With all due respect to the comedic genius that was uniquely Lucille Ball's, it is one of the overlooked facts that I Love Lucy wouldn't have been nearly as funny without Ethel, Fred, and particularly Ricky to act as her foils. With his big, shoe-button eyes and charming accent, Desi Arnaz brought something completely different to the standard 1950's portrayal of the sitcom husband: sex appeal. And even though his inadvertent mangling of the English language was often fodder for laughs (Ricky: "An' that's another thin'! You're always muckin' the way I talk!" Lucy: "That's because there's so much to 'muck'!"), Ricky Ricardo was perhaps the first ethnic character on television to not be a caricature, punchline, or punching bag. He was a a good provider, a loving husband and father, even a bona fide movie star ("You're doing lots of remakes, why don't you take one of your big hits and do it over for Ricky? Like Gone with the Cuban Wind? It Happened One Noche?").
More important, Desi was the brains behind his and Lucille's production company, Desilu, which he ran until 1962, when he sold his interest to Ball, by then his ex-wife. Even though their long, passionate, contentious marriage didn't last, Lucille and Desi, just like Lucy and Ricky, were inextricably tied to one another. Even though both had happy, successful second marriages, their bond was greater than any wedding vow. Five days after Desi's death from cancer, Lucille Ball was bestowed with the Kennedy Center Honor. At the ceremony, a posthumous letter by Desi was read, the conclusion of which was, "I Love Lucy was never just a title."
March 2, 1917 - December 2, 1986