The Reason Lucille Ball Thought She Was Going To Die On The Set Of I Love Lucy

There are a lot of physical comedy legends, but Lucille Ball was a true pioneer. She came into an entertainment arena that was dominated by men yet managed to blaze her own trail, per the New York Daily News. Her show, "I Love Lucy," was filled with her distinctive brand of slapstick comedy — in one episode filling her mouth like a chipmunk at a chocolate factory and in another, a dance challenge to rival the Marx Brothers. The kind of broad humor was nothing new but there was something novel about seeing a woman do it. Ball could make people laugh with just a mere expression on her face.

But there was an instance that fell far short of funny. In fact, it was scary enough that Ball thought she might die on the set of her own show. Ball was accosted by an extra — while the pair was filming a scene together. Yes, she was almost killed by someone while doing a comedy bit. People talk about suffering for their art, but what happened to Ball goes beyond the pale.

Ball learned communication was important

Lucille Ball told Dick Cavett about it on his show. They were filming a scene on the set of "I Love Lucy" where Lucy was supposed to stomp grapes with an Italian woman. The two were supposed to get into a disagreement and then fight. Well, everything was going to plan until ... it didn't.

During the scene, Ball hit the woman, who was a real Italian vineyard worker. The two were supposed to wrestle in the tub of grapes and the scenes had been carefully plotted out; viewers were to see Ball's legs in the air, arms flying, and her head popping up occasionally. Despite how planned the scene may have been, the director may not have filled Ball's scene partner in on the joke and she saw red when Ball hit her. The scene quickly became much more physical and combative.

The woman started pushing Ball under the grapes, which was not exactly conducive to Ball breathing. All of this was in front of a studio audience and director and neither seemed aware of the danger. Ball was quite literally fighting for her life and at one point managed to stick her head up and yell for the director, who had to then step in and break up the fight to keep Ball from becoming a headline.

The whole incident didn't seem to faze Ball ... well, at least not in public. She capped off the Cavett story with the quip, "To drown in a vat of grapes was not the way I planned to go." Hard to know whether almost drowning in a vat of grapes is enough to make someone swear off drinking wine forever or drown their sorrows in some.