Liberal Arts Blog — Lucille Ball (1911–1989) — The Most Iconic Scene in the History of American Comedy

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Today’s Topic: Lucille Ball (1911–1989) The Most Iconic Scene in the History of American Comedy

Lucille Ball has a face worth a billion laughs. And, to me the most iconic scene in the history of American comedy is the grape stomping scene from the “My Italian Movie” episode (1956) of the television show “I Love Lucy” which Ball co-produced with her then-husband Desi Arnaz. Two other memorable scenes from the funniest television show ever are when her husband (“Ricky Ricardo” played by Arnaz) makes her breakfast, and when Lucy gets pregnancy cravings (the actress gave birth the same day as the character in the show). Ball would say “People either have comedy or they don’t. You can’t teach it to them.” She had it. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

LUCY LEARNS HOW TO MAKE WINE — Two Versions (1:15; 2:02)

1. The first version below is the standard version. It is pretty hilarious. This is the version that is watched on television by Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) and Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) in the best selling romantic comedy of all time — “Pretty Woman.”

2. The second is the unexpurgated version and is absolutely not to be missed.

3. Her Italian adversary, Teresa Tirelli who had never acted before and did not speak English apparently did not quite get the part about the fight being fake. Ball almost died. Literally. Funny? You decide.

NB ““Since we hadn’t worked with the grapes in the vat during rehearsals, I had no idea what I was in store for. Once the fight started, the lady was bent on drowning me. At one point, she literally held my head underwater, and I had to fight to get my breath back. A lot of that was edited out of the final print. Looking back, of course, I’m glad it happened that way because the scene was so good.” (Lucille Ball)


Lucille Ball Nearly Died During Grape-Stomping Scene


1. “Lucy! Breakfast is ready!” (Ricky Ricardo)

2. “Coming dear!” (Lucy)

3. “Good morning! Well, doesn’t this look wonderful!” (Lucy)

NB: I will not spoil what happens next.

I love Lucy Breakfast


1. “Oh! Honey, where have you been? what took you so long?” (Lucy)

2. “What do you mean what took me so long ? I had to go all over town. There is only one store in New York City that makes a papaya juice milkshake!” (Ricky Ricardo)

3. “Did you get the dill pickle?” (Lucy)

NB “Honey, are you sure you want to….” If you know of a funnier scene in the history of television or film, please share.

I Love Lucy — Pregnancy Cravings

BIOGRAPHICAL TIDBITS — Two Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Communism, Other Recognition

1. Lucille Ball has two stars on the Hollywood Hall of Fame. One for television, the other for film. How many stars can you have on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Five. There are five categories — film, TV, music, radio, and theater. Only Gene Autry has five stars. Four have four stars (Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Roy Rogers, and Tony Martin) and thirty-three have three (including Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, Jo Stafford, Danny Kaye).

2. “When Ball registered to vote in 1936, she listed her party affiliation as Communist, along with her brother and mother.” But when she testified in 1953 she denied her Communist past.

3. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1989 and inducted in the Women’s Hall of Fame in 2001 for her work as a feminist.

A FEW QUOTES — on anger, how children learn, an ideal of womanhood, the secrets to her success

1. “Things said in embarrassment and anger are seldom the truth, but are said to hurt and wound the other person. Once said, they can never be taken back.”

2. “Children internalize their parents’ unhappiness. Fortunately, they absorb our contentment just as readily.”

3. “My ideal of womanhood has always been the pioneer woman who fought and worked at her husband’s side. She bore the children, kept the home fires burning; she was the hub of the family, the planner and the dreamer.”

NB: “Don’t suppose that hard work, discipline, and a perfectionist attitude toward my work did me any harm. They are a big part of my makeup today, as any of my co-workers will tell you. And when life seemed unbearable, I learned to live in my imagination, and to step inside other people’s skins- indispensable abilities for an actress.”

AND TWO MORE — on having a happy childhood, and knowing what you are good at

1. “People with happy childhoods never overdo; they don’t strive or exert themselves. They’re moderate, pleasant, well liked, and good citizens. Society needs them. But the tremendous drive and dedication necessary to succeed in any field- not only show business- often seems to be rooted in a disturbed childhood. I wasn’t an unloved or an unwanted child, but I was moved around a lot, and then death and cruel circumstances brought many painful separations.”

2. “Knowing what you can not do is more important than knowing what you can do. In fact, that’s good taste.”

Desi Arnaz

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Lucille Ball

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