Vivian Vance is probably best known for the role of Ethel Mertz, best friend and neighbor to Lucy (Lucille Ball) on the “I Love Lucy” show. However she can credit over a dozen television and stage roles and several big screen pictures to her name as well.
Vivian Vance was born Vivian Roberta Jones on July 26, 1909 and was bitten by the acting bug early in life making it her major of study in high school. Her Broadway career began in 1934 where she went on to perform in several plays before being “discovered” by Desi and Lucy Arnaz to play the part of the landlady on there new show I Love Lucy. It was 1951, Vivian who had already changed her surname was 42 and the role became hers.
Vivian never could overcome the differences she had with William Frawley who played her husband on I Love Lucy. She is said to have not liked the fact that he was 22 years her senior and not extremely attractive,and the feeling was mutual as Frawley didn’t like his leading lady either. Their mutual dislike was not evident in their interactions on screen though and the four actors complemented each other well and Lucille Ball and Vivian became quite good friends while on the show,a strong friendship that continued on until Vance died from bone cancer at the age of 70 in the summer of ’79.
Vivian didn’t have a shortage of male companionship in real life and though she never did have any children she was married four times starting with Joseph Shearer Danneck, Jr. (1928-1931) George Koch (1933-1940) Philip Ober (1941-1959) and ending with John Dodds (1961-1979) whom she was with until she died.
Before her death of bone cancer, Vivian contracted breast cancer and her husband moved them to California to be closer to family and Vivian won the role of “Maxine” on the Maxwell House Coffee commercials. In 77′ she suffered a stroke and also made her final television debut, alongside her good friend Lucille Ball.
It was years after Vances’ death when Lucille Ball publicly recognized the comedic talents of her long time acting partner admitting that she was always to busy to see just how good an actor Vance was. Apparently “Lucy” wasn’t the only one who felt this way because In 1991 though long gone, Vivian Vance was recognized for her entertainment contributions with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.