World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Vivian Vance

Article Id: WHEBN0000346303
Reproduction Date:

Title: Vivian Vance  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: I Love Lucy, Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, The Lucy Show, Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, The Great Race
Collection: 1909 Births, 1979 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Actresses, 20Th-Century American Singers, Actresses from Kansas, American Female Singers, American Film Actresses, American Musical Theatre Actresses, American Stage Actresses, American Television Actresses, Cancer Deaths in California, Deaths from Bone Cancer, Deaths from Breast Cancer, I Love Lucy, Musicians from Kansas, Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Primetime Emmy Award Winners, People from Independence, Kansas, Television Hall of Fame Inductees
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Vivian Vance

Vivian Vance
Vance in 1964
Born Vivian Roberta Jones
July 26, 1909
Cherryvale, Kansas, US
Died August 17, 1979(1979-08-17) (aged 70)
Belvedere, California, US
Cause of death Bone cancer, secondary to breast cancer
Education Independence High School
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1933–78
Spouse(s) Joseph Shearer Danneck, Jr. (1928–31; divorced)
George Koch (1933–40; divorced)
Philip Ober (1941–59; divorced)
John Dodds (1961–79; her death)[1]
Parent(s) Robert Jones
Euphemia Jones

Vivian Vance (born Vivian Roberta Jones; July 26, 1909 – August 17, 1979)[2] was an American television and theater actress and singer. Vance is best known for her role as Ethel Mertz, sidekick to Lucille Ball on the American television sitcom I Love Lucy, and as Vivian Bagley on The Lucy Show.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Broadway 2.1
    • Film 2.2
    • I Love Lucy 2.3
    • The Lucy Show 2.4
    • Life after Lucy 2.5
  • Death 3
  • Filmography 4
  • Television credits 5
  • Stage credits 6
  • References 7
  • For further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Vance was born Vivian Roberta Jones around July 26, 1909 in Cherryvale, Kansas, the second of Euphemia and Robert Jones' six children.[2] When she was six years old, her family moved to Independence, Kansas, where she eventually began her dramatic studies at Independence High School with drama instructor Anna Ingleman. Her love of acting clashed with her mother's strict religious beliefs, and "Viv" soon became rebellious, often sneaking out of her bedroom and staying out after curfew. She soon changed her surname to Vance and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to find work as an actress. Vance was a founding member of the Albuquerque Little Theatre, where she appeared in many plays, including This Thing Called Love and The Cradle Song. The local theatre community helped pay her way to New York to study under Eva Le Gallienne.



Starting in 1932, Vance was in a number of shows on Broadway, usually as a member of the chorus. Eventually she graduated to supporting parts after she replaced Kay Thompson in the musical Hooray for What! (1937). Her most successful stage role was that of Nancy Collister in the Cole Porter musical Let's Face It! (1941), in which she starred alongside Danny Kaye and Eve Arden for over 500 performances.


Following her appearance in a revival of The Cradle Will Rock in 1947, Vance decided to move to California to pursue other theatre projects as well as opportunities in film. During her stay in Los Angeles, Vance appeared in two films: as streetwise chambermaid Leah in The Secret Fury (1950), and as Alicia in The Blue Veil (1951). She received several positive notices for her performances, but the films did little else to further her screen career.

I Love Lucy

Publicity photo of Lucille Ball (left) and Vance in the 1959 Japan episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.


External links

  • Castelluccio, Frank and Walker, Alvin. The Other Side of Ethel Mertz: The Life Story of Vivian Vance. New York: Berkley Books, 2000. ISBN 0-425-17609-6
  • Edelman, Rob and Kupferberg, Audre. Meet the Mertzes: The Life Stories of I Love Lucy's Other Couple. Los Angeles, Calif.: Renaissance Books, 1999. ISBN 1-58063-095-2

For further reading

  1. ^ "IBDb profile". Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Elisabeth Edwards (2008). I Love Lucy" Cast Biographies: Vivian Vance""". Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  3. ^ Thomas, Bob (October 15, 2001). "Still Loving Lucy TV Classic Debuted 50 Years Ago Today". Associated Press. Retrieved July 15, 2013.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  4. ^ Ken Severson (2008). "Biography for Bea Benaderet". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  5. ^ Michael Karol (2006). "I Love Lucy". Lucy A to Z. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  6. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara and David (May 27, 2002). "Weighty Matters". Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  7. ^ frankfob2 [sic] (2008). "Biography for Philip Ober". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  8. ^ Libby Pelham (25 March 2006). "I Really Love Lucy". Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  9. ^ "Awards for Vivian Vance". Internet Movie Database. 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  10. ^ (January 20, 2010)"San Francisco ChronicleVivian Vance Papers and Photos Found", "". Collective Mind. 19 January 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 


Stage credits

Television credits


Vance was the godmother of Lovin' Spoonful guitarist John Sebastian, whose mother had been a close friend. Vance herself had no children.

Vance is memorialized in the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in Jamestown, New York. On January 20, 2010, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a local antique dealer had inherited many of Vance's photos and scrapbooks and a manuscript of her unpublished autobiography when John Dodds died in 1986.[10] Vance and Frawley were inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in March 2012.

For her achievements in the field of television, Vance was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991 at 7030 Hollywood Boulevard.[9]

Family members donated Vance's Emmy Award to the Albuquerque Little Theatre after her death. During a 1986 interview, Lucille Ball talked about watching I Love Lucy reruns and her reaction to Vance's performance: "I find that now I usually spend my time looking at Viv. Viv was sensational. And back then, there were things I had to do—I was in the projection room for some reason, and I just couldn't concentrate on it. But now I can. And I enjoy every move that Viv made. She was something."

She died on August 17, 1979, of bone cancer (secondary to breast cancer). After her death, Desi Arnaz remarked, "It’s bad enough to lose one of the great artists we had the honor and the pleasure to work with, but it’s even harder to reconcile the loss of one of your best friends."

Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7030 Hollywood Boulevard.

Vance made her final television appearance with Lucille Ball on the CBS special Lucy Calls the President, which aired November 21, 1977. That same year, she suffered a stroke which left her partially paralyzed.


After her departure from The Lucy Show, Vance appeared occasionally alongside Ball on reunion shows and made several guest appearances on Ball's third sitcom, Here's Lucy (1968–1974). In 1973, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The following year, she and her husband moved to Belvedere, California, so she could be near her sister. It was during this period that Vance's agent got her an endorsement deal with Maxwell House Coffee. Over the next several years, she could be seen in numerous commercials for Maxwell House. Vance made a number of TV guest appearances in the 1970s, including a well-remembered 1975 episode of Rhoda, as well as appearing in a number of made-for-TV movies including The Front Page (1970), Getting Away From it All (1972), and The Great Houdini (1976).

Following her departure from The Lucy Show at the end of the third season, Vance signed on to appear in a Blake Edwards film, The Great Race; she saw this as an opportunity to restart a movie career which never really took off. The film was a moderate success, receiving several Academy Award nominations; however, it did little to help her establish a career as a movie actress. Vance was slated to make her return to Broadway in the Woody Allen comedy Don't Drink the Water. However, she left the play during its out-of-town tryouts, later saying she felt the role was not right for her and asking the show's producers to be let out of her contract. Vance would end up making her Broadway return several years later in 1969 in the comedy My Daughter, Your Son. However, the show was not a success and lasted only five weeks. A national tour proved to be more successful.

Life after Lucy

She appeared on The Lucy Show from 1962–65, as Vivian Bagley, a divorced mother of one son, sharing a house with Ball's character. The character was the first divorcee ever on a weekly American television series. The strain of commuting from her home in Connecticut to Hollywood was too hard on her. In the third season, Vance did not appear in seven of the season's 26 episodes. In 1965, after completing her third year on the series, Vance decided to leave. At the start of the 1965–66 season, the format of the sitcom had changed. The "Lucy" character moved out to Los Angeles. Vivian Bagley remarried and her son, her new husband, and she remained in Danfield. Before she departed the show, Vance was offered a new contract with Desilu Studios, giving her the opportunity to direct. This never came to fruition as Vance could not reach an agreement on salary. She made only three more guest appearances on the remaining seasons of The Lucy Show.

On January 16, 1961, Vance married literary agent, editor, and publisher John Dodds (1922 – October 9, 1986). The couple established their home in Stamford, Connecticut, although they moved to California in 1974; the marriage lasted until Vance's death. In 1962, Lucille Ball was planning to return to television in a new series, The Lucy Show. The series starred Ball as Lucy Carmichael, a widow with two children living in Danfield, New York. Vance reluctantly agreed to be her co-star on the condition that she be allowed to appear in more glamorous clothes as well as having her character be named "Vivian". By this time in her life, Vance had grown tired of the public addressing her as "Ethel".

Vivian Vance (right) as Vivian Bagley in a 1967 episode of The Lucy Show, entitled "Viv Visits Lucy"; pictured with Lucille Ball (left) as Lucy Carmichael

The Lucy Show

In 1957, after the highly successful half-hour I Love Lucy episodes had ended, Vance continued playing Ethel Mertz on a series of hour-long specials titled The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show (later retitled The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour). In 1959, she divorced her third husband, Philip Ober, who allegedly physically abused her.[7] When I Love Lucy was reformatted into the hour-long Lucy-Desi shows in 1957, Desi Arnaz offered Vance and Frawley the opportunity to star in their own "Fred and Ethel" spin-off show. Although Frawley was very interested, Vance declined, mainly because she did not want to work on a one-on-one basis with Frawley as they already did not get along. Also, she felt the Mertz characters would be unsuccessful in a show without the Ricardos. Vance's choice to decline the would-be show intensified the animosity between Frawley and her.[8] Instead, Vance was interested in doing a series based on the life of Babs Hooten, a New York socialite who moves to New Mexico to run a hotel and ranch. Desi Arnaz financed a pilot starring Vance as Hooten titled Guestward, Ho! which was shot in 1958 by Desilu; however, the show was rejected by CBS and Vance continued playing Ethel Mertz. Arnaz would later retool the show with model and actress Joanne Dru taking the lead role, selling the series to ABC, where it was subsequently cancelled after one season.

Honored for her work in 1953, Vance became the first actress to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress; she accepted her award at the Emmy ceremony in February 1954. She was nominated an additional three times (for 1954, 1956, and 1957) before the series ended.

Vance's Ethel Mertz character was the landlady of a New York City brownstone her husband Fred and she owned on East 68th Street. The Fred role was played by William Frawley, who was actually 22 years her senior. Despite their exceptional chemistry, comedic timing, and musical prowess together onscreen, Vance and Frawley did not get along offscreen. According to some reports, things first went sour when Frawley overheard Vance complaining about his age, stating that he should be playing her father instead of her husband. She used to skim through the script before she memorized her lines to see how many scenes she had with "that stubborn-headed little Irishman."[5] Others recall that they practically loathed each other on sight and that Vance was put off by Frawley's cantankerous attitude.[6]

Ultimately, the 42-year-old Vance won the role on the new television program, which debuted October 15, 1951 on CBS. Throughout the show's run, Ethel Mertz was usually dressed in less-stylish clothing than Ball's character, to make her look older and less attractive. Vance and Ball's friendship was lukewarm at first, but Ball gradually overcame her resistance to Vance and grew to respect her as a friend and an actress, and the two became close friends.

. Watching her perform, Arnaz was convinced he had found the right actress to play Ethel Mertz. Ball was less sure. She had envisioned Ethel to be much older and less attractive; Vance was closer to Ball's age and attractive. Also, Ball, firmly entrenched in film and radio, had never heard of Vance, who was primarily a theater actress. The Voice of the Turtle play John Van Druten to see Vance in the La Jolla Playhouse and him to the Jess Oppenheimer producer Arnaz then began searching for another actress and Daniels took [4]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.