A report by Clémence Michallon for London’s Independent.
He was the real-life husband of Lucille Ball, who played the title character, for 20 years.
Born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III in Santiago, Cuba, on 2 March, 1917, Arnaz emigrated to the US with his family as a teenager, following the 1933 Cuban revolution.
He built a career as a musician before starring in the 1940 musical film Too Many Girls, in which his future wife, Ball, had the lead part. Arnaz and Ball married in November of that same year.
Together, they became household names as the main characters of I Love Lucy, which aired between 1951 and 1957 – and still has a strong fan following to this day.
Arnaz served as an executive producer on the sitcom, which became one of the most successful TV shows in America.
He and Ball had two children together – a daughter named Lucie Arnaz and a son called Desi Arnaz Jr, who was born the same day his mother’s character gave birth to her fictional son, Little Ricky, on I Love Lucy.
Ball and Arnaz created the TV production company Desilu, which produced more than 19 shows.
The pair divorced in 1960 after a 20-year marriage. Arnaz later worked as a producer on The Mothers-in-Law, a series that aired between 1967 and 1969.
He continued acting throughout the 1970s until the early 1980s.
Arnaz died of lung cancer in 1986 at 69 years old.
“He was the father of my children and we were always friends, always very friendly and close,” Ball told the Associated Press at the time.
“I was down there last week. We’ve talked all the time, through the years. Lucie, our daughter, was with him.”
Arnaz became an American citizen while serving in the US Army during World War II and, according to what his daughter said in a Television Academy Hall of Fame tribute for her father, took great pride in it.
“He was so proud to be an American citizen and he was extraordinarily patriotic,” Lucie Arnaz said.
“He had amazing political connections. My mother won the Emmys, but my father had letters from Presidents. His father was mayor of Santiago and a member of the Cuban House of Representatives, so he understood politicians and wasn’t intimidated by people in power.
“He talked to them the way he liked his fans to talk to him.”