Vivian Vance Left 'The Lucy Show' for a Variety of Reasons

"Lucy told me that, just prior to the break, Vivian was asking for more money than Lucy was willing to accept. It broke Lucy’s heart, really.”

Melissa Willets - Author

Feb. 26 2024, Published 12:04 p.m. ET

Vivian Vance when she starred on 'I Love Lucy'
Source: Getty Images

As many fans can attest, I Love Lucy is one of the most beloved comedies ever. Lucy Ricardo's best friend and sidekick Ethel Mertz is among the most hilarious TV characters of all time.

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So why did actor Vivian Vance essentially walk away from a role on the lesser-known follow-up to that sitcom, The Lucy Show? Of course, Vivian appeared here and there on the show, but she wasn't featured as a main cast member, which was her decision. Let's take a look at Vivian's choice to leave The Lucy Show — a decision that was seemingly ahead of its time.

Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance, William Frawley, and Desi Arnaz during an 'I Love Lucy' scene.
Source: Getty Images
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If Vivian Vance was so popular, why did she leave 'The Lucy Show'?

In a move that shocked many, Vivian, clearly ahead of her time, prioritized her own wellness over the success of a TV show career.

Per Country Living, Lucille Ball asked her friend and co-star to join her on The Lucy Show after their acclaimed show I Love Lucy ended in 1957.

Reportedly, the star had a request if she was going to sign on: to be called Vivian.

"You must use your own first name because I go through life just being called Ethel Mertz. No one even knows who Vivian Vance was," the actor claimed.

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But even after Lucy agreed, Vivian's tenure on her show only lasted for three years. Despite The Lucy Show running from 1962–1968, Vivian decided the commute to work was just too much. Relatable? So much.

Indeed, traveling from Connecticut, where she lived, to Hollywood, Calif., wasn't working anymore for the now-older actor.

Per Country Living, Vivian maintained a guest role on the show until its end, however.

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Vivian Vance and Lucille Ball hugging in a dressing room
Source: Getty Images

Lucille Ball considered Vivian Vance leaving 'The Lucy Show' to be Vivian "deserting her."

Per Cheat Sheet, before making the decision to leave the show, Vivian asked for more control and more money. Unfortunately, Lucille had to say "no" to those demands, despite hoping that her longtime collaborator wouldn't leave the show.

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“Lucy cried in private talking to me because she depended on Vivian,” another co-star, Gayle Gordon said previously. “She told me she could never do a show without Vivian. Lucy told me that, just prior to the break, Vivian was asking for more money than Lucy was willing to accept. It broke Lucy’s heart, really.”

Lucille even asked Vivian to rethink her choice, with the star saying to the iconic redhead that she was sure the headliner felt she was "deserting her."

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But as Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert wrote in their book, Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Vivian had already made up her mind, and it had to do with this being her fourth trip down the aisle.

“I don’t want anything to happen to my marriage,” Vivian said. “All this flying back and forth is difficult. … I get up, go to the studio, go home, and fall into bed. It’s lonely.”

Vivian passed away of cancer in 1979 at age 70. Lucille died a decade later due to a ruptured aortic aneurysm at the age of 77.

They remained friends off-screen until the end.

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