I love to watch old movies, especially on TCM. One of my favourite parts about watching movies on TCM is the introduction given by Robert Osborne, complete with trivia about the actors, director and film technology. The other night I saw the 1940 movie Too Many Girls, starring Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Richard Carlson, Eddie Bracken and, making his film debut, Desi Arnaz.
A publicity still for the movie Too Many Girls- 1940
In his introduction for the film, Robert Osborne mentioned that Too Many Girls was originally a Broadway musical, Desi was one of the cast members reprising his role from the play and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz met on the set of this movie and married later that same year.
Too Many Girls was produced by RKO Pictures, the studio that Lucy was under contract to, and directed by George Abbott. Abbott had an extensive theatre background and was known for hiring Broadway actors to recreate their roles on screen.
Lucy and Desi went on to create and star in one of TV’s most enduring sitcoms, I Love Lucy and start their own production company, Desilu Productions, which, ironically, filmed on a 40 acre lot that they purchased from RKO Pictures.
Lucy and Desi’s union also produced two children, Lucy Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr.
Famous TV Guide cover with first photo of Desi Arnaz Jr.
A budding musician and actor,Desi Jr. was quite the teen heart-throb and landed quite a few acting roles, notably his guest appearance as Marcia Brady’s celebrity crush on The Brady Bunch in 1970.
Desi Arnaz Jr. kisses Marcia Brady
Arnaz Jr. loved the girls as much as they loved him. When he was 15, he got an unknown 15-year-old girl pregnant. She gave birth to a baby named Julia Arnaz. The child was kept secret for decades and was later confirmed by a court ordered DNA test that she was Arnaz Jr.’s child. Two years later, when Desi Jr. was just 17, he began dating Patty Duke, who was then 23. A few months after they broke up, Patty gave birth to Sean Patrick Duke (now known as Sean Astin), who has gone on to become a star in his own right.
Sean Astin as Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings
For the first 13 years of Sean’s life, both Arnaz Jr. and Patty Duke believed that Desi Arnaz Jr. was the child’s father. This apparently, didn’t sit too well with Desi’s mother.
It was not until a DNA test was performed when Sean was 13, that it was revealed that Arnaz Jr. was not the father. (why do I have visions of Maury Povich announcing that?)
So, if director George Abbott hadn’t given Desi Arnaz Sr. his first role in a movie, Lucy and Desi would likely never have met, the landscape of 1950’s sitcoms would have looked very different, Desi Jr. would not have been born, Marcia Brady would have had a crush on an entirely different teen idol and Sean Astin might have been born knowing who his real father was.