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   AMERICA'S "2ND" MOST FAVORITE TV COUPLE - THE MERTZES. ALTHOUGH ETHEL AND FRED MERTZ HAD THEIR SHARE OF BATTLES AND ARGUMENTS, THEY LEFT A LASTING IMPRESSION ON AMERICAN TELEVISION AUDIENCES AS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST COUPLES IN TELEVISION HISTORY (BESIDES LUCY AND DESI). IT WAS THEIR CONSTANT BATTLES THAT CREATED THE HUMOR THAT TYPICAL COUPLES COULD RELATE TO.
ETHEL AND FRED WERE A CONTRASTING COUPLE FOR THE "I LOVE LUCY" PLOT: THE 'SECOND BANANAS' OF I LOVE LUCY. SINCE LUCY AND DESI WERE THE 'YOUNGER' COUPLE, THE SHOW NEEDED A CONTRASTING IMAGE, SO THEY CALLED ON AN 'OLDER' COUPLE, ALTHOUGH VIVIAN VANCE WAS ONLY

Vivian Vance
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   It wasn't hard to choose the right person to play Ethel Mertz in "I Love Lucy". Desi Arnaz attended a theatre performance of Vivian Vance during the developing stage of the show and decided that she would be perfect for the role.
   Despite Desi's smart decision, he was unsure of whether Lucy would approve.  To his luck, the girls got along perfectly and were the best of friends on the show, and even off.
   The character of Ethel Mertz was required, alike Fred Mertz, to accompany Lucy in the battle of the sexes within the characters' many zany conflicts.
   It was decided that an older couple would contrast Lucy and Desi and add more excitement to the plot.
   Vivian Vance had been situated in theatre and broadway for most years of her career before "I Love Lucy".


as "Ethel Mertz"
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   Lucy's partner in almost every scheme, Ethel Mertz was considered a frumpy, older woman in comparison to her best friend, Lucy Ricardo. In short, she was a contrasting character.
   Always pestering the life out of Fred, and eating a lot of food, she was a regular at the Ricardo household, and always tended to Lucy's needs. The only times Ethel wanted out was when her schemes went too far, but Ethel was susceptible to Lucy's bribes, and Lucy usually won with her.
   Unlike Fred, Ethel was not a cheapskate. Although she longed for the many wonderful clothes and appliances that Lucy was getting from Ricky, she knew that her tight husband would never give in. But she never failed to try…

facts that some fans don't know...

  • Vance and Frawley were NOT married.
  • Vance had to keep her weight 15+ lbs. above Lucille Ball's weight on I Love Lucy.
  • Vance wanted to be glamorous: she did not fully admire being known as 'Ethel Mertz'.

William Frawley
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   William Frawley placed a phone call and contacted Lucille Ball with regards and interest in the part of Fred Mertz in "I Love Lucy".
   Desi Arnaz scheduled a meeting with Frawley and he decided that he would probably benefit from having the role.
   When Frawley was chosen for the role of Fred Mertz, he was despised by the production company for having a supposed drinking problem.
   Desi Arnaz warned him about his conditions, and from that day, Frawley was never unkempt at the studio.
   William Frawley and Vivian Vance were many years apart.  Not only did they not get along on screen, they also did not get along very well on the set.
   Frawley had starred in many films and vaudeville before "I Love Lucy" and was later on several episodes of "My Three Sons."

as "Fred Mertz"
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   The character of Fred Mertz was "grumpy", but also quite witty. He was recognized as a serious cheapskate, and always cared about his money first, no matter what situation he was in. In short, money meant everything to Fred, but it wasn't like he had a lot of it, anyhow.
   Running the apartment on 623 E. 68th Street wasn't an easy task for him - he usually complained about all of the work he had to do for his tenants, fixing leaky faucets and pipes and making sure that ample heat was given from the furnace in the winter. The furnace, actually, was not operated much by Fred, who, once again, was cautious with his money.
   Overall, Fred was the typical witty character, but when it came to things like money and old-fashioned ideas, he was the first to become unpleasant. His worst enemy was Ethel, and his best friend was Ricky. As for Lucy's friendship with Fred, Fred was usually on to some of Lucy's schemes, and he usually helped, despite the fact that Ricky was his best friend, and was usually Lucy's victim.


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