Vivian Vance

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Vance (center) with Charles Laughton and Jane Wyman in The Blue Veil, 1951
Vivian Vance (July 26, 1909-August 17 1979) was an American actress, born in Cherryvale, Kansas as Vivian Roberta Jones.

During the early years of her career she played small roles in a few films, but worked primarily as a stage actress, appearing in a total of thirty-eight productions throughout her career. When Desi Arnaz was casting his new sitcom I Love Lucy, starring himself and wife Lucille Ball, Ball's first choice for the role of landlady Ethel Mertz was Bea Benadaret. Benadaret was unavailable due to a previous commitment so Arnaz went looking for another actress. He found her at the La Jolla Playhouse's production of The Voice of the Turtle. Upon seeing Vance, Arnaz knew he had found the perfect Ethel. Lucille Ball was less than sure; she had envisioned Ethel Mertz as much older and less attractive than Vance.

Missing image
Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz with TV hubby Fred, portrayed by William Frawley, in a scene from I Love Lucy
A youthful-looking and attractive woman, Vance was required to wear frumpy clothes that were actually a size smaller than Vance usually wore in order to make her appear overweight (she was not, however, contractually forced by the show to be twenty pounds overweight throughout its run, as is often claimed). Vance's character was the less-than-prosperous resident of a New York City brownstone owned by her and her husband Fred (William Frawley). She and Frawley were a perfect match as the bickering Mertzes, since they detested each other in real life. (Vance's then real-life husband, Phil Ober, frequently played small supporting roles on the series, most notably as producer Dore Scharey in one of the Hollywood episodes.)

Vance paired once again with Ball for The Lucy Show, her first post-Arnaz series, and this time was permitted to look more glamorous as Vivian Bagley, a divorced mother of one son. She remained with the show for three of its six years before retiring to Connecticut.

Over the next several years, Vance appeared occasionally alongside Ball on reunion shows and for guest appearances on Here's Lucy. During the mid-1970s she took small roles on sitcoms such as Rhoda. Her final television appearance was on the last CBS Lucy production, Lucy Calls the President, which aired November 21, 1977, and featured many of the cast members from The Lucy Show.

She was diagnosed with cancer in 1977 and died in 1979.

Vivan Vance played a significant part in the history of television She defined the role of second banana, paving the way for future female sidekicks. She was also the first person to win the Best Supporting Actress Emmy.


The Other Side of Ethel Mertz: The Life Story of Vivian Vance by Frank Castelluccio & Alvin Walker, published by Knowledge, Ideas & Trends, Inc. (1998)

External link

  • IMDb page (

Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools