Tag Archives: vivian vance

Happy Birthday Ms. Vance

26 Jul

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Vivian would have turned 108 today! Happy Birthday to her!!


Vivian Vance

9 Mar

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Vivian Roberta Jones  was born July 26, 1909 in Cherryvale, Kansas. She and her family soon moved to Independence, Kansas and she went to Independence High School where she developed a love of acting. Her mom wasn’t thrilled about this so Viv rebelled, changed her last name to Vance and moved to Albuquerque, NM to become an actress performing at the  Albuquerque Little Theater- something Viv and Ethel have in common! Eventually graduating up to Broadway and Hollywood.

ILL director Marc Daniels suggested Vance to play the part of Ethel but we all know Ball was lobbying for her friends Bea Benaderet or Barbara Pepper. When those gals didn’t work out, the crew went to the La Jolla Playhouse to see Vance in action. Arnaz was convinced and Vance got the part.(Pepper would be seen as bit players throughout the run of the series.)

Ethel was supposed to be much older than Lucy but Vance was only older than Ball by a couple years. She was dressed as much dowdier in response which Vance didn’t love. She also ‘joked’ that it was in her contract to stay 10 lbs heavier than Ball. In addition, her love counterpart, William Frawley was 22 years older than Vance and she hated that he was old enough to play her father. Rumor has it that Frawley heard Vance complaining about him which was the root of their notorious contention. Some say it was just hate at first sight. Vance and Frawley were offered a spinoff show but declined simply because of how much they detested each other.

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Whether or not Vance was contractually obligated to be homelier than Ball, the two remained life long friends, playing her BFF on Here’s Lucy and The Lucy Show.

Vance, who honestly was beauty and a talent, was married four times. First to Joseph Shearer Danneck Jr from 10/6/28-4/20-1931. George Koch 1/6/33-7/11/1910. Philip Ober (who guest starred on an ep of ILL) from 8/12/1941-4/24/1959 and finally to John Dodds 1/16/1961 till her death in 1979.

In her later years, Vance suffered from poor health. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a stroke. Ultimately her cause of death was bone cancer and she passed on August 17, 1979.

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During her lifetime, Vance was the first person to win the Emmy for the Best Supporting Actress in 1954 for her role on ILL, which was donated to the Albuquerque Little Theater after her death.






ILL in the Beginning

5 Jan

America first watched ILL on Oct 15th, 1951. A Monday night on CBS. (Can we all agree that the CBS Monday night line up has fallen farrrr from the comedy tree?) So in keeping with tradition, I’m going to be watching an episode every Monday from the beginning all through the 180 episodes, to the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. Follow along!

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Before we get into Ep 1, let’s look at the show as a whole & it’s background. ILL started as the radio program “My Favorite Husband” which I’m sure I’ll reference much during the first season as most of the plot lines were borrowed from that. Lucille Ball played Liz opposite Richard Denning as George Cooper. Originally they were the Cugat’s but the last name was changed to avoid confusion with Xavier Cugat.

CBS asked Ball to expand her show to TV and Ball demanded that her husband Desi Arnaz take Denning’s place. CBS didn’t think America would buy or want to watch a white woman and a Cuban husband so the Arnaz-Balls took their show on the road as a vaudeville act and proved CBS wrong. The exec’s eventually gave in to Ball’s request. A little foreshadowing of the kind of woman Ball was!

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There’s so much behind the scenes production stuff that went into creating the show that I don’t know if is interesting to anyone else but goes into the way the makers of this show changed TV forever. They brought in an audience because it made Ball a better performer. Which meant a live laugh track.  They pioneered the three camera format. They shot on film even though it was more expensive and Ball and Arnaz took pay cuts to pay for it, in exchange for producer credit and part ownership.

The radio program turned into a pilot which was ultimately tweaked and with that, the parts of the Mertzes were created. Ball lobbied for old friends Gale Gordon and Bea Benarderet to play Fred and Ethel but their schedules didn’t work out for a permanent role; Gordon would go on to play bit parts throughout the series and Benarderet was the one hit wonder Mrs. Lewis. Frawley was finally brought on as Mr. Mertz and oh brother, I’ll get into that later! Vivian Vance was cast as his wife- and again there’s a story there we’ll talk about in the future.

So with the MFH writers, Bob Carroll Jr and Madelyn Pugh (later Davis) on board, the Mertzes cast and CBS agreeing that a real life couple could be accepted as a TV couple, I Love Lucy was born.