Inside ‘I Love Lucy’: Meet Lucille Ball’s Close Friend and Frequent TV Sidekick, Mary Jane Croft

When it comes to Lucille Ball‘s onscreen sidekicks, it’s inevitable that Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz will come to mind. But the truth is that throughout the vast majority of Lucy’s Classic TV career — from I Love Lucy to The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy (the first two of which are currently airing on the MeTV network) — there was another actress who was frequently there, getting into trouble with Ms. Ball’s sitcom alter ego. Her name is Mary Jane Croft and she played, in those respective series, Betty Ramsey, Audrey Simmons and Mary Jane Lewis.

In the course of writing The Lucy Book: A Complete Guide to Her Five Decades on Television (which is currently being revised and expanded), author Geoffrey Mark got to spent time with Mary Jane, reflecting on her years of working with Lucy and getting to know her.

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Lucille Ball Productions

“She was nothing like the characters she played,” says Geoffrey in an exclusive interview with Closer Weekly. “She was intelligent, thoughtful in her speech and prettier than you would think. I found her to be very honest in that there was no nonsense about what she said. If she said it, she meant it. She was aware that she had become this icon mostly because of her association with Lucille Ball, but also because of other things that she did. She also had tragedy in her life that she didn’t talk about very openly, because her son, Eric, died in Vietnam.”

“It’s not that she hid it,” he clarifies, “but it just wasn’t something she wanted to use for publicity or to get attention. She understood that she was one of tens of thousands of mothers out there, if not hundreds of thousands, who had lost their child in this war. And she felt just because she was a celebrity, it didn’t make her any more or less deserving of attention for it.”

Please scroll down for more on Mary Jane Croft.

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