- Hardcover: 319 pages
- Publisher: Knowledge Ideas & Trends; 1st ed edition (October 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1879198266
- ISBN-13: 978-1879198265
- Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Other Side of Ethel Mertz: The Life Story of Vivian Vance Hardcover – October, 1998
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From Publishers Weekly
"When I die, there will be people who send Ethel Mertz flowers," remarked Vivian Vance (1909-1979), Lucille Ball's neighbor and sidekick on the TV series I Love Lucy. Though the role of Ethel on the classic sitcom brought Vance fame if not fortune (she and stage hubby William "Fred Mertz" Frawley were not in on the deals that enriched others attached to the show), it also robbed her of her identity. In this candid, revealing first bio about Vance, fans will meet a vibrant woman who little resembled the frump she made famous. Long before her television career, Vance was well known as a sparkling comedic actress who worked with major stars including Jimmy Durante, Ethel Merman, Bob Hope, Ed Wynn and Gypsy Rose Lee and who carried on passionate love affairs, some during her first three marriages. When she married for the fourth time, it was to a man 12 years her junior who had been involved in a 20-year relationship with another man. The marriage was, by all accounts, a happy one. Plagued by crippling bouts of depression, Vance was one of the first celebrities to speak openly about mental illness. Fans of I Love Lucy will be taken with the behind-the-scenes stories of the show and its feuds and friendships; one of the most surprising nuggets is that Lucy and Ethel didn't get along offstage. Those who wish to meet the woman who created Ethel Mertz are unlikely ever again to mistake Vance for her alter ego.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Vivian Vance pioneered the role of female sidekick as Lucille Ball's feisty neighbor Ethel on I Love Lucy. Yet little has been written about the beloved actress and her varied career before and after Lucy. Actors as well as authors, Castelluccio and Walker remedy this oversight with the first in-depth look at the woman born Vivian Roberta Jones. Before assuming the part of frowsy Ethel Mertz, Vance was known as a Broadway beauty whose singing roles included understudy to Ethel Merman. This candid retelling of her life reveals an ambitious woman who struggled with many problems, from her fear of being cast in an unflattering role to repeated bouts of mental illness. Verbal battles with Ball and stories of enmity between Vance and William Frawley (Fred Mertz) pepper this readable tale of a woman dedicated to the theater and willing to take the role of "second banana" to new heights. Recommended where star bios are popular.?Kelli N. Perkins, Herrick P.L., Holland, MI
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
I went to Jamestown this summer – the land of Lucy – Lucy's hometown, final resting place and the location of the Desilu Studios Museum. Which I where I took a good look at Ethel Mertz (err, I mean Vivian Vance). From the I Love Lucy show, you'd never guess all the drama going on (and not just in the theater way) behind the scenes. But, let me back up.
I was looking at a display in the Desilu Studios Museum and there was an Ethel/Vivian section. There were some pictures of Vivian Vance in her younger years, way before I love Lucy was even conceived as a show. She was so gorgeous, so glamourous. I was kind of shocked by her beauty as Vivian was nothing like Ethel, in fact Ethel was the complete opposite of Vivian. When I walked into that museum, all I knew of Vivian was in relation to Lucille Ball and from the Maxwell House commercials she did in her later years.
Vivian was spectacular, it turns out. When I came home from Jamestown, I purchased this book immediately and couldn't put it down. Vivian was one complex woman. I have so much respect for her talent and struggles after reading this well-written, well-researched biography. Her whole life was complex – work and love and emotional struggles and a host of other issues pre, post and during the production of I Love Lucy.
I think we all know she hated being called Ethel Mertz as much as she hated her on-screen husband, William Frawley, with whom she had a somewhat acrimonious working relationship – she even hated him after his death! I Love Lucy was a double edged sword. It made her a household name but in some ways, it hurt her as well. Most of the viewers never knew she was such an accomplished stage actor and singer, who achieved a level (however without ever reaching the pinnacle) of notoriety known only to those in theatre circles. In fact, it was Desi Arnaz who "discovered" her while she was performing in a play in California and set his sights on her for the role of Ethel. Desi was genius, as far as I'm concerned. I've learned a lot about him as well since my trip to Jamestown.
The authors of this book spent years researching Vivian's life, painstakingly getting the goods on her way back to her childhood. With pictures! Some of the information came from family (siblings) and neighbors as well as Lucie Arnaz and a lot of information that came right from Vivian, herself, through a draft of a memoir that was never published.
One of the things young Vivian struggled with was her fervently religious mother, who disapproved of pretty much everything Vivian did as well as every dream Vivian had. I think her relationship with her mother was the basis of a lot of her emotional problems later in life. Years of being told that you're going to hell takes a toll on you, even if it's on a subconscious level.
Vivian had quite a career in the theatre – first in the Little Theatre in Albuquerque and reaching the lights of Broadway and pretty much everywhere great theater was performed, including the USO (which turned out to be a disaster for her – although it was there she met a talented, unknown performer named. . . BURT LANCASTER!). She worked with people like Danny Kaye, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Ethel Merman and so many other BIG names while holding her own in the process. She was able to become her characters. She was not only extremely versatile but proved herself to be a person who navigated the system with finesse.
Vivan's love life was also somewhat rocky. As was her relationship with Lucille Ball at times (though it's clear they really loved each other despite moments of turmoil in their long relationship).
To Vivian's dismay, the years post I Love Lucy were somewhat hard as she was forever associated with Ethel, something she despised and was not afraid to voice. After the I Love Lucy and subsequent Lucy-themed shows, Vivian went back to the theater and shifted out of mainstream television work. Despite the fact that there is so much less information on Vivian's work post "Lucy," this is a must-read for anyone who, like me, grew up with Lucy and Ricky and Fred and Ethel.
Such an amazing book about one of the great entertainers of the 20th Century. Recommend.
I would recommend it, as a quick read about an interesting star and an interesting lady. At first she didn't get along with Lucille Ball, but they finally became good friends.
Reading about her early life...her drive and ambition, her courage and determination to succeed...I felt an even deeper admiration for the complex woman that was Vivian Vance.
Her lifelong struggle with depression illustrates vividly that (with inner strength and resolve) one can find a way to survive mental illness when the world (through ignorance and fear) refuses to understand and accept.
Three cheers to the authors for revealing the life of a much loved and little understood lady. And that she was...a real lady.