Lucy Made Laughter Out of Grapes and Chocolates With PM-Obit-Ball, Bjt
Apr. 27, 1989
HOLLYWOOD (AP) _ Leave it to Lucy to find laughs - hysterical, sidesplitting laughs - in chocolates and grapes.
Lucy MacGillicuddy Ricardo, and later Lucy Carmichael and Lucy Carter, could get into more trouble than anybody on television.
Sometimes actress Lucille Ball had the help of co-conspirator Ethel Mertz, played by Vivian Vance. But she always left Ricky sputtering in broken English. Her then-husband, the late Desi Arnaz, was her first foil on ''I Love Lucy.'' Later, Gale Gordon was on the receiving end on ''The Lucy Show'' and ''Here's Lucy.''
In the very first show, which went on the air on Oct. 15, 1951, the Ricardos decide to make out wills. And Lucy thinks Ricky is going to kill her.
''I Love Lucy'' got ratings that would make even Bill Cosby envious. The ratings were in the 50s. The birth of Little Ricky on Jan. 19, 1953, got a rating of 71.8 and was seen by 92 percent of the television audience.
Many of the shows involved Lucy's attempts to break into show business. Husband Ricky was band leader at the Tropicana Club in Manhattan.
Lucy's grape-stomping episode is one of her funniest and most memorable. It came during the fifth season, in 1956, when the Ricardos and Mertzes were on a visit to Europe. Information on individual episodes is from ''The 'I Love Lucy' Book'' by Bart Andrews, published by Doubleday-Dolphin.
Lucy is cast by an Italian director in a movie called ''Bitter Grapes.'' Assuming it's about wine-making, she dresses up as a peasant girl carrying a bunch of grapes and soon ends up in a grape-filled vat at a local winery. She stomps on the grapes to make wine and is soon in a grape fight with another woman grape stomper.
She's in no shape to play her movie role, which turns out to be that of a typical American tourist. The role goes to Ethel.
In 1952, Lucy and Ethel take a job in a candy factory when Ricky tells Lucy she needs to mend her spendthrift ways. The wives will go to work and Ricky and Fred will do the housework. Lucy works in the chocolate-dipping section, where, of course, she ends up in a chocolate fight with a fellow worker. She and Ethel are sent to the wrapping department and are unable to keep up with the assembly line.
Another favorite episode came in 1955, when Harpo Marx was a guest and Lucy dressed up like the silent Harpo. The funniest part and the best remembered came when the Harpo and his lookalike meet and re-create the famous mirror routine from the Marx Brothers movie ''Duck Soup.''
When Lucy and Ethel tried to emulate pioneer women in the first season, they made the usual mess. Lucy's bread-making effort turned into a gigantic loaf that nearly filled up the kitchen when she put in too many cakes of yeast.
Her television commercial for a health tonic left her tipsy in 1952. She had to keep drinking the tonic for the commercial and eventually its 23 percent alcohol content took its toll. Her speech became more and more slurred and the show got funnier and funnier.
The birth of Little Ricky and Desi Arnaz Jr., which rivaled Dwight D. Eisenhower's inauguration as president on the front pages of the nation's newspapers, was seen by more people than any other TV episode at its time. The birth of Desi Jr. was announced at the end of the show.
In the show, filmed two months earlier, Ricky rushes Lucy to the hospital, but has to get to the nightclub for his act. He gets into his voodoo doctor makeup at the hospital, then rushes to the Tropicana. He comes back for his first look at Ricky Jr.