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Javier Bardem plays Desi Arnaz in 'Being the Ricardos'. Photo: Amazon
Javier Bardem plays Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos. Photo: Amazon

Who is Desi Arnaz? The Latino star of 'Being the Ricardos'

With the premiere of the movie Being the Ricardos, the character of Desi Arnaz — one of the first Latino actors in Hollywood — is revived.

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Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman star in Amazon Prime's latest release, Being the Ricardos. The film tells the story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the real-life couple who portrayed Ricky and Lucy Ricardo on I Love Lucy during the 1950s. 

The feature film is based on the life of the couple of Ball and Arnaz and tells the crisis the couple lived when a gossip magazine accused Ball of being a communist, something that in the conservative Hollywood of the mid-twentieth century would have meant the end of the career of one of the most famous actresses of the time. 

This is the excuse for director Aaron Sorkin to tell the story not only of Ball — Kidman — but also of Arnaz — Bardem — born in Cuba in 1917 to a family of politicians who had to migrate to the United States in 1934, after the revolution of 1933. 

Upon his arrival in Miami, the young Arnaz left behind the comforts of his life in Santiago, Cuba, to devote himself to various jobs, until he joined the Siboney orchestra and later that of the famous Xavier Cugat, considered the father of the mambo, where he was a singer and guitarist. 

Thus began his road to fame, as he participated in movies and musicals in New York, started his own orchestra, got Americans to dance the conga, and married Ball in 1940 when she was already a star. 

Arnaz also served in the U.S. Army and participated in World War II. His task: to entertain the troops. 

Arnaz and Ball met on a film set and their marriage was one of the most talked-about in Hollywood, until their divorce in 1960. They formed their own production company, Desilu to work together. As Desilu, the couple pitched I Love Lucy to CBS, but the network was not convinced about showing a multi-ethnic couple on national TV. However, because of Ball's pressure, the network finally relented so the couple could act together. 

I Love Lucy became an instant hit, and reached audiences of 32 million people a week, a record for the time.

For more than a decade, the couple reaped success in TV's golden age, after finishing I Love Lucy in 1956, Arnaz continued to work as a producer on such famous series as Star Trek and The Untouchables, and also pursued his musical career. 

After his divorce, Arnaz remarried and moved to Baja California, where he lived until his death in 1986 from lung cancer.

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