It might seem like everyone in Hollywood reaches success when they’re young, but that’s not true — for example, when I Love Lucy first debuted in 1951, Lucille Ball was already 40. The show turned both her and then-husband Desi Arnaz into massive stars, but unbeknownst to many fans, Lucille was actually a struggling movie actress long before then. However, since she didn’t achieve major success until her TV show premiered, many people might not know what the funny actress looked like when she was young. She used to not even have red hair!
In her 20s, Lucille had to work her way up in Hollywood. Her first roles were largely uncredited ones like “blonde telephone operator.” And oh yeah, she was a blonde back then! Although in some roles she wore a wig, she would also bleach her hair, too. By the late ’30s, she was a C-list movie actress engaged to director Alexander Hall. However, that all changed when she met Desi Arnaz. In fact, she was so smitten by the Cuban performer that she dumped her fiancé and married Desi after only knowing him for six months! Unfortunately, their marriage wasn’t perfect.
According to friends and industry insiders, Desi’s alcoholism, infidelity, and partying ways left tension in the marriage. In fact, when I Love Lucy premiered in 1951, the couple had already separated once before. Former friends later revealed that casting Desi as Lucy’s husband on the show was a way to save the couple’s marriage in real life. “But she wanted him because she knew that if he went on the road with the band, he’d be catting around all the time,” writer Bob Weiskopf said back in 1991. “She wanted him at home, where she felt the marriage would have a better chance of lasting, which of course it did.”
Check out the gallery below to see stunning pictures of what Lucille looked like before she hit it big.