It’s hard to find love in Hollywood — but it’s even more difficult to find a true friend too! Luckily, for Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance, they didn’t have to go far to find a confidant because they had that in each other.
Their friendship began, of course, on the set of I Love Lucy — but they didn’t hit it off right away. When Vivian showed up to play Ethel Mertz in the program, Lucille actually demanded she be fired. “She was from the old school that said you never have prettier people on the set,” author Frank Castelluccio, author of The Other Side of Ethel Mertz, has said.
Even though Lucille initially was determined to not work with Vivian, she changed her mind when she realized how much Vivian about the show. “They became very good friends after Lucy realized Vivian wasn’t a rival,” Joe Mayer, who played Little Ricky on the iconic sitcom, exclusively told Closer Weekly in the magazine’s latest issue, on newsstands now.
The ladies’ friendship grew from there. When Vivian’s third husband, Philip Ober, began mistreating her, Lucille demanded she leave him right away. Vivian ended up leaving Phillip in 1959. She went on to marry John Dodds in 1961 and she also helped Lucille for a very tough time in her life: divorcing husband Desi Arnaz.
“Lucille trusted Vivian with the secret that she was filing for divorce,” Kim Powers, who wrote the show Sidekicked about the beloved duo’s friendship, told Closer. “Vivian was one of the only ones that knew.”
Vivian ended up dying from bone cancer in 1979 and Lucille passed away in 1989 from an aortic dissection — but their work will forever live on in I Love Lucy. “Vivian was very ill and it broke her heart to see her, but she went because they were friends,” Lucy’s former assistant Wanda Clark previously recalled to Closer.
They had an amazing on-set friendship too — which served them well when they reunited for The Lucy Show (1962-1968) and 1977’s Lucy Calls the President. “If something in the script wasn’t working,” Wanda added, “those two ladies would put their heads together and figure it out.”
They don’t make friendships like those anymore!