Vivian Vance


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(1909–1979). Television and stage performer. Forever remembered as the sidekick to Lucille Ball on television, the slightly frumpy character actress had a stage career that included some notable musicals. Vance was born in Cherryvale, Kansas, and was active in community theatre before studying acting with William Inge in Kansas and Eva Le Gallienne in New York. By 1932 she was on Broadway in Music in the Air and was in the original cast of Anything Goes (1934) where she understudied Ethel Merman. Vance got featured roles in the musicals Red, Hot and Blue! (1936), Hooray for What! (1937), Let's Face It! (1941), and The Cradle Will Rock (1947), as well as in some comedies. Seen by actor–producer Desi Arnaz in a California theatre production, Vance was cast as Ethel Mertz in the legendary TV sit-com I Love Lucy in 1953 and was associated with its star over the next twenty years. One of her few TV credits without Lucille Ball was the musical High Pitch (1955). Throughout her life she suffered from depression and had had a nervous breakdown in the 1950s; later in her life she promoted awareness of mental health issues. Biography: The Other Side of Ethel Mertz: The Life Story of Vivian Vance, Frank Casteluccio, Alvin Walker (2000).

From The Oxford Companion to the American Musical in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music Theatre.

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