Arnaz, Desi (1917–1986)

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Arnaz, Desi (1917–1986)

Desi Arnaz (b. 2 March 1917; d. 2 December 1986), Cuban bandleader, actor, and pioneer television producer. Born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y Acha in Santiago de Cuba to an influential family, Arnaz and his father went into exile in Miami with the overthrow of President Gerardo Machado in 1933. Discovered there by Xavier Cugat, he joined the Cugat band for a six-month tour. He then returned to Miami and, with his own band, introduced the conga line to the United States, and started a national dance craze. During the 1940s, he appeared on Broadway and made several feature films. While filming Too Many Girls in 1940, he met Lucille Ball, marrying her the same year. They were divorced in 1960.

Although popularly known for his role as Ball's husband in the television show I Love Lucy, his most important contributions came as the guiding force behind its production company, Desilu. His many innovations created the presentation and format of the situation comedy (sitcom) as it is known today and began the practice of reruns. Desilu bought its own studio and became the most important independent production house in the industry, producing many of the successful 1950s television comedies. Arnaz retired in the early 1960s. He died in Del Mar, California.

See alsoRadio and Television .


Arnaz chronicled his own life through his divorce from Lucille Ball in his autobiography, A Book (1976). His contributions to the music industry are discussed in John S. Roberts, The Latin Tinge: The Impact of Latin American Music in the United States (1979). Innovations to the television industry are discussed in William Boddy, Fifties Television: The Industry and its Critics (1990).

Additional Bibliography

Sandoval-Sánchez, Alberto. José Can You See?: Latinos On and Off Broadway. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1999.

                               Jacquelyn Briggs Kent