The Argument That Made Lucille Ball Cry During I Love Lucy

By: ScreenGawk Staff | Published: Feb 08, 2024

Popular ’50s sitcom “I Love Lucy” has withstood the test of time and is still loved by viewers around the world 70 years after it first aired.

Stories of the original cast and their antics on and off camera have been shared by the media over the years. Yet, one stands out among the rest as it left the show’s star in tears.

History in the Making

In the early ’50s, television history was made as the first-ever episode of “I Love Lucy” aired on CBS.

Vivian Vance, William Frawley, Desi Arnaz, and Lucille Ball, on the popular television series “I Love Lucy”

Source: Archive Photos/Getty Images

The show followed the life of Lucille Ball, the quirky wife of Cuban singer and band member Ricky Ricardo. Set in New York during the ’50s, it would go on to attain a cult-like following.

Lucille Ball Becomes a TV Superstar

Lucille Ball took on the role of Lucy, becoming an instant favorite among viewers during the middle part of the 20th century.

Lucille Ball pictured alongside her husband Desi Arnaz in the 1950s

Source: Archive Photos/Getty Images

Her comedic talents helped the show become the most-watched program in America for four of its six seasons. Overall, 180 episodes were released over a six-year period from 1951 to 1957.

Ball Left in Tears After First Encounter

After directing all 35 episodes of the first season, Marc Daniels decided to leave the show in search of other ventures (via Slashfilm).

A woman dressed in a blue shirt cries alone on her couch

Source: Freepik

In his place came William Asher, whose first encounter with the show’s star, Lucille Ball, left her crying backstage.

Asher Close to Leaving Set on His First Day

DGA Quarterly spoke of Asher’s takeover during a written piece in 2003.

Movie director pictured alongside cameraman during a scene

Source: Freepik

According to Ted Elrick, “Asher’s first day on the set nearly ended his association with the show.”

Director Returns and Confronts Ball

Asher had stepped off set momentarily, and upon his return, he had spotted Ball giving out instructions on set.

Director pictured seated in a wooden chair as a scene is filmed on set

Source: Freepik

After approaching Ball, he said, “Lucy, there’s only one director. I’m it. If you would like to direct, then don’t pay me and send me home.”


Star Bursts into Tears

After the brief confrontation, Asher says Ball burst into tears and left the stage.

A woman dressed in a blue shirt cries alone

Source: Freepik

“When I said that, she began to cry and ran off the stage. Everybody disappeared. Desi hadn’t been in the scene. I didn’t know where to go because I had no office,” he said.


Contemplating Life on the Toilet

After watching Ball leave in tears, Asher says he “went to the men’s bathroom, sat on the toilet, and didn’t know what the hell to do. I realized I’d blown my first day of what was really a pretty good job.”

A man dressed in a blue jacket uses his tablet on the toilet

Source: Freepik

“I sat there for a long time and finally got up and went back to the stage,” he continued.


Asher Is Confronted by Desi

When the director finally mustered up the courage to return back to the stage, Lucille’s husband, Desi, confronted him.

Two men are pictured arguing as they stand face-to-face

Source: Freepik

“He was furious. He was cussing me out in Spanish, and I didn’t know what he was saying. I settled him down and said, ‘Look, Desi, here’s what happened.’ And he said, ‘Well, you’re absolutely right, Bill.’”


Asher was Instructed to Apologize to Ball

Desi then instructed Asher to go and find Lucille and apologize to her in person.

Lucille Ball pictured with her daughter Lucie Arnaz in 1978

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“She’s crying. Go talk to her and settle this thing,” said Desi. Asher continued, “So that’s what I did. I went in. I said I was sorry I upset her. And she was crying, and I started to cry. And after a while, we went back to work.”


No More Trouble on Set

The pair eventually seem to have patched things up reasonably quickly. Asher went on to explain they never had any more problems.

A production team is pictured as they shoot a scene for a TV series

Source: Freepik

“But I’ll tell you this. I never had trouble from her after that. She had her opinion and would offer it, but nothing ever behind my back. Everything was just fine. That’s the way it was for the next five years,” he said.


Director Produces Over 100 Episodes

Asher stayed with the show for several years and went on to direct over 100 episodes of the classic sitcom.

A scene from “The Patty Duke Show” showing Patty Duke as Patty Lane

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The director later went on to be involved in hits, including “Gidget” in the ’60s, and wrote, produced, and directed the sitcom “The Patty Duke Show” from 1963 to 66.