‘I Love Lucy’: Lucille Ball Nearly Died Filming Famous Grape Stomping Scene

by Jennifer Shea
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Fans of “I Love Lucy” will never forget the iconic grape stomping scene from the episode “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” in which Lucy (Lucille Ball) goes to a vineyard to help make wine in preparation for what she believes is a minor movie role.

Throughout “I Love Lucy,” Lucy was often scheming to make it into show business, usually with disastrous results. Full episodes of the show are available online at CBS’s website.

“I Love Lucy” Prepares for Iconic Grape Stomping Scene

In that particular episode, while Lucy is stomping the grapes, she gets into a fight with another grape stomper.

But it turns out the fight, filmed before a live audience, was a real one. And it got ugly.

Ball later told Dick Cavett in 1974 that she accidentally hit one of the real Italian ladies that producers had cast to stomp grapes, and the woman took it personally. What followed was a serious fight in which Ball almost drowned in the grape juice.

“It’s very difficult to find the real, peasant, short, stocky type of little Italian lady,” Ball explained to Cavett. “We really had to go way down into one of the grape vineyard areas to find anyone that was real Italian. And we came up with three that didn’t understand English. But they were perfect.”

“So the man that came that day with them said, now this is what you’re going to do,” Ball continued. “And they said fine, fine, okay, they understood. Now from there on, they’re on their own. Our director didn’t speak Italian, I didn’t speak Italian, no one spoke Italian.”

But the Italian ladies knew how to stomp grapes. So they climbed in the vats of grapes. One of them got in the vat with Ball. That one had already been told what would have to happen: she would have to fight with Ball, and at some point, Ball’s legs would have to stick up in the air out of the vat.

They began to stomp the grapes, and Ball said she made a little dance out of the process. Eventually, Ball slipped on the grapes, which she said felt like walking on eyeballs.

The Real Fight Begins

“And in slipping, I hit her,” Ball said. “Accidentally. And she took offense. And so she hauled off and let me have it.”

Ball further explained that not only were her legs supposed to pop up, but her arms were supposed to wave in the air and then her head was supposed to come up for air.

“Well, my head never popped up,” Ball recounted. “She kept me down by the throat! And I had grapes up my nose, in my ears, and she was choking me. And I’m really beating her to get her off… She didn’t understand that she had to let me up once in awhile. I was drowning in those grapes!”

“But to drown in a vat of grapes is not the way I had planned to go,” Ball added.

Watch Ball’s Dick Cavett Show interview here:

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