Born on this date: Vivian Vance

Vivian Vance would have turned 105 today, July 26, 2014. She died of bone cancer in 1979.

Vance, of course, is best known as Lucille Ball’s sidekick as Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy and then as Viv on The Lucy Show. She was already a seasoned performer when she began on I Love Lucy, having begun her career on stage in the early 1930s. Vance became the first actress to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in 1954 for the role of Ethel. 

On I Love Lucy, Ethel Mertz and her husband Fred (William Frawley) had been vaudeville performers before becoming landlords, and sometimes scripts called for the two to perform corny song routines. It was always fun to see Vance sing as Ethel. Below, she sings the memorable song, “I Am Lily of the Valley,” in an operetta penned by Lucy as a fundraiser for their women’s club.

Vivian Vance sings “I Am Lily of the Valley” in “The Operetta,” I Love Lucy (Oct. 13, 1952)

It is well known that Vance and Frawley disliked each other in real life. Vance and Ball, on the other hand, were friends, but it was a friendship that was understandably complicated.  See Vance’s roast of Ball below:

Vivian Vance roasts Lucille Ball, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (1975)

Did you know that Vivian Vance once appeared on Rhoda? She plays a new neighbor with whom Rhoda becomes friends.  Rhoda’s mother is jealous of the relationship. Watch the episode here (Vance first appears at 1:50):

Vivian Vance in “Friends and Mothers,” on Rhoda (Nov. 24, 1975)


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