1909 - 1979
Vivian Vance, best known for her role as Ethel Mertz on the long running CBS comedy, I Love Lucy, died August 17, 1979. She was 70.
Vance was born Vivian Roberta Jones in Cherryvale, Kansas on July 26, 1909. Acting became her passion at an early age, but her conservative mother thought show business was sinful and discouraged her daughter from pursuing an acting career.
But Vance was stubborn, and traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma to try her hand at pursuing her dream of becoming an actress. Disappointment took her back home, but when the family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Vanceís acting fortunes took a turn for the better.
She began performing in the Albuquerque Little Theater, and soon was a local star. Some of the townspeople even took up a collection to send her to New York so she could try her hand at Broadway.
Vance began having moderate success in procuring work, first as a chorus girl, and later as a supporting and lead actress. She performed with some of the big names of the day, including Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, and Bob Hope.
During the decade of the forties, Vance suffered a nervous breakdown, and spent many hours in psychotherapy.
In 1951, Desi Arnaz asked her to play the part of Ethel Mertz in the new comedy series he and his wife, Lucille Ball, were producing and starring in. She at first declined, but later accepted the offer. She became part of the most popular comedy series in television history. When the show was cancelled in 1960, Vance had become typecast as Ethel. And although she was in real life the opposite of Ethel Mertz, the public saw her as the comical sidekick of Lucille Ball.
Vance continued to guest star in a number of television series during the 1960ís and 70ís.
She died of bone cancer in Belvedere, California on August 17, 1979.