Birthday: July 26, 1909
Died At Age: 70
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Vivian Roberta Jones
Born in: Cherryvale, Kansas
Famous as: Actress
Spouse/Ex-: Joseph Shearer Danneck, George Koch (m. 1933; div. 1940), John Dodds (m. 1961), Jr. (m. 1928; div. 1931), Philip Ober (m. 1941; div. 1959)
father: Robert Jones
mother: Euphemia Jones
Died on: August 17, 1979
place of death: Belvedere, California, US
Cause of Death: Cancer
U.S. State: Kansas
Vivian Vance was an American actress, best known for playing the role of Ethel Mertz in the long-running American sitcom ‘I Love Lucy.’ Vivian started her career as a theater actress and delivered one of her most notable stage performances while playing Nancy Collister in the musical ‘Let’s Face It!’ She performed in the play on more than 500 occasions, alongside popular actors like Eve Arden and Danny Kaye. She made her film debut in 1933 with ‘Take a Chance,’ but her role remained uncredited. She then appeared in ‘The Secret Fury’ before she got her breakthrough role in ‘I Love Lucy.’ Vivian then played another memorable role when she portrayed Vivian Bagley in ‘The Lucy Show.’ Vance continued to appear in various TV shows that featured her character from ‘I Love Lucy.’ She played the fictional character Vivian for one last time when she appeared in a TV special titled ‘Lucy Calls the President.’ She made her final television appearance in the show ‘Sam’ in 1978. During her final few years, Vivian struggled with health issues. She was diagnosed with bone cancer before suffering a stroke, which left her partially paralyzed. On August 17, 1979, Vivian died of bone cancer. She was posthumously honored with a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame.’
Childhood & Early Life
Vivian was born Vivian Roberta Jones on July 26, 1909, in Cherryvale, Kansas. She was raised by her parents, Robert and Euphemia Jones, along with her five siblings. When Vivian was six years old her family moved to Independence, Kansas. Vivian attended ‘Independence High School’ where she started taking drama lessons and eventually fell in love with acting.
Her mother was against her dream of becoming an actress, but Vivian was determined so she rebelled against her mother. She then changed her surname to ‘Vance’ and tried to find ways to support her dream. She often sneaked out of her room and stayed out late. Vivian moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to work as an actress. In 1930, she appeared in her first show, which was held at the ‘Albuquerque Little Theatre.’
Thereafter, she appeared in various plays, such as ‘This Thing Called Love’ and ‘The Cradle Song.’ Her performances in the shows were appreciated by the local theatre community. The members of the community sent her to New York in order to study under actress Eva Le Gallienne.
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Vivian started her career with a number of Broadway shows in 1932. Initially, she performed as one of the members of the chorus, before appearing in a supporting role in the 1937 musical ‘Hooray for What!’
In 1941, she performed in Cole Porter’s musical ‘Let’s Face It,’ in which she played the role of Nancy Collister. Her performance in the musical was appreciated by many and it eventually went on to become her most successful stage role.
Vivian moved to California in 1947, and in 1950, she made her film debut with ‘The Secret Fury,’ in which she played the role of a chambermaid named Leah. Her next movie was titled ‘The Blue Veil,’ in which she played the role of Alicia.
Vivian caught the attention of actor Desi Arnaz and producer Jess Oppenheimer by her performance in the play ‘The Voice of the Turtle.’ Desi and Jess were looking for someone to play Ethel Mertz in their sitcom ‘I Love Lucy.’ Though Ethel’s character was older and less attractive when compared with Vivian, Desi decided to cast Vivian for the role. In 1951, ‘I Love Lucy’ was premiered on American television and received good response from viewers.
The show became highly successful in America and had a good run for seven years. Even after the show ended, Vivian reprised her role in many special features and TV shows. In 1954, Vivian once again appeared as Ethel Mertz in ‘Texaco Star Theatre.’ From 1957 to 1960, she appeared as Ethel in ‘The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.’
In 1960, Lucille Ball, who had played Vivian’s friend in ‘I Love Lucy,’ made a comeback with the series ‘The Lucy Show.’ Though initially she was unwilling to be a part of the show, Vivian finally agreed to star alongside her friend Lucille. Since she was tired of people addressing her as ‘Ethel,’ she requested the makers of the show to change the name of her character from Ethel to Vivian.
After the show ended, Vivian was offered a role in the film ‘The Great Race,’ which was released in 1965. The movie received several ‘Academy Award’ nominations, but did little to help Vivian’s career as a film actress. From 1968 to 1972, Vivian made several guest appearances in a sitcom titled ‘Here’s Lucy.’ She also made appearances in TV shows, such as ‘The Red Skelton Show,’ ‘Guestward, Ho,’ ‘Off to See the Wizard,’ and ‘Rhoda.’
She then lent her voice in ‘The Lorax,’ a TV special aired in 1972. Her other TV special appearances came in ‘The Front Page,’ ‘The Great Houdini,’ and ‘Getting Away from It All.’ She played the fictional character Vivian (previously known as Ethel) for one last time when she appeared in a TV special titled ‘Lucy Calls the President.’ She made her final television appearance in ‘Sam’ in 1978.
Awards & Achievements
In 1953, Vivian became the first actress to win an ‘Emmy Award’ for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress.’ She won the prestigious award for portraying the role of Ethel Mertz in ‘I Love Lucy.’
She received three more ‘Emmy’ nominations in 1954, 1956, and 1957 for the same role. Vivian was posthumously honored with a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame.’
Vivian was involved in many relationships and married four times. In 1928, she married Joseph Danneck Jr. and divorced him three years later. In 1933, she got married to George Koch, but divorced him in 1940. Her marriage with her third husband, Philip Ober, lasted from 1941 to 1959.
On January 16, 1961, she married a publisher named John Dodds. She lived with him in Connecticut, where she was diagnosed with cancer. The couple moved to California in 1974. In 1977, Vivian suffered a stroke, which left her partially paralyzed. Vivian’s health deteriorated during her final few years. She passed away on August 17, 1979.