Tragic Details About Lucille Ball's Life

Lucille Ball is one Hollywood figure whose legacy is sure to live on forever. The model-turned-actress had a rare gift for making people laugh and bringing joy to those who watched her entertain. Best known for her work on the iconic TV series "I Love Lucy," Ball was a groundbreaking star for several reasons, including becoming the first openly pregnant woman on television and starting her TV career at the age of 40. She also later became the first woman to head a production company when the couple started Desilu Productions. When Lucy was seen giving birth to her son, Little Ricky, on television, the episode set a record with 44 million viewers, per Time Magazine. However, things weren't always successful and happy for Ball. Throughout her life, she was forced to deal with heartbreak and tragedy on several occasions, both personally and professionally.

Although Ball helped prove that a woman could lead a television series, produce, act, and more, there were still times when she struggled with career issues. When first inking her deal for "I Love Lucy," producers wanted to ditch Ball's real-life husband Desi Arnaz, and have Lucy's husband be a white man. The studio believed that Arnaz's Cuban descent and thick accent may be a problem at the time. However, she insisted that Arnaz star alongside her, and the result was comedy gold. Sadly, that wasn't the only hurdle that Ball had to face in her life.

Lucille Ball had to deal with trauma at an early age

Sadly, Lucille Ball had to learn some tough life lessons at a young age. When she was just four years old, her father Henry Ball died of typhoid fever. Shortly after his passing, a bird flew into the room where she and her family were mourning. The animal began to panic and it became a traumatizing event for the actress, who later suffered from a fear of birds, better known as ornithophobia (via History Collection).

Eventually, Ball's mother remarried a man named Edward Peterson. In her memoir, "Love, Lucy," Ball recalled a moment that changed her family forever. In 1927, Ball said her grandfather came home with a .22-caliber rifle as a gift for her brother, Freddy. Peterson set up some cans for Freddy to practice shooting at targets. Other kids came by, including a friend named Johanna as well as a neighbor named Warner Erickson, who often came by uninvited, Ball said. When Johanna took her turn, Erickson's mother called for her son while Johanna was aiming at the cans. The shout startled the girl and caused Johanna to inadvertently shoot Erickson. The boy suffered a severed spinal cord and his parents sued Ball's family (via Huff Post).

"They took our house, the furnishings that [Ball's mother] DeDe had bought so laboriously on time, week after week, the insurance — everything. My grandfather never worked again. The heart went out of him ... It destroyed our life together there," Ball wrote of the incident.

Lucille Ball didn't think she was funny

During Lucille Ball's early days in show business, she trained at the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City. However, she didn't receive praise and guidance from teachers. Instead, she was cut down and told she wouldn't make it as an entertainer. However, Ball was ready to make her mark on the world and did all she could to pay her bills while working her way up the ranks of stardom (via Outsider). Sadly, Ball may have lost a little confidence in her comedy skills along the way.

Even though "I Love Lucy" was a huge hit and had viewers busting a gut with each hilarious episode, Ball didn't credit herself for the success of the jokes. Instead, she gave credit to the writers and directors of "I Love Lucy" for creating iconic comedy moments. Of course, fans know that Lucy's physical comedy skills, facial expressions, and joke delivery made it all come to life and helped propel women forward in the world of comedy.

"I am not funny," Ball told Rolling Stone in 1983 (via the Los Angeles Times). "My writers were funny. My directors were funny. The situations were funny ... What I am is brave. I have never been scared. Not when I did movies, certainly not when I was a model and not when I did 'I Love Lucy.'"

Lucille Ball had a rocky marriage with Desi Arnaz

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's marriage was anything but conventional. The couple tried to hide the fact that Ball was actually six years older than Arnaz after they tied the knot in 1940. "They did the show so they could be together because my dad was always on the road and they never saw each other. So my parents thought, 'Well, this is going to save our marriage, and we can have a family,'" the couple's daughter Lucie Arnaz said in the "Lucy and Desi" documentary for Amazon, per People Magazine. Nevertheless, their strong connection translated to their television characters, and the "I Love Lucy" stars became the first-ever interracial couple to appear on TV (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Sadly, off-screen, Ball and Arnaz had a different dynamic. Their marriage issues started off early and Ball actually first filed for divorce from her husband in 1944 before they reconnected. They went on to spend 20 years together, but Arnaz was said to have a drinking problem and was reported to have been unfaithful to Ball during their marriage. The actress eventually filed for divorce a second time in 1960 and the two went their separate ways.

"It was always the same — booze and broads. I'd seen it coming. I was always hoping things would change. But Desi's nature is destructive," Ball said, according to "Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz."

The star suffered multiple miscarriages before welcoming two children

Before hitting it big with "I Love Lucy," Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz tried to have children and found themselves heartbroken when Ball's pregnancies ended in miscarriage on multiple occasions. Ball's friend Lillian Briggs Winograd revealed that the actress suffered pregnancy loss before finally welcoming her first child, daughter Lucie and later son Desi Jr. "Lucy had two or three miscarriages before she gave birth to little Lucie on July 17, 1951. She thought that having a baby would hold them together," she told People Magazine.

Meanwhile, the birth of Lucie did put a bit of a bandage over Ball and Arnaz's fractured marriage. "Some of Desi's womanizing was alleviated from the moment little Lucie was born," author Bart Andrews told the outlet. "I think he felt more sensitive about those things and stopped some of that. For a while, at least."

Sadly, the couple's son, Desi Jr. fell into a life of addiction, which deeply hurt his parents. "I can't tell you how much his addiction hurt us," Ball said of her son's problems (via Psychology Today). "I tried to listen. I tried to be understanding. I tried to be tough and strong. It tore me apart." Eventually, Desi Jr. turned his life around and even helped his father get sober just one year before the TV icon's death.

Lucille Ball mourned Desi Arnaz

Although Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz divorced in 1960, the pair never stopped loving and caring about each other. When Aranz become very ill from lung cancer, the couple's daughter, Lucie Arnaz, decided to reach out to her mother in case she wanted to have a final goodbye with her ex-husband (via Insider). "I think you should talk to him, don't know if he's going to be awake much longer," Lucie told her mother at the time. The former couple reportedly exchanged words of love, and their phone call happened to take place on Nov. 30, which was the anniversary of their wedding. Arnaz passed away on Dec. 2.

After Arnaz's death, Ball and others gathered for a private funeral. "Mr. Arnaz had been ill with cancer for many months, and my family and I have been praying for his release from this terrible ordeal. Our relationship had remained very close, very amiable, over the years, and now I'm grateful to God that Desi's suffering is over," Ball said in a statement following his death.

Despite all of the tragedy that Ball had to endure in her life, she still remains one of the most joy-inducing stars of all time.