Vivian Vance was an Emmy award-winning American
actress who portrayed Ethel Mertz on TV's
classic I Love Lucy.
Most audiences know Viv primarily for
her role as the best friend and partner
in mischief to Lucille Ball's Lucy Ricardo
on I Love Lucy (1951-59). Prior to
her appearance on that TV series -- which
still ranks as one of the most popular
shows of all time -- Vivian Vance actually
had a respectable, long-running acting career
on stage and as a nightclub singer.
Biographical fast facts
Full, original or maiden name at birth: Vivian Roberta Jones
Date and place of birth: July 26, 1909,
at 311 East 5th Street, Cherryvale, Kansas, U.S.A. *
Date, place and cause of death: August 17, 1979,
at 88 Beach Road, Belvedere, California, U.S.A. (Cardiorespiratory arrest/Cancer)
Husband: Joseph Shearer Danneck, Jr. (m. October 6, 1928 -
April 20, 1931) (divorced)
Wedding took place in Dubuque, Iowa, U.S.A.
Husband: George Koch (m. January 6, 1933 - July 1940) (divorced)
Husband: Phil Ober (m. August 12, 1941 - April 24, 1959) (divorced)
Wedding took place in Marblehead, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Husband: John Dodds (m. January 16, 1961 - August 17, 1979) (her death)
Wedding took place at the home of Babs and Bill Hooton in Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A.
Father: Robert Andrew Jones (a grocery store owner)
(b. March 26, 1880 - d. December 3, 1958)
Mother: Euphemia Mae (Ragan) Jones (b. August 28, 1884, Oswego, Kansas - d. March 2, 1974)
Remains: Viv was cremated and her ashes were scattered at sea.
Error corrections or clarifications
* Vivian Vance was later raised, but not
born, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contrary to what she
occasionally claimed. She was most assuredly not born
in 1911, 1912, 1913 or 1915 as a few sources report.
Her death certificate incorrectly lists 1915 as well.
Her birth records confirm the above 1909 birth data.
All of the following publications, in some past editions, offered
erroneous birth data on Vivian Vance.
Britannica Book of the Year 1980
Daily Celebrity Almanac
The World Almanac and Book of Facts
The World Almanac Who's Who of Film
It is not our intent to denigrate these
fine publications, but merely to point out the
above inaccuracy to prevent further dissemination
of the erroneous data.
Career - Credits
Vivian Vance spent many years as a successful
Broadway actress and nightclub singer, long before
achieving television immortality on I Love Lucy
(1951-59), The Lucy Show (1962-65) and
Viv won her Emmy award February 11th, 1954, for her
portrayal of Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy. It was
the very first Best Supporting Actress Emmy ever awarded.
Selected stage credits:
Her stage credits include a number of major
Broadway hits in which she starred alongside
some of the biggest names in entertainment.
Vance made her Broadway debut in Jerome Kern
and Oscar Hammerstein's Music in the Air (1932-1933).
Other stage credits include, Anything Goes (1934-35)
in which she understudied Ethel Merman, and later
headlined a national tour of the popular show.
Red, Hot and Blue (1936-37) starring Bob Hope,
and Ethel Merman, was followed by a central role
in Hooray For What! (1937-38) starring Ed Wynn.
Next came Kiss the Boys Goodbye at the
Erlanger Theatre, in Buffalo, New York (1939),
Skylark (1939-40), Out From Under (1940),
and Cole Porter's long-running Let's Face It
(1941-43), which ran at the Imperial Theater on
Broadway and starred Danny Kaye, Eve Arden, and
Nanette Fabray. She also appeared in The Voice of
the Turtle (1945-46) in a role she would reprise
a couple of times in the late 1940s and early '50s.
Viv next appeared in It Takes Two (1947),
The Cradle Will Rock (1947-48), and finally,
My Daughter, Your Son in 1969.
Selected film credits:
Vance made just a few motion pictures including,
The Secret Fury (1950), The Blue Veil
(1951), and The Great Race (1965).
Selected TV guest appearances:
Vivian made numerous guest appearances on
television series, such as, The Milton Berle Show,
Toast of the Town (later The Ed Sullivan Show),
The Bob Hope Show, The Deputy, The Red Skelton
Show, I've Got a Secret, Love, American Style,
The most in-depth of more than four dozen
sources consulted in preparing this profile,
was the 1998 biography, The Other Side of Ethel Mertz:
The Life Story of Vivian Vance, by Frank Castelluccio
and Alvin Walker.
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