‘I Love Lucy’: Lucille Ball Almost Drowned in Grapes Filming Her Favorite Episode

by Josh Lanier

Your “my favorite day at work” story probably doesn’t end with you nearly being drowned in grape juice by a miscast Italian opera singer, but you’re not Lucille Ball. That’s how Ball explained her favorite episode of I Love Lucy.

Ball explained on The Dick Cavett Show why she loves “Lucy’s Italian Movie.”

She’s not the only one who loves this episode, TV Guide ranked it the 18th greatest episode of television of all time. In it, Lucy hopes an Italian director will cast her in one of his movies. She winds up stomping on grapes at an Italian vineyard to soak up some of the local culture after a misunderstanding.

Lucy and another woman stomping grapes are supposed to get into a fight in the scene, but things got way too real. Ball revealed to Cavett that the fight turned real, and she felt like she nearly died.

Lucille Ball: ‘I Didn’t Plan to Die in a Vat of Grapes’

The show hired an Italian woman who stomped grapes for a living. Unfortunately, she spoke no English, and no one on set spoke Italian. The other problem was the fact that the woman was actually an opera singer. She had as much experience stomping grapes as Ball did.

As the scene got underway, Ball slipped and fell into the woman who did not like that at all.

“And she took offense,” she said. “So she hauled off and let me have it. This was supposed to happen. That, she got right. But when she hit me, oh my God. She only came to about here (chest height). She hit me right (stomach) and took all the wind out of me.”

The script called for Lucy’s limbs to fly up above the rim of the tank one by one for comedic effect. The scene would end when Lucy’s head would pop up over the side. Though this woman didn’t seem to care about any of that, Ball recalled.

“She kept me down by the throat. I had grapes up my nose, in my ears, and she was choking me,” she said. “I’m really beating her to get her off. And they’re wondering what’s [going on] because we do all this in front of an audience. And she couldn’t remember or she didn’t understand that she had to let me up once in a while. I was drowning in these grapes!”

When Ball was finally able to claw her way to the rim of the vat and scream for help, everyone laughed.

Much of the fight made it into the show because they found it so funny.