HomeEntertainment‘I Love Lucy’: Why Ethel Mertz Actress Vivian Vance’s Mother Was Against Her Acting Career

‘I Love Lucy’: Why Ethel Mertz Actress Vivian Vance’s Mother Was Against Her Acting Career

by Matthew Wilson
Photo crediti: John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

“I Love Lucy” star Vivian Vance wowed audiences on television. But if her mother had her way then Vance would have never become an actor.

According to Closer Weekly, Vance grew up in a deeply religious and repressed household. Vance had been born Vivian Roberta Jones in Cherryvale, Kansas. Her mother viewed women on screen as a sin and believed that acting was a path to hell. She scorned Vance for wanting to pursue such a “provocative” career.

“As a teenager, she was a cheerleader for Independence High … But it was the legitimate stage that Vivian wanted, though her mother was dead-set against it. ‘You want to be an actress, trying to lead men into sin?’ she snarled. ‘You are going to hell,'” her mother reportedly said.

But Vance rebelled against her parents and her upbringing. In fact as a teenager, she moved all the way to Albuquerque, New Mexico and changed her name. During her early career, she became performing at the local Little Theatre. But it was easy for many there to see Vance was destined for greater things. She starred in plays like “The Cradle Song” and “See Naples and Die.”

But her Albuquerque theatre family helped her raise enough funds to go to New York. While there, Vance supported herself as a nightclub singer. She also quickly found her footing in theatre, becoming a star of Broadway as well.

Vivian Vance and ‘I Love Lucy’

But audiences will always remember Vivian Vance for playing Ethel Mertz on “I Love Lucy.” Vance’s partnership with Lucille Ball ended up defining the rest of her career. In fact, the two maintained a friendship off-screen as well.

 “We’re a couple of good, honest performers and we work well together. That’s not being immodest; I like to watch us work together as a member of the audience,” Vance once said.

Vance also starred with Lucille Ball in her follow-up sitcom “The Lucy Show” as well. It was a partnership that proved to be fruitful. But eventually, the two disagreed over money and partnership rights on the sitcom. Ball rejected Vance’s negotiations and the actor ended up walking away. The show revamped to explain Vance’s absence but was never as successful.

Still, the two friends eventually patched things up and Vance returned to make guest appearances on the show. She also made appearances alongside Ball in other projects for the rest of her life. In fact, one of Vance’s final projects was a TV special “Lucy Calls the President.”

The special ended up being a sad occasion for both Vance and Ball. The actor realized that she had breast cancer and was dying. Afterward, Vance ended up retiring to spend her final days with her sister. She passed away on August 17, 1979, at the age of 70. But her work continues to live on.