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Lucille Ball Nearly Choked To Death Doing The Grape Stomping Scene In “Lucy’s Italian Movie” Episode

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Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez (Image: Skeeze/Pixabay)

National I Love Lucy Day is observed annually on October 15. This day celebrates one of television’s all-time greatest shows; I Love Lucy.

I Love Lucy, an American sitcom starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley made its debut on October 15, 1951.

  • Lucille Ball’s natural hair color was not red. Her natural hair color was actually brown. Upon entering show business, she dyed her hair blonde first, then finally red.
  • CBS didn’t think that Americans would want to see a TV show about an interracial couple. In 1950, CBS asked Lucille to develop a television sitcom based on My Favorite Husband, the hit radio show which starred herself and Richard Denning. She agreed, but on one condition: that her real-life husband Desi be inlcuded the cast. CBS hesitated, and didn’t think that audiences would buy a sitcom about an all-American woman married to a Cuban with an odd accent.
  • To prove CBS wrong, the couple embarked on a vaudeville tour which included Arnaz’s own orchestra. The act’s success finally convinced the CBS big bosses to sign the couple up.
  • I Love Lucy not only proved to be a star vehicle for Lucille, but it also made a way to save their already shaky marriage
  • The episode where Lucy and Ricky welcomed little Ricky was aired on January 19, 1953. Forty-four million viewers (or 72% of the entire American household) tuned in to witness this joyous occasion. The couple actually wrote Lucille’s real-life pregnancy into the show, and her scheduled real-life Caesarean childbirth was aligned with the date of her television character’s childbirth.
  • Lucille reportedly nearly choked to death while doing the grape stomping scene in the episode “Lucy’s Italian Movie.” No one noticed it until the episode was done filming.
  • Desi Arnaz was originally going to be named Larry Lopez when the show was being put together. The name was only changed to Ricky Ricardo because producers thought Larry and Lucy was a horrible alliteration.
  • Whenever Lucy got herself into a crazy situation, someone off camera can be heard saying, “Uh-Oh!” That person is Lucille Ball’s actual mother, as she was present at every filming. The sound producer for the show, Glen Glenn, even used the “Uh-Oh!” for other shows!
  • I Love Lucy almost never made it to the air because CBS had trouble securing a sponsor for the show. Finally tobacco giant Philip Morris signed on at the 11th hour. As a result, lots of smoking was featured in each episode, and the name “Philip Morris” was worked into the dialogue whenever plausible. There was, however, one small problem: Lucille Ball was a Chesterfield girl. She eventually overcame this little hurdle by having a stagehand stuff any on-camera Philip Morris packs full of Chesterfield cigarettes.
  • Because the show was filmed in front of an audience, they hesitated to yell “cut” and reshoot scenes. As a result, the occasional blooper was left in and sort of papered-over. One classic example occurred in “Redecorating the Mertzes’ Apartment,” at the breakfast table when Lucy is musing aloud about how to repair both the Mertzes’ marriage and their tacky apartment. See how Desi saves the scene after she mistakenly says “paint the furniture and reupholster the old furniture.”
  • The longest laugh on the show lasted 65 seconds. When Lucy hid dozens of eggs and then danced the tango with Ricky (resulting in the inevitable blouse full of scrambled yolks), the audience roared for so long that ultimately some of the laughter had to be edited out in the final film. Neither Ball nor Vance had used eggs during rehearsals so that their onscreen reactions would be more genuine when the shells cracked and the albumen slimmed its way down their flesh.


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