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Vivian Vance

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.

Vivian Vance
Vivian Vance
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)

Marriage #1
Husband: Joseph Shearer Danneck, Jr. (m. October 6, 1928 - April 20, 1931) (divorced)
Wedding took place in Dubuque, Iowa, U.S.A.

Marriage #2
Husband: George Koch (m. January 6, 1933 - July 1940) (divorced)

Marriage #3
Husband: Phil Ober (m. August 12, 1941 - April 24, 1959) (divorced)
Wedding took place in Marblehead, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Marriage #4
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 Here's Lucy.

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, and Rhoda.


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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