‘I Love Lucy’ Star Lucille Ball Famously Lights Her Nose on Fire in ‘L.A. at Last!’ Episode: The Story Behind the Flaming Stunt

by Joe Rutland

Lucille Ball makes comedic genius look as easy as lighting her nose on fire. In fact, Ball does just that in an episode of “I Love Lucy.”

If you’ve never heard about this, then let’s get to some of the backstories. “I Love Lucy” was going through a number of episodes where the Ricardos and Mertzes (Ball as Lucy, Desi Arnaz and Ricky, Vivian Vance as Ethel, and William Frawley as Fred) were driving across America.

Why? Well, Ricky had some movie business to handle in California. Lucy wants to go, and so do Fred and Ethel. That leads to all four of them hopping in Ricky’s car and making stops along the way.

Lucy Meets William Holden At Famed Brown Derby Restaurant

Once they get to Los Angeles, it’s time for fun only in the “I Love Lucy” style. In the “L.A. at Last!” episode, Lucy crosses paths with actor William Holden. Now Holden was a major movie star in 1955 after appearances in 1950’s “Sunset Boulevard” and 1953’s “Stalag 17,” which earned him an Academy Award.

In the episode, Lucy makes an initial trip to the famed Brown Derby restaurant. She sees Holden sitting in the booth next to hers and, well, makes a scene to get a glimpse of him. The whole thing ends up with Lucy escaping the Brown Derby by the skin of her teeth.

But it wouldn’t be her teeth that got attention later in the episode. Ricky invites someone up to his hotel room with Lucy present. That would be one William Holden.

Now Lucy gets the bright idea to use puddy on her nose and change her looks a bit. When Ricky and Holden start chatting, there reaches a moment where Ricky asks Lucy to come out and meet Holden. That’s when Lucy comes out with the puddy-fixed nose.

‘I Love Lucy’ Episode Has Lucy’s Nose Catch On Fire

Obviously, the entire moment is a bit awkward. Holden thinks he’s seen Lucy somewhere before but just can’t place it. Ricky can’t believe his eyes as Lucy changed her looks.

This sort of plays out in Lucy’s favor until she starts having trouble with the nose. One time, she turns away when Holden, who sits between her and Ricky, turns toward Ricky. She quickly turns away and readjusts the nose. It looks worse.

When Holden reaches over to light a cigarette for Lucy, the lighter’s flame not only clips the cigarette but Lucy’s nose as well. The nose catches on fire and her scheme goes up in flames. Ricky and Holden can’t believe what they are seeing.

Candle Wick Becomes Important Piece To Having Scene Work

In actuality, Lucy’s nose has a candle wick at the end of it. The whole scene on “I Love Lucy” ends with Holden recognizing Lucy from earlier in the day. He winks at her, away from Ricky, letting her know that he’s covering for her act at the Brown Derby. She, in her excitement, reaches over and kisses Holden.

At the end, Holden asks Ricky if he’d like to come over and watch him on the set sometime. He passes the invite along to Lucy, who says yes and realizes she just kissed Bill Holden. Lucy faints in Holden’s arms and the episode ends.

The “flaming nose” scene on “I Love Lucy” actually drew interest from another major CBS star. That is Jack Benny, who took his writers over to Desilu Studios and had them watch the scene itself. Benny considered it a piece or comedic genius. Anytime you can get Jack Benny watching your work, then that was a high compliment.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s Ball, Arnaz, and Holden in a colorized version of this “I Love Lucy” episode. It originally ran in black and white on CBS.