‘I Love Lucy’: Lucille Ball Got Into a Real Fight With the Italian Grape Stomper in ‘Lucy’s Italian Movie’–’She Kept Me Down by the Throat!’
“Lucy’s Italian Movie” is an I Love Lucy classic. The iconic grape-stomping scene goes down in history as one of Lucille Ball‘s best physical comedy routines. But as it turns out, the iconic scene came at a price. Ball got into a real fight with one of the grape smashers that day on set. Here’s what happened.
Casting ‘real, short, Italian lades’ in ‘Lucy’s Italian Movie’ to stomp grapes with Lucille Ball
When Ball appeared on The Dick Cavett Show back in 1974, she spoke about the dramatics behind one of her favorite episodes, “Lucy’s Italian Movie.” Apparently, production went way out of their way to cast “real, short, Italian ladies that spoke Italian” for the grape stompers.
“We really had to go way down in one of the grape vineyard areas to find anyone that was a real Italian. We came up with three that didn’t understand English. But they were perfect,” she said.
On set, an Italian speaker explained to the women what they were going to do.
“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, anyway, they knew they had to go barefoot, pull their skirts up and they knew how to stomp grapes–they had done it,” explained Ball.
How Lucille Ball got into a fight with one of the grape stompers
One of the grape stompers had been told that she was going to be in a “fight” with Ball. But when they started filming, Ball accidentally hit the woman as she was stomping around.
“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 [Lucille Ball gestured to her chest]. She hit me right [in the stomach] and took all the wind out of me.”
According to Ball, things took a turn for the ugly once she realized the hired grape stomper wasn’t going to ease up.
“She kept me down by the throat! And I had gapes up my nose, in my ears, and she was choking me,” she said. “And 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!”
Finally, Ball was able to get the woman off of her. To her surprise (and horror) the director and the audience loved the take.
“I came up over the side of the vat and I yelled the director’s name, like, for help, and he thought that was great. The audience loved it.”
“To drown in a vat of grapes is not the way I had planned to go,” she added.