Hollywood Heartbreak: Power Couples Edition

When these superstars became couples, it seemed like their relationships were picture perfect. But behind-the-scenes was a different story…

1. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

They met on the RKO studio lot and caught each other’s eye. Arnaz offered to teach Lucy how to rumba for the film she was making, Too Many Girls, if she agreed to a date that night. She gladly accepted. When Desi went back East for work, Ball continued to court her Cuban lover, and the pair eventually eloped in 1940. However, due to his womanizing ways, their marriage was on the rocks. When CBS approached Lucy to bring her successful radio show My Favorite Husband to television, she agreed, but only if Desi could play her on-screen husband. And I Love Lucy was born. However, the hit show wasn’t enough to fix the issues, and they announced their divorce after filming the last episode. She would later reflect, “I hate failure and that divorce was a number one failure in my eyes. It was the worst period of my life. Neither Desi nor I have been the same since, physically or mentally.” After the split, Lucy found new opportunities on television while Desi continued working at Desilu.

2. Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles

Hayworth described Welles as the “great love of my life.” Orson became fixated with Rita after seeing her on the cover of Life magazine. The pair fell for each other quickly, and she even joined his magic act for the troops as the woman he sawed in half. Columbia’s head Harry Cohn, however, was not a fan of their relationship. Despite his opposition, the pair wed and eventually had a child. Between Orson’s political pursuits and his affairs, Rita began to move on, and in 1946, she cemented her film legacy with Gilda. The pair eventually reconciled and worked together for The Lady from Shanghai – a film which angered Cohn because Hayworth cut and dyed her hair without studio permission. However, it appears the matrimonial damage had already been done, and after the film, they divorced in 1947. Hayworth would later say, “I really wanted to be everything Orson wanted of me.”

3. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Despite both being married, Elizabeth and Richard couldn’t help but fall in love while making 20th Century Fox’s extravagant Cleopatra. Taylor had made headlines years earlier when she and Eddie Fisher, who was married to Debbie Reynolds at the time, became an item. While at first the pair agreed to return to their spouses, they eventually reunited and married in 1964. The couple lived extravagantly, and he even presented her with a 38-carat diamond ring. “Lumpy” and “Pockmark” – as they called each other – starred in several films together, including Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Taming of the Shrew. But Burton’s extramarital affairs caused issues, and the couple eventually divorced in 1974. However, the story didn’t end there. By 1975, the pair reconciled and remarried, and by 1976, they were divorced again. “Maybe we loved each other too much,” Taylor said years later. Their last project together was Broadway’s revival of Private Lives

4. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.

At a party in 1915, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., his wife Beth, Mary Pickford, and her husband Owen Moore took a walk as a group. A stream blocked their path, so Beth decided to turn back. Pickford was unsure what to do, and while she staled, Fairbanks picked her up and carried her across. This gesture was the beginning of something between the silent film star and “America’s Sweetheart.” Their relationship continued to deepen until both decided to divorce their current spouses to get married. The controversial nature of divorce could have ruined both of their careers – especially since Owen Moore protested loudly until the film studio threatened his own future – but the public embraced the power couple. Together, they formed United Artist Corporation with Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith, and christened Beverly Hills mansion Pickfair. Unfortunately, their own self-doubts led to marital issues. Douglas took to traveling abroad alone, where he met the married Lady Sylvia Ashely. When he husband filed for divorce, Fairbanks became entangled in the drama. While efforts were made to reconcile with Pickford, they were unsuccessful.