Vivian Vance (Vivian Roberta Jones)
Photos with Vivian Vance
BiographyCherryvale, Kansas, USA
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. Read more... "Kay Thompson'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.