Lucille Ball is one of the greatest physical comediennes of all time. And there is always a bit of risk when you put your body on the line for a laugh. Though in one of the most famous I Love Lucy episodes, she nearly broke her nose in one such stunt.
In “Switching Jobs,” mostly remembered as the chocolate factory episode, Lucy and Ethel get jobs at a confectionery company. Their husbands are upset with their excessive spending habits. So, the women join the workforce and the men stay home to do the housework.
The episode was a high-water mark for the show. It’s full of classic comedy moments. Most notably, the scene where Lucy and her best friend Ethel stuff their faces and clothing with chocolates because they can’t keep up with a quick conveyor belt.
In another famous moment, Lucy works with a woman to learn how to dip the chocolates. Of course, Lucy ends up covered in sticky chocolate within seconds. Just in time for her to get a nose itch and need to battle a fly. She accidentally strikes her new coworker in the face trying to kill the bug. The woman hits her back and a food fight follows.
But that scene didn’t exactly go according to plan.
Lucy Was Worried About The Woman Playing that Role
The actress playing that taciturn trainer was named Amanda Milligan, and she wasn’t an actress at all. Producers picked her to be on I Love Lucy because she worked as a chocolate dipper in a nearby confectionery. They believed she’d add authenticity to the scene as well as be a good “straight woman” to Lucy’s lunacy, according to MentalFloss.
Ball worried that Milligan couldn’t play the part, however. During rehearsals, Milligan was reluctant to hit America’s favorite redhead in the face. She kept holding back, and it was hurting the scene. But in front of the live audience, she didn’t pull her punch. She slapped Lucy so hard in the face that Ball thought her nose was broken. You can see a moment of genuine shock on Lucille Ball’s face in the recording.
Milligan Hadn’t Watched ‘I Love Lucy’ Before Being on It
Milligan wasn’t very impressed being on the set of I Love Lucy, despite it being one of the most popular shows on television, stage manager Herb Browar recalled. He found her on set one day and asked what she thought about all of it. Not much, apparently.
“Now, remember, all this woman did all day long was put swirls on chocolates,” Browar said. “Eight hours a day, for years. So, it’s the second day of rehearsals, and I notice her sitting by the Lucy set watching the principals rehearse the first scenes. I go up to her and say, ‘Well, what do you think about being in the movies?’ She looked at me wearily and said, ‘I’ve never been so bored in my life!”
In fact, she’d never even seen the show. Milligan preferred to watch something else on Monday nights.
“Lucy was introduced to the woman on the stage and asked if she liked the show,” head writer Jess Oppenheimer remembered. “The woman answered, ‘What show?’ Lucy replied, ‘I Love Lucy.’ Then the dipper asked, ‘When is it on?’ and Lucy answered, ‘Monday night.’ ‘Oh,’ said the woman, ‘I watch wrestling that night.’”