Vivian Vance (July 26, 1909 - August 17, 1979) was born Vivian Roberta Jones in Cherryvale, Kansas; Vivian was the second of six children born to Robert Jones and Euphemia Ragan.
On I Love LucyEdit
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.
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.
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.
- 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