The room also has an antique desk that was sold for $5,000. The Louis XV provincial bureau was crafted from walnut in the mid-to-late18th century and complimented the room’s wooden floors.
Her Private Gallery
Bacall lived in her great apartment from when she was about 36 years old until she was 89. Her life’s story is documented throughout the apartment – though art and antiques. Her home is a gallery, full of beauty and character.
The perfectly curated art in her house looks like somewhat of a museum. Every inch of wall space is covered in framed art, from expensive paintings and photographs to simple prints.
American White Pelican
Her furniture was worth a fortune but what was even more intriguing was the value of Bacall’s art. This original print of American White Pelican by James Audubon sold for $173,000. Audubon gravitated towards painting birds in their natural habitats, and this print truly showcases his talent.
The artist is most widely known for his color-plate book called The Birds of America, which is one of the first ornithological works ever published. Throughout his life, Audubon identified 25 new species of birds!
Louis XIII Walnut Fauteuils
What is the most you would ever spend on a pair of chairs? Even if you were one of the world’s most avid furniture connoisseurs, you would probably not spend as much as Lauren Bacall did. Her antique Louis XIII-style chairs were in excellent condition, and they made a great addition to her already beautifully styled home.
The chairs sold for $1,875 and featured veneer turned wood and moldings. The blue stitching on the upholstery was brought out nicely against her blue walls.
Vintage Louis Vuitton Luggage
Every celeb has their selection of Louis Vuitton luggage. The company was founded in 1854 and has become one of the world’s most luxurious designer names. With Bacall’s timeless taste, it comes as no surprise that she had a set of monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage.
A single bag can cost nearly two grand, and considering Bacall’s is vintage, it’s exceedingly rare and costly. Her collection of designer luggage was sold for a whopping $37,500!
Betty Joan Perske
Although it may seem like her apartment is filled with art and furniture, it also has pieces of Hollywood history. But of course, she owned her personal director’s chair that was sold for nearly five grand in the auction.
Betty Joan Perske who changed her name to Lauren Bacall, debuted in To Have and Have Not — and started her legacy in Hollywood. She’s done it all, from working alongside Marilyn Monroe to acting as a voice in Family Guy — Bacall loved the industry.
Lauren had an eye for amazing works of art after she passed, three bronze sculptures were auctioned off at more than $30,000. The sculptures were created by Robert Graham, who was famous for his design of the entrance gates for the 1984 Olympics.
Bacall and Graham met through actress Anjelica Houston – Bacall’s close friend and Graham’s wife. Bacall fell in love with his portrayal of the female form. The art remained in Lauren’s foyer for years, and she loved referring to them as “her girls.”
Her Favorite Pieces
Towards the end of her life, Lauren Bacall sat down with Vanity Fair as she discussed her outstanding career and how her New York apartment had become a map of memories of times passed.
In what would, unfortunately, turn into one of her last interviews, Lauren opened up about her numerous pieces in her home, made by renowned artists, painters, and sculptors. Among her collection were works by John James Audubon, Max Ernst, David Hockney, Henry Moore, and many more.
Cozy Wood Furnishings
One of the themes we’ve seen throughout all nine rooms has been unique wood furniture. Every piece looks like it was specially picked out for the room it was placed in. Many may think that the interior of such a big star’s apartment would be flashy and glamorous – but there is something about Bacall’s apartment that is homey and cozy.
The apartment looks like a place that has been lived in, Bacall managed to make it a home rather than a stage to be admired from afar.
Her Views of Central Park
New York City real estate prices increase drastically if you have a view – and few landscapes are more desired than that of Central Park. Bacall’s apartment has approximately 100 feet of Central Park scenery.
This means that half of the apartment has one of the best views in all of New York City — an essential part of Lauren’s connection to New York. In a 1978 issue of French Vogue, Bacall said, “Outside that window lies Central Park; my relief from the city, an important reason to live there.”
The exterior of The Dakota building stood tall on the corner of Central Park West and West 72nd Street. As the city progresses, the building stands tall, holding its history.
Overlooking Central Park, it’s safe to say that the preserved building may be one of the most beautiful things about New York City — full of history and the essence of possibilities that come with the city. Over the years, the value of the building has gone up drastically, and it’s easy to understand why!
On August 12, 2014, Lauren Bacall passed away after suffering a stroke. Just five weeks shy of her 90th birthday, the legend passed away at her Dakota apartment where she lived for more than 50 years. When word of her death spread, fans decorated the iron gate outside of Bacall’s apartment with roses, paying their respects.
Over the weeks following her passing, fans from all over the world visited her apartment building, showing their appreciation to one of the Golden Age’s biggest actresses.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
After her passing in 2014, fans decorated her Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with flowers, stuffed animals, and other various items that reminded them of Bacall.
In 1960, actress Lauren Bacall was honored with a star that can be visited on 1724 Vine Street. The grieving fans were added to hear the news of her passing and made their way to the star to honor one of Hollywood’s last Golden Era actresses.
Vanity Fair Interview
One of the last interviews Lauren ever gave was from her Dakota apartment. She was interviewed in 2011 by Matt Trynauer for Vanity Fair. The actress did not hold back in the interview revealing intimate details of her life, as one of the last-remaining actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Era.
In her heartfelt and honest interview, she spoke candidly about the effect of husband, Humphrey Bogart’s fame had on their relationship and children. In addition to talking about her marriage and career, she spoke openly about secrets from her personal life.
Whirlwind Romance With Frank Sinatra
During the interview, Bacall revealed that after her husband passed away, she quickly jumped into a relationship with the famous actor and singer-songwriter, Frank Sinatra. They had what you could call a whirlwind romance to the point that Sinatra proposed.
However, when rumors of the engagement were leaked to the media, Sinatra became distressed and called off the engagement altogether. According to Bacall herself, it was “an awful time for me, there’s no way I could have been thinking straight. Even then it might have worked if Frank had been more sure of himself…but he wasn’t.”
Marriage to Jason Robards
Following her short-lived relationship with Sinatra, Bacall met and began dating actor Jason Robards. When they tried to get married in July of ’61, the two of them faced a ton of issues due to Robards’ “quickie” divorce in which the actor signed an affidavit stating he was officially divorced from his former wife on May 22nd, 1961.
After traveling to Austria and getting denied a marriage license, Bacall and Robards set out to Las Vegas only for the same thing to happen again. Finally, the couple was able to marry after traveling to Mexico though they divorced eight years and one child later.
When Lauren Bacall married Humphrey Bogart in ’45, she was only 19 years old while he was 45 — 26 years her senior! Naturally, this age gap caused many to wonder what these two could possibly have in common. Well, for starters, they both had an obsession with dogs being that they both had grown up with a variety of pups.
Bacall and Bogart actually received a Boxer as a wedding gift and it’s safe to say that the two of them fell in love with that breed of dog.
According to the actress herself, she and Bogart named their new pup “Harvey, after the invisible rabbit. He was really smart. He knew he wasn’t allowed to get on the furniture so he would only put two paws on at a time, and he would sit between us if we had a fight.”
It wasn’t long before Lauren and Bogart had three Boxer dogs. Here in this photo, Lauren’s relaxing as Bogart and son Stephen read a magazine on the floor. Harvey, George, and Baby — their three dogs — lay together.
Pampered Papillion, Sophie
Although Bogart and Bacall shared three boxers together, the actress ended up adopting a Cocker Spaniel after her husband passed away. Just six months after that, their beloved Boxer — Harvey — passed. Bacall’s last dog, though, was a pampered Papillion pup named Sophie.
Bacall absolutely worshipped Sophie so much so that she left $10,000 to her canine companion. The money went to Bacall’s youngest son, Sam Robards, to ensure that the beloved pup continues to live in the manner she’s accustomed to. Don’t worry, though. The star also split up her $26 million estate between her three children.
Bonhams’ Highest-Profile Auction
In March of 2015, the Bonhams New York auction hall held a two-day, 20-hour marathon auction for Lauren Bacall’s belongings. More than 1,500 bidders from 34 different countries took part in Bonhams’ the highest-profile auction of the season.
A few days prior to the auction, however, photographers and videographers began documenting everything that filled her glorious apartment. Anyone who was actually lucky enough to purchase one of Bacall’s possessions was undoubtedly happy to have a piece of history.
There’s no denying that Bacall had quite a fruitful career in her own right. Still, tons of people gravitated towards her projects with her late husband Humphrey Bogart. With that being said, it doesn’t come as such a shock that amongst Bacall’s eclectic art collection was this statue of ‘Bogie.’
The bronze statue depicts Bogart as Rick Blaine from Casablanca, which was released in 1942. This sculpture was just one of the many pieces that was auctioned off after Bacall’s passing. Although it sold for an undisclosed amount, it was valued at $800.
Aaron Shikler Portraits
It’s really no secret that actress Lauren Becall loved art. After all, the actress was a cultivated collector of art and antiques, her pursuits often sparked by personal experiences. In any event, this piece — made by artist Aaron Shikler — was inspired by Bacall herself.
Shikler, who was famously known for his official White House portraits of John F. Kennedy and Jackie-O, was also popular amongst many elite social groups. With that being said, he also often did portraits of celebrities. Shikler even did portraits of Bacall’s children but they kept those for their personal collections.
It comes as no surprise that Bacall’s collection of vintage housewares weren’t sold at very cheap prices. While it was clearly in used condition, Bacall’s Turkish carpet was still sold at the auction for $2,250. Despite its name, there’s actually no one culture that can claim these carpets.
In turns out that they actually derived from the multi-ethnic, multi-religious traditions of the former Ottoman Empire. With that, it makes sense as to why these carpets have been found everywhere from Siberia to Egypt to Transylvania.
Massive Jewelry Collection
Bonhams New York auction hall was responsible for Bacall’s estate after her death, which included the actress’s massive jewelry collection. There were reportedly 32 lots of jewelry alone that was put up for bid at the auction, drawing the interest from people around the globe.
As mentioned before, the auction lasted a record-breaking 20 hours and brought in a whopping $503,625 for the jewelry alone. While Bacall’s jewel collection did garner more than the estimated value, Susan Abeles — Bonham director of jewelry — stated that “the estimates were regular market values. It’s impossible to calculate the value of provenance.”
18-Karat Gold Ear Clips
One of the most valuable and desired pieces from Bacall’s jewel collection was a pair of gem-set, 18-karat gold ear clips. Designed by Montures Schlumberger in France, each ear clip was specially designed as a gold latticework plaque. They were emblazoned with emeralds, sapphires, and amethysts.
The award-winning actress famously wore these ear clips the night she accepted an Oscar for her performance in The Mirror Has Two Faces. Although the clips were estimated at $12,000, they were ultimately sold for $52,500.
Personalized Tiffany’s Necklace
Aside from her bedazzled ear clips, Bacall also owned a personalized Tiffany’s necklace. When auctioneers first found the piece, they noticed individual letters engraved on each of the hearts. Since they couldn’t figure out what the necklace said, they handed it over to Bonham’s jewelry department who cracked the code — “To my own beautiful star from her proud director Ron.”
While it hasn’t been confirmed, it’s believed that the necklace was a gift from Ron Field, Bacall’s director in the 1970 musical Applause. Although the necklace was estimated to sell for $9,000, it was eventually sold for over $52,5000.
Her Style Was Her Own
Perhaps one of the most breathtaking pieces of jewelry that Bacall owned was a bracelet made by French designer Jean Schlumberger. Not only is it made from 18 karats of gold but it also features a series of blue paillone enamel panels with polished gold bar detail.
Just from looking at Bacall’s collection, it’s clear that the actress had an amazing sense of style. According to Susan Abeles, “Ms. Bacall’s style was unmistakably her own — and it continues to influence design and fashion to this day.”
Lauren Bacall’s apartment in The Dakota was absolutely magnificent but she was hardly the first celeb to reside there. Aunt to Hollywood’s silver fox George Clooney, Rosemary Clooney was a singer and actress.
Although she first gained recognition during the ’50s with hits like “Come On-a My House” and “Mambo Italiano,” the singer’s career began to later around the 1960s. In 1977, though, Clooney made a comeback when her White Christmas co-star Bing Crosby asked her to accompany him to a show that was meant to mark his 50th anniversary in show business.
Judy Garland was yet another major star that lived in The Dakota at one point. Garland’s former 19th-century home at The Dakota has seven wood-burning fireplaces and is on the market for $16.75 million.
The 4,7000 square foot-apartment features three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, 13-foot ceilings, and generously spacious rooms that flawlessly flow from one to the other. Not only does it include a formal dining room that overlooks the building’s central courtyard but the apartment also has a library and an elegant living room with French doors.
It’s really no secret that one of the most well-known residents of the building was legendary singer-songwriter John Lennon. Regarded as one of the greatest musicians of all time, Lennon was actually living at The Dakota at the time of his tragic death.
In December of 1980, the activist and co-founder of the Beatles was killed in the archway of the building by Mark David Chapman. Since then, The Dakota has become a tourist attraction for people to come and pay their respects to the memory of John Lennon.
Maury Povich, now 81 years old, is a TV personality who’s best known for his tabloid talk show Maury. His career began when he initially became a radio reporter for WWDC. By the late ’80s, though, he gained national fame as the host of tabloid infotainment television show A Current Affair.
In 1991, Povich co-produced The Maury Povich Show, which was later rebranded as Maury. Today, he resides in The Dakota with his wife, Connie Chung who’s a television news anchor.
Gilda Radner was an American comedian and actress best known as one of the seven original cast members — “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” — of the hit NBC sketch comedy Saturday Night Live. In 1979, Radner moved to The Dakota and paid $150,000 for her apartment although she only lived there until 1985.
A few years later, in 1989, the award-winning actress passed away from ovarian cancer. Still, there’s no denying that her memory has continued to live on throughout the years.
John Madden, now 84 years old, is a former sportscaster and football coach for the NFL. In 1977, Madden won a Superbowl as coach of the Oakland Raiders and was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Once he retired from coaching, Madden moved on to commentating for NFL telecasts.
With that kind of career, there’s no denying that Madden’s rolling in the dough so it makes sense as to why he bought Gilda Radner’s Dakota apartment in 1985. Although he bought it for $625,000, Madden ultimately sold it in 2013 for $3.9 million.
A Deeper Look Into Lucille Ball’s and Desi Arnaz’s Marriage
Throughout the years we’ve seen countless sitcoms that have captivated audiences, but not all of them will be remembered the way that I Love Lucy is. Still, things weren’t as peachy behind the scenes…
They Were an Unconventional Match
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met in 1940 while they were both on the set of the film Too Many Girls. While Lucille was already an experienced actress, Desi wasn’t prepared for the glitz and glamour that followed. According to a former co-star, Eddie Bracken, their relationship “happened so fast that it seemed it wouldn’t last…”
Their Initial Meeting
It seemed that Eddie Bracken and others may have been right when they doubted the strength of Lucille and Desi’s relationship. After all, the two got hitched in a matter of no time after their initial meeting — six months later, to be exact. When they first met, Ball was 28 years old while Arnaz was five years her junior. Still, although Lucy usually went for a different type and Arnaz was already engaged to someone else, the two of them fell in love anyway.
Full of Passion
From the get-go, Lucy and Desi’s relationship was full of passion. According to sources, the two of them couldn’t keep their hands off each other. After hearing his sweet music, Ball was instantly drawn to Arnaz’s charisma and confidence. The Cuban singer and musician appreciated the fact that Ball was a woman of her own — independent, smart, and, funny. With qualities like that, it was hard not to fall in love with the bright-eyed beauty.
Problems From the Very Start
From the very start of their relationship, friends recall that Lucy constantly doted on Desi, always eager to make him happy. If he wanted something, she’d get it. If they sat down together and he needed more space, she’d scoot over. Despite this love, though, Lucille was already at the county clerk’s office filing for divorce a mere for years after getting married. According to records during the time, Lucille wanted a divorce due to Desi’s substance abuse and constant infidelity. Additionally, his touring schedule often left Lucille at home by herself all the time.
Lucille’s History With Bad Boys
In 1925, back when Lucy was a young and sprightly 14-year-old, she had her heart set on a 21-year-old man named Johnny DeVita. Unfortunately, DeVita’s reputation around town was — shall we say — not the best and her mother was eager to steer her in a different direction, especially if that direction happened to point away from her new beau. In 1926, Ball’s mother scraped together just enough money to send her daughter to study acting.
Arnaz’s Different Upbringing
While Ball’s mother was barely able to pay for her daughter to study acting in New York City, Arnaz had a very different childhood. Growing up in Cuba, Arnaz lived a life of luxury. His father was a high ranking government official and his mother’s family were executives for some of Cuba’s biggest exports. But, that all changed after the 1933 Cuban Revolution when Desi and his family were forced to flee and move to the United States.
Just Before Their Fateful Meeting
Desi had to set out on his own in order to support himself as his family no longer had their enormous wealth from back in Cuba. That’s when he began bartending and auditioning for different acting roles. He first starred in the 1939 Broadway version of Too Many Girls before being cast in RKO’s film adaptation. Ball, on the other hand, had already been trying out for parts for years being that she studied at the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts.
Lucy indeed had filed for divorce, citing Desi’s infrequent appearances at their house, although it hadn’t been entirely his fault. Remember — this was 1944 and World War II was now reaching its climax for the U.S., which means Desi had been drafted. He had, however, gotten badly injured so the army ended up putting him in their USO shows. Although Lucy was fed up with much of his behavior, Arnaz promised to change, and Lucille decided to nullify the divorce.
Making a Commitment to Change
It would be another seven years until the couple would star together in the popular sitcom, I Love Lucy, and during that time the two decided to make some serious commitments to one other. First off, it was obvious that having a partner traveling all the time wasn’t really working out for them. So, the two agreed that they would only seek out roles that they could do together.
The Reality of the Situation
Although the two had agreed that they wouldn’t be traveling so much, Arnaz had decided to form an orchestra, which required him to travel around the country a lot anyway. And even when he wasn’t on the road, Arnaz’s schedule had him out until three or four in the morning whilst Ball’s demanded that she be in the makeup chair around the same time. According to Lucy’s longtime publicist, Charles Pomerantz, “She used to say, ‘We just can’t keep meeting in the Sepulveda tunnel.”
Staying Together Served Them Both
Even though the time they spent together was still lacking, which went against their agreement, Lucy stayed with him — and that would go on to serve them both in a spectacular fashion. Arnaz’s character on I Love Lucy was inspired by his real-life persona. At this point, Ball was thrilled that she finally had her chance to keep Desi in one place. According to Bob Weiskopf, one of Lucy and Desi’s go-to writers back in the day, Lucy “knew that if [Desi] went on the road with the band, he’d be catting around all the time.”
The Opportunity of a Lifetime
Lucille had lots of success not only on television but on the radio, as well. Her syndicated show, My Favorite Husband, had run for nearly four years and was immensely popular. On the radio show, Lucille had played the character of Liz Cooper, a wacky housewife who was absolutely beloved by audiences. Studio heads from CBS then approached her with a proposition — recreate the success that had been achieved on radio, but this time on television. Before accepting the offer, though, the actress had several demands that needed to be met.
Sitting at the Negotiation Table
Lucille’s first demand was that Desi would star next to her, as her on-screen husband. Studio heads were initially stunned and rejected the idea as they believed that audiences wouldn’t be able to understand his Cuban accent. But, Lucille put her foot down — this was happening or there was no Lucy. Eventually, studio heads relented and would even later agree to write Ball in as pregnant when she was with child.
The start of what would become their hit show coincided with a new chapter in the couple’s personal lives, too. After suffering a series of miscarriages, Lucy and Desi finally became first-time parents to little Lucie on July 17th, 1951 — just three months before the show’s premiere! Lucy’s close friends would later say that the legendary actress believed that having a baby would strengthen her bond with Desi. Still, only a matter of time would tell…
A Comedic Genius
In October of 1951, I Love Lucy premiered. It wasn’t long before 40 million viewers were tuning in to see what shenanigans the Ricardos, specifically Lucy, had gotten themselves into that week. Ball quickly became known for her wacky sense of humor — from her hysterical facial expressions to her incredibly exaggerated body language. With Lucy Ricardo, Ball was able to create a universal language that effortlessly translated to any family around the world. With that being said, it’s safe to say that Ball was a comedic genius in her own right.
Two Years In
It was 1953 and the show had been running for two years at this point. The ratings were riding high when Ball became pregnant for a second time. This time, she was carrying the couple’s youngest child, Desi Jr. At that point, I Love Lucy was actually one of the first shows in history to ever depict a pregnant woman on television. During that time, director William Asher recalled seeing a certain tenderness from Desi while they were shooting episodes.
Welcoming Desi Jr.
The couple’s only son would appear in utero during the series when Ball became one of the first pregnant women to ever appear on primetime. Although Mary Kay and Johnny was actually the first show to feature an onscreen pregnancy on television, Ball’s was the most notable due to how high-profile the show already was. In January of 1953, Ball gave birth to her son — the very same day her character, Lucy Ricardo, gave birth on the series to little Ricky.
Certain Conditions That May Apply
Although the studio had given the go-ahead for Ball to appear pregnant on-screen, it wasn’t without reservation. First off, the studio had to get the endorsement of several religious leaders who assured them that it wasn’t immoral for a woman to appear on screen pregnant. Next, they were told that they had to change the word “pregnant” to “expecting.” Finally, even though the two were married on-screen and in real life, they had to sleep in separate beds.
They Say Babies Fix Everything…
It seemed like things were going great. They now had a beautiful son and daughter along with a hit show on primetime television. Desi had vowed that he would curb some of his behavior to become a more attentive father and loyal husband, and for a while, he seemed to be living up to his promise. According to Bart Andrews, a biographer who’s authored three books on the couple, “Some of Desi’s womanizing was alleviated from the moment little Lucie was born… For a while, at least.”
Knowing Who the Star Was
Even though Desi was making big bucks now starring in a series as popular as I Love Lucy, he always knew who the spotlight was on. According to comedy writer Madelyn Pugh Davis, in an interview with People, Desi “always knew she was the star. Never in all those years did I ever hear him say, ‘Where’s my part?’ He just thought she was it, and if she was taken care of, that was all that counted. He protected her.”
The Man Behind the Business
Protect her he did. While Lucille was busy in front of the camera bringing audiences to tears from fits of laughter, Desi was behind the scenes making sure that the two of them were getting paid. According to comedy writer Madelyn Pugh Davis, in an interview with People, Desi “always knew she was the star. Never in all those years did I ever hear him say, ‘Where’s my part?’ He just thought she was it, and if she was taken care of, that was all that counted. He protected her.”
More Than Just Two Actors
It seemed that Desi’s and Lucille’s business instincts went even further than just making deals with movie studios. The couple realized that they could be making a lot more money if they just opened their own studio! And just like that, Desilu Productions was born — and it was responsible for some major hits. I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, The Untouchables, and Star Trek were all produced by them. In 1968, Desi sold the company for $19 million ($130 million by today’s terms).
They Tried Keeping Things Civil
The two put effort into making sure that others were kept well out of sight and earshot during their numerous marital disputes. In spite of this, it soon became public knowledge that the two were not getting along very well, and that their marriage was shaky. Many believed that it was Arnaz’s upbringing as part of the Cuban aristocracy that kept the fighting out of the public eye while others thought that it was simply because of Lucille’s immense self-control — something that was often tested by her spouse.
Homelife Became Even Harder
Even though the two were keeping the fights off-camera, they were still big enough to attract attention. After Lucy and Desi began making lots of money through their various business ventures — not to mention their hit show — they bought a large and beautiful ranch house in California. Still, Desi took it upon himself to build a pool, barbecue pit, and a guest house exclusively for himself so he wouldn’t have to buy a hotel every time that he and his wife fought.
Trouble Became Even More Obvious
Things only started getting worse from that point on. It got so bad that even actor Keith Thibodeaux, who was a child at the time, knew how low Lucille’s and Desi’s marriage had sunk. He later recalled in an interview that “once, she told her chauffeur to drive her down to the Indian Wells Country Club, and Desi walked in with a couple of women on his arm. When he saw Lucy at the bar, he turned around and took off.”
Lucille Knew About the Womanizing
The red-headed beauty wasn’t blind or naïve. She knew what Desi was up to behind her back, and frankly, it didn’t sound as though it would’ve been that difficult to discover. At one point, while on set, Lucille picked up a magazine that had details about her husband’s affairs. Ball didn’t know about any of it at the time and the crew watched in horror as she read it. When she finished, she reportedly tossed the magazine away and said, “I could tell them worse than that.”
The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour
When I Love Lucy ended in 1957, many members of the main cast decided to band together and — under the leadership of Desilu — decided to create their own show called The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. Despite the problems that Lucy and Desi were dealing with at the time, the show lasted for a few years. With that, though, the episodes were only a half-hour rather than an hour due to Desi’s declining health.
Enough Is Enough
Just two months after filming wrapped for The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, the couple decided that enough was enough. Considering the problems that existed within their marriage, it seemed as though acting in close proximity to each other just wasn’t solving anything. In reality, the couple’s success actually came with a price. Desi would even later reveal in his memoir that the combination running a production company coupled with the insecurities of what his daughter would later call being “Mr. Ball” ultimately pushed him towards substance abuse.
The Final Divorce Actually Happens
After 20 years of marriage, Lucy reached her breaking point. She could no longer tolerate Desi’s substance abuse as well as his infidelities, which had never fully subsided. In 1960, Ball divorced Arnaz — but not without a heavy heart. Initially, Lucille had planned to take their two children and move to Switzerland to get away from Desi and all the pressures of Hollywood. Instead, she ended up moving to New York City and acting on Broadway.
Lucille Makes Her Broadway Debut
A year after their separation, the legendary actress made her first Broadway debut when she starred in the musical production of Wildcat. Arguably one of the best parts about Lucille’s involvement on Broadway was that it opened up her social circle to some new friends, many of whom would be quite significant throughout her life. One of those people was Paula Stewart — a stage, television, and film actress who would remain a loyal and steadfast friend of Ball for over 30 years.
Lucille Meets Her Second Husband
For Lucille, getting away from Desi and making new friends on Broadway was likely a welcomed breath of fresh air. After all, according to her divorce papers, the red-headed bombshell described her marriage to Arnaz as “a nightmare.” One of her new friends, Stewart, was more than happy to bring one of the most beloved actresses in America out with her. Along the way, Ball met Stewart’s social circle including Gary Morton, who would go on to become the star’s second husband.
Who Was This Gary Morton?
Gary Morton was 36 years old when he met Ball — 13 years younger than the television star. He had been working as a stand-up comedian in the Borscht Belt, which is a series of hotels and other swanky venues in upstate New York. Although Morton knew who Lucille was, he later confessed to her that he had never seen a single episode of the show that had launched her into the spotlight. Still, Morton and Ball tied the knot in 1961.
Lucille Teaches Morton the Ropes
Rumors had been flying that the only reason that Gary married Lucille was for her money. In order to put a stop to these suspicions, he had happily agreed to sign a prenuptial agreement, stating that he was marrying Lucille out of nothing but love. That being said, it certainly didn’t hurt his career to be married to one of the biggest stars of the day. Lucille taught Morton everything about film and even made him a producer for her company, Desilu.
Speaking of Desi, Where Is He?
When the two decided to get a divorce, Desi had agreed to Lucille buying him out of Desilu. There were many reasons for this, but perhaps the biggest was simply that his health had been declining for some time, and working in show business wasn’t making things any better. In fact, Desi was greatly reducing his work on film and television, although he did serve as an executive producer for the television show The Mothers in Law.
Desi Also Finds New Love
Three years after having divorced his first wife, Desi found love once again. This time, though, with a woman named Edith Eyre Hirsch. The two got married on March 2nd, 1963 — and his devotion to his new wife was so profound that he cut back his work schedule even further so as to not lose her, too. Still, people couldn’t help but notice that she looked a bit like Lucy, sparking rumors that Desi was never actually able to get over his first love.
Lucille and Edith Become Friends
As strange as it might seem to some, Lucille and Edith ultimately became good friends after she married Desi. Perhaps it was all for the best, as it probably made the divorce a little less painful for everyone. Young Lucie Arnaz even recalled Edith saying — in regard to Ball — that “she was a joy, an absolute joy. Great laugh. She taught me how to drive; she went bowling with us; she took us to the fair. She knew exactly how to handle my dad. She was amazing.”
Lucille and Desi Remained Close
Many people, when looking back on the relationship between Lucille and Desi, seem to agree that the two always had a special place in their hearts for one another, even after the divorce. The two reportedly remained in close contact and — every year on what had been their anniversary — Desi would send Lucille red and white carnations. They stayed friends, and Lucille would check in on Desi as his health continued to decline. The two had an unusually strong bond.
Almost Forgot They Weren’t Together Anymore
Despite their marital issues, there was no denying that Lucy and Desi had a very special place for each other in their hearts. Although the once iconic couple went on to marry other people, close friends of theirs have said that neither one really ever got over their breakup. According to a good friend of Lucy’s — theater actress Carol Channing — they “spoke so lovingly of each other, you almost forgot they weren’t together anymore.” Indeed these two had a very amicable divorce and beautiful friendship…
Kids Should Be So Lucky
It’s no secret that Lucy and Desi had mutual love and respect for one another until their last days. According to their daughter, Lucie, her parents had an extremely successful divorce. “If parents can’t get along and that happens, then kids should be so lucky to have a divorce like my mom and dad because they were kind… It was a fantastic romance that got even more passionate and friendlier after they were not married to each other anymore.”
There When Desi Passed Away
Desi had a few lifelong habits that would sadly catch up to him in his later years. He passed away in 1986 but before he did, Lucille had come to visit. Reportedly, friends who were there claimed that as she knelt beside him to whisper something to him that couldn’t be heard by most people in the room. Later, those same friends claimed she had been whispering to Desi, “I love you, I love you,” over and over again.
Lucille’s Death Comes With Hope
A year after her ex-husband died, Lucille passed away in 1989. The world seemed to hold its breath for a moment as one of the most beloved comedians and television stars passed on. Although her husband Gary was saddened by the loss of his beloved wife, he also believed that with it came a glimmer of hope. When speaking to reporters he said that he was, at the very least, happy that she was reunited with Desi.
The Legacy She Left Behind
Lucille left this world as a successful actress, comedian, and businesswoman. She had been a mentor to many young female comedians including none other than Carol Burnett. As an actress on I Love Lucy, she had been nominated for 13 Primetime Emmy Awards and had won no less than four of them. In 1979, she received the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions in the world of entertainment” and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
Lucille Had Been a Trailblazer
Perhaps one of the many reasons that Lucille loved Desi long after their divorce was how — in spite of the many issues they had during their marriage — he had helped to build her legacy. After selling her his share of the production company after their divorce, Lucille became the first female head of a major film studio in the history of Hollywood. She later sold Desilu for $17 million ($130 million by today’s terms).
I Love Lucy’s Lasting Impact
Although I Love Lucy finished filming 60 years ago, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of the show. That in and of itself proves the lasting impact that the show has made on the world, but it was also responsible for much more than that. The show marked the first time that a pregnant woman was on camera and Desi became one of the first Hispanic immigrants to gain a leading role. It’s a show that, for many, was a symbol of the times.
A Mark of Their Relationship
In 1996, the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Museum opened on West 3rd Street in Jamestown, New York. According to the museum itself, their stated goal is “to preserve and celebrate the legacy of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and enrich the world through the healing powers of love and laughter.” The museum consists of various memorabilia that belonged to the two actors along with various props, costumes, and even sets that fans of I Love Lucy will no doubt recognize.
Those responsible for the museum loved the on-screen relationship between Lucille and Desi so much that each May the museum hosts an event called the Lucy-Desi Days. During that time, friends, family, and others who knew the two stars well will host a panel in which members of the public can come and ask questions about the two. It was built to honor the Lucille Ball Festival of New Comedy, which was planned just after the actress’s death.