Friday, November 11, 1938
This is when, and where, and how Pepito first met Lucille Ball, in 1938 on the set of RKO’s “Annabel Takes a Tour.” It was the beginning of a friendship and creative partnership that would heavily influence the genesis in 1951 of one of the most famous television shows of all time, “I Love Lucy.”
In the photo above, Pepito is the accordion player, and Lucille Ball is the character Annabel, reclining in bed. Lucille was well-known for making friends with everyone on set; this was the beginning of their friendship. Although in later years, Pepito would be known as Desi’s pal, in actuality he was Lucille’s friend first.
It wasn’t until two years after “Annabel Takes a Tour,” in 1940, that Lucille first met Desi on the set of RKO’s picture “Too Many Girls.” In a 2004 telephone interview with the author, Joanne recounted that in 1940 while she and Pepito were performing their act in Detroit, they were telephoned by Lucille who asked to meet them for dinner after the show.
Lucille brought her new husband to dinner, a bandleader named Desi Arnaz. Lucille introduced her Spanish-speaking husband to Joanne’s Spanish-speaking husband. They hit it off immediately over a shared passion for cigars and boats and fishing. After that dinner, Joanne and Pepito didn’t hear from Lucille or Desi for a long while. One day they saw a boat they did not recognize, docking in their slip; the pilot turned out to be Desi.
Synopsis of “Annabel Takes a Tour”:
Zany actress Annabel goes on a promotional tour in this lively comedy, the second in the “Annabel” series. Lucille Ball stars in this screwball comedy about a movie star who will do–and does do–almost anything to promote herself. Things go wildly out of control as the publicity hungry actress goes on the road when Annabel Takes a Tour.
Annabel Allison (Ball) is the star performer at Wonder Pictures Studios, but she becomes insanely jealous when another actress gets more publicity after marrying a titled nobleman. So Annabel turns to her agent, Lanny Morgan (Jack Oakie), whose antic stunts have gotten her in trouble before. And this time, Annabel’s antics are in a whole new league as she barnstorms the country. But nothing seems to gain her the notice she seeks, until she finds a titled nobleman of her own to pursue–unaware that he is trying to hide from his wife in this zany romp.
Available to rent or own on Amazon Prime streaming video.
Also available to rent on YouTube.