70 (passed away Aug. 17th, 1979)
Jul. 26th, 1909
Cherryvale, Kansas, USA
Vivian Vance's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles1965 - The Great Race
1936 - The Great Ziegfeld
Guest TV Roles
Madame Zimia Zygmundt (segment "Love and the Medium")
She was born Vivian Roberta Jones, with a brother and four sisters. After the family moved from Cherryvale to Independence, Kansas, she studied drama under Anna Ingleman and William Inge. Their next move, to Albuquerque, New Mexico brought her to the Albuquerque Little Theatre, which provided her the money she needed to study under Eva Le Gallienne in New York. After arriving in 1932 she had trouble finding stage work until she began a two-year stint in Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's "Music in the Air." She next understudied Ethel Merman in the hit "Anything Goes." Her first starring role was as Kay Thompson (I)'s last minute replacement in "Hooray for What!" starring Ed Wynn. Other Broadway costars included Danny Kaye, Eve Arden and Nanette Fabray. In 1945 while starring in a touring company of "Voice of the Turtle" she had a nervous breakdown. After undergoing psychotherapy and limited movie work, she returned to the play at the La Jolla (California) Playhouse, where she was seen by Desi Arnaz who decided she was perfect for the role of Ethel Mertz (the Arnaz' first choice, Bea Benaderet was unavailable) in the "I Love Lucy" (1951) television series. At first she didn't want the part (too frumpy), and she always hated being cast as the wife of William Frawley (she was 42, he was 64; the two never got along). Frawley, an alcoholic and then on the professional skids, had actively campaigned for the role of Fred Mertz after learning that Gale Gordon was also unavailable. The runaway success of the series forced the two to work together, but their scenes often barely mask their mutual dislike. After "I Love Lucy" (1951) ended she divorced her third husband, married again, and moved to Stamford, Connecticut. In 1962, she began work on a different show, "The Lucy Show" (1962), but the pressures of long-distance commuting didn't suit her, so after three years she limited her herself to guest appearances. In 1974, she and her husband moved to Belvedere (just north of Francisco Bay) so she could be near her sister. Five years later she died there, of cancer.
- After marrying publisher John Dodds in 1961, she left Los Angeles for good. The couple spent the next several years living in various locations. In 1961, they purchased an old white farmhouse in Stamford, Connecticut. They also purchased a 200 year old schoolhouse in Westchester County, New York to be used as a retreat for the two of them after her years on _"The Lucy Show" (1962)_ (qv). As John's career took off, they lived in a penthouse at Beekman Place in Manhattan. Tiring of the big city life, in the late 1960s, they moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico owning and operating a Travel Agency. In 1974, after her first bout with cancer, they decided to sell the business along with property she owned in Solvang, California to finance a publishing business for John in San Francisco. She would live the rest of her life in Belvedere, California, near to her sister, in a shingle style house by the beach.
- Producer 'Jess Oppenheimer' (qv) was quoted as saying that the infamous feud between Vance and 'William Frawley' (qv) was exaggerated. While TV's favorite neighbors may not have been "chummy" in real life, they were professionals who for the most part treated each other with respect during rehearsals and filming.
- Miss Vance was honored by the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health for her contributions on behalf of the mentally ill.
- Divorced 'Philip Ober' (qv) in 1959 under allegations of spousal abuse. Because the majority of the wealth was earned during the success of _"I Love Lucy" (1951)_ (qv), she was forced to hand over half of her $160,000 in community property, which included, among other things, her ranch in Cubero, New Mexico and home in California.
- In the 1970s, she discovered commercials were a lucrative way to capitalize on fame, with a 3 year $250,000 contract. She became known as Maxine, in the Maxwell House Commercials.
- Vance's _"I Love Lucy" (1951)_ (qv) co-star, 'William Frawley' (qv), reportedly received a unique deal for early television. His contract called for residuals from _"I Love Lucy" (1951)_ (qv) for years after the series ended production in 1957. Unfortunately, Vance did not have a similar clause in her contract.
- Godmother to 'John Sebastian (I)' (qv). She was best friend's with his mother, Jane Sebastian, and mentioned her name in many _"I Love Lucy" (1951)_ (qv) episodes.
- Best remembered as Lucy's best friend and land lady, Ethel in _"I Love Lucy" (1951)_ (qv).
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