The Million-Dollar Idea – I Love Lucy – season 3, episode 79, originally aired 1/11/1953
The Million-Dollar Idea is one of the most famous, and most popular, episodes of the I Love Lucy TV series. It’s perhaps better known as the Aunt Martha’s Salad Dressing episode. In a nutshell, Lucy and Ethel try to find a ‘million-dollar idea‘ to make money, and come upon the idea of selling Lucy’s homemade salad dressing, with the fictional ‘Aunt Martha’ as the company ‘mascot’. But how to advertise their product? Well, Carolyn Appleby’s husband runs a television station …
Ethel becomes the star of what we would now call an infomercial, as Mary Margaret McMertz, who extols the virtues of Aunt Martha’s salad dressing, pulling a ‘random’ member of the studio audience on camera to taste test the product. Lucy in disguise, of course. The orders begin pouring in, and the girls are running a small assembly line in the Ricardo’s kitchen to make, bottle and ship the salad dressing. All seems to be going well, until Ricky looks at their costs … and informs them that they are losing money — cents a jar, to be exact.
What’s to be done? Well, since a TV commercial got them into this trouble, maybe a TV commercial can get them out. Ethel reprises her role, but Lucy plays a different ‘random’ studio member, who hates the smell of the salad dressing, and tries to dissuade anyone else from ordering. It backfires, however, and even more orders come in after the ‘humorous’ commercial, with the apartment being filled with boxes of salad dressing, and Lucy’s … unique … delivery system.
The Million Dollar Idea is available on DVD on the I Love Lucy season 3 DVD collection.
Funny quotes from I Love Lucy’s The Million-Dollar Idea
Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance): You sound just like Fred Mertz.
Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball): Fred?
Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance): Yep. Ever since we’ve been married he’s been trying to think of one idea worth a million dollars.
Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball): Oh, none of his ideas any good, huh?
Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance): Oh, he had some good ideas, but somebody always got to the patent office first. He’s still mad at Edison for beating him to the electric light. And he’s never forgiven Ford for scooping him with the horseless carriage.
[mixing up a batch of salad dressing]
Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball): Here’s the oil [pours it into the pot] I get any more of this on me, I’ll be swimming the channel.
Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball): [as Lucille McGillicuddy breathing in the aroma of Aunt Martha’s old-fashioned salad dressing] Arrgh! What’s that?
Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance): [as Mary Margaret McMertz] Why, that’s Aunt Martha’s Old Fashioned Salad Dressing.
Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball)/Mrs. McGillicuddy: Are you sure, smell it?! [Puts the open jar under Mary McMertz’s nose who draws her head back with tactful repulsion]
Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball)/Mrs. McGillicuddy: How about that? Looks like Aunt Martha had too many Old-Fashioneds.