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Vivian Vance In Color

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When Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball were casting their new television sitcom I Love Lucy in 1951, director Marc Daniels, who had previously worked with Vance in a theater production, suggested her for the role of landlady Ethel Mertz. Lucille Ball had wanted either Bea Benaderet or Barbara Pepper, both close friends, to play the role. CBS refused Pepper on the grounds that she had a drinking problem, and Benaderet was already playing Blanche Morton on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show. Arnaz then began searching for another actress and Daniels took him and producer Jess Oppenheimer to the La Jolla Playhouse to see Vance in the John Van Druten play The Voice of the Turtle. Watching her perform, Arnaz was convinced he had found the ideal actress to play Ethel Mertz. Ball was less sure. She had envisioned Ethel to be much older and less attractive; Vance was closer to Ball's age and attractive. Also, Ball, firmly entrenched in film and radio, had never heard of Vance, who was primarily a theater actress.

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