These candid photos show the messy aftermath of I Love Lucy’s famous grape stomping scene
I Love Lucy provided many iconic moments still enjoyed 70 years later. Along with the hilarious “Vitameatavegamin” commercial and the “Job Switching” chocolate factory conveyor belt bit, Lucy’s attempt at stomping grapes in Italy ranks as one of the show’s greatest scenes. It has been referenced and replicated countless times since it first aired. Julia Roberts laughs at Lucy’s chaotic antics in Pretty Woman and Megan Mullally reenacts the scene with Leslie Jordan in the sitcom Will & Grace.
While the scene is a definite sidesplitter, filming it wasn’t all squashy fun. A language barrier between most of the crew and the Italian actor with Lucille Ball in the vat of grapes prevented clear communication and the escalating blows while cameras rolled made Ball fear for her life!
On Dick Cavett’s show in 1974, Ball recounted the harrowing ordeal. She explained that the large vat was filled with real grapes and felt like “being in a vat of eyeballs,” to which Cavett deadpanned “Oh, I know what that’s like.”
Ball and her scene partner Teresa Tirelli pranced around in the grapes until Lucy slipped and hit Teresa, a move that was planned. That fall was then supposed lead into a pretend fight with Lucy’s legs, arms and head popping up over the sides for comedic effect. But as Ball told Cavett, things got out of hand.
“She had been told that we were to stay down for a while, [to] give me a chance to get my legs way up so that they would show in the camera. Up would come an arm and then my head was supposed to [pop up]. Well, my head never popped up.” She continued, “She kept me down by the throat! And I had grapes up my nose, in my ears and she was choking me.”
When Ball finally did emerge, exasperated, the director and the live studio audience loved it, thinking it was all played for laughs. She noted that half the scene was cut from the episode and the crew had to explain to Tirelli to let Lucy up for air. “To drown in a vat of grapes is not the way I had planned to go,” Ball joked at the end of her story.
While Lucille Ball may have been exaggerating a little for comedic effect on The Dick Cavett Show, it’s clear that one of I Love Lucy’s most iconic scenes didn’t go as planned. In these behind-the-scenes photos from that episode, her face does seem to show she had just been through quite an ordeal, though she’s still able to flash a smile to the camera.