‘I Love Lucy’: Lucille Ball Had Some Specific Physical Requirements for the Role of Ethel Mertz

Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance of 'I Love Lucy'Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance of 'I Love Lucy'

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz starred on the legendary sitcom I Love Lucy from 1951 to 1957. The celebrity couple portrayed Ricky and Lucy Ricardo living in NYC with their best friends and landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz, played by William Frawley and Vivian Vance.

When actors began to audition for the role of Ethel, Ball had a certain type of look she wanted the character to maintain.

Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance of ‘I Love Lucy’ | CBS via Getty ImagesVivian Vance was fine with being the sidekick on ‘I Love Lucy’

Ball and Vance worked together for decades and developed a close friendship. Yet when I Love Lucy began, the famous redhead often kept a critical watch on Vance. In the book Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz by authors Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert, Desilu Studios associate Maury Thompson described some of Ball’s critiques.

“She was tough on Viv,” Thompson said. “She picked at every little thing Viv did. Viv could read a script cold like a professional. And of course Lucille realized this as time went on. She’d say, ‘You like green?’ Viv would say, ‘Yeah.’ ‘You gonna wear that?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Oh.’”

Despite the backhanded comments from Ball, Vance had no problem deferring to the star’s instruction. The actor was always more than willing to change her wardrobe or look to whatever Ball preferred. Vance gravitated toward being in the background.

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“As working women, we had great respect for each other’s talent without a twinge of jealousy,” Vance explained. “I was tickled to death to go along with a star who was willing to work as hard as she did. I personally wasn’t that willing.”

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Lucille Ball had doubts about Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz

Ball clearly had a specific physical presence in mind when casting for the role of her bestie and landlady Ethel Mertz. Sanders and Gilbert described their first meeting when Vance came to read for the part. The I Love Lucy star vocalized her concerns, where Vance was more than happy to comply.

“‘She doesn’t look like a landlady,’” Thompson recalled Ball saying of Vance. “‘Her hair’s the same color as mine.’ Viv said, ‘Well, Miss Ball, I can dye it.’ … ‘[Ball said], ‘Well, I know but you’re not heavy.’ Viv said, ‘Well, I’m

Source:: Showbiz Cheat Sheet


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