I Love Lucy Wiki
Vivian Vance
Vivan Vance.jpg
Vivian Vance appeared as Ethel Mertz on both the "I Love Lucy" and "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" TV series.
Vital information
Gender: Female
Birthname: Vivian Roberta Jones
Born: July 26, 1909
Birthplace: Cherryvale, Kansas, U.S.
Deathplace: Belvedere, California, U.S.
Years active: 1933-1978
Family and Personal information
Spouse(s): Joseph Shearer Danneck, Jr. (1928-31)
George Koch (1933-40)
Philip Ober (1941-1959)
John Dodds (1961-79)[1]
Character/Show information
Appeared on/
involved with:
I Love Lucy/The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour
Episodes appeared in: 177 episodes of I Love Lucy
All episodes of Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour
Appears as: Ethel Mertz
I Love Lucy Wiki Script.png

Vivian Vance (July 26, 1909 - August 17, 1979) played the part of Ethel Mertz on both I Love Lucy and its spinoff series, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. Vivian also would appear on two later Desilu sitcom series starring Lucille Ball, the 1962-68 CBS-TV series The Lucy Show and as a guest on 1968-74 CBS-TV series Here's Lucy, appearing in several episodes. A longtime performer and actress on stage, films and TV, Vivian's long career spanned six decades.

Biography hi[]

Early life[]

Born Vivian Roberta Jones in Cherryvale, Kansas; Vivian was the second of six children born to Robert Jones and Euphemia Ragan. When she was six years old, her family moved to Independence, Kansas, where she eventually began her dramatic studies at Independence High School under the tutelage of Anna Ingleman, the drama instructor. Her love of acting clashed with her mother's strict religious beliefs, and it wasn't too long before Vance, nicknamed "Viv" by friends, became very rebellious, often sneaking out of her bedroom and staying out after curfew. She soon changed her surname to Vance (after folklorist Vance Randolph) 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.

I Love Lucy and The Desi-Lucy Comedy Hour[]

When Desi Arnaz and wife Lucille Ball were casting their new television sitcom I Love Lucy in 1951, director Marc Daniels, who had previously worked with Vance in a theater production, suggested her for the role of landlady Ethel Mertz. She was not the first choice, however. Lucille Ball wanted actress Bea Benaderet, a close friend. Because of a prior acting commitment, Benaderet had to decline playing the role. Arnaz then began searching for another actress. Daniels took Arnaz, along with producer Jess Oppenheimer, to see Vance in The Voice of the Turtle; while watching her perform, Arnaz was convinced he had found the right woman to play Ethel Mertz. Ball was less sure, since she had envisioned Ethel as much older and less attractive. In addition, Ball, firmly entrenched in film and radio, had never heard of Vance, primarily a theater actress. Nonetheless, the 42 year-old Vance was given the role on the innovative new television program, which debuted October 15, 1951 on CBS-TV.

...as Ethel Mertz[]

Vance's Ethel Mertz character was the less-than-prosperous landlady of a New York City brownstone, owned by her and husband Fred Mertz. The role of Fred was played by William Frawley, who was 22 years her senior. While the actors shared great comedic and musical chemistry on-screen, they did not get along in real life. According to some reports, things first went sour when Frawley overheard Vance complaining about his age, stating that he should be playing her father rather than her husband. Others recall that Frawley loathed Vance practically on sight. Vance, in turn, was put off by Frawley's cantankerous ways, in addition to his age. Eventually, Ball overcame her resistance to Vance, and the two women formed a close friendship.

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

End of I Love Lucy series[]

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. When the hour-long Lucy-Desi specials ended production in 1960, Vance and Frawley were given the opportunity to star in their own "Fred and Ethel" spin-off show. Although Frawley was interested, Vance declined.

The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy appearances[]

Vance however, reluctantly agreed to play the part of divorcee "Vivian Bagley" on a new Desilu Productions sitcom starring friend Lucille Ball, the CBS-TV sitcom The Lucy Show, in 1962. After appearing in just 26 episodes, she decided to leave the series in 1965, asking to be let out of her contract. Vivian would reappear in still another successful Desilu Studios/ CBS-TV sitcom starring Ball, Here's Lucy, in 1968, making guest appearances in several episodes during its six season run.


  • Best Supporting Actress in a Regular Series, 1955
  • Best Supporting Performance by an Actress, 1957
  • Best Continuing Supporting Performance by an Actress in a Dramatic or Comedy Series, 1958


External links[]