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The Salt
2:15 pm
Mon August 6, 2012

Three Ways Lucille Ball Ruled When She Played With Food

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 10:08 am

Lucille Ball was an actress, comedian, director and producer long before many women would have dreamed of such a career. But she was best known for her role as the lovable, klutzy, fame-crazy 1950s housewife on TV's "I Love Lucy." And she was never funnier than when she was playing with her food.

Whether she was stuffing chocolates in her hat, playing drunk on the mysterious elixir "Vitameatavegemin," or starting a food fight while stomping grapes in Italy, Lucy always seemed like she was having a ball.

Ball died in 1989 but she lives on through the magic of television reruns. In honor of what would have been her 101st birthday today, here's three of her funniest food clips, dissected:

1. The chocolate factory. In this one, Lucy and her frequent partner in crime, Ethel, have failed at several tasks in the chocolate factory, but they have one more shot to save their jobs — wrapping candies on the assembly line. When the conveyor belt starts to move too fast, hijinks involving hats and brassieres ensue, and Lucy turns to her pal with the ultimate understatement: "Ethel, I think we're fighting a losing game."

2. The food fight/girl fight. To research a role, Lucy immerses herself in the Italian tradition of stomping the grapes to make wine. With very few words — she doesn't speak Italian — Lucy conveys disgust, then delight, then exhaustion. When her partner urges her to get back to work, she gets taken down in a fight where the grapes and feet are flying.

3. The Vitameatavegamin "girl." Poking a little fun at our (continued!) willingness to believe that there's a magic bullet for health and wellness, Lucy's part in a commercial requires her to down a pretty disgusting and clearly alcoholic brew, over and over again, until she slurs her lines and is practically carried to the dressing room.

We know there are dozens more out there — the sardines and ice cream scene, hiding the side of beef up the chimney, etc. Share your links and memories with us in the comments section.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.