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‘I Love Lucy’s Vivian Vance Was ‘Afraid of Men’ & Rumored to Be a Lesbian - Meet Her 4 Spouses

Gracious Egedegbe
Feb 12, 2022
07:40 A.M.
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Vivian Vance's metaphorical life outside Hollywood bordered on how her four marriages directly contrasted with how she was apprehensive of men. Yet, despite her marital records, she was also not shielded from the speculations of being a lesbian. 


Hollywood's Vivian Vance got her major and most outstanding role in 1951 when she starred as Ethel Mertz in "I Love Lucy." It was also on the show that she met Lucille Ball, who would go on to form a 28-year friendship with her. 

However, the lengthy span of the pair's friendship only got them under scrutiny about their sexuality. It also did not help that Vance was afraid of men, despite being married four times. 

Portrait of American actress Vivian Vance smiling. [Left] | Vivian Vance with her ex husband smiling and carrying their dogs. [Right] | Photo: Getty Images



Marriage was more like a necessary evil for Hollywood classic star Vivian Vance because while she was afraid of men, she did walk down the aisle four times. The actress' fear was borne of years of trauma by her father. 

Before her passing, Vance opened up about her pattern of marrying gay men to "The Lucy Book" author Geoffrey Mark. Mark recalled to Closer Weekly in 2020:

"He made her afraid of men. This came from Vivian, so it is not me being witty, but she only married gay men."

Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz in the second season of "I Love Lucy" aired on January 12, 1953. | Photo: Getty Images


She, however, pulled through with four marriages, trauma and all, until the time of her death in 1979. Here's a detailed outline of each of her nuptials.


In the 1920s, Vance had ambitions of venturing into a theater career, and she moved to New Mexico to follow her dreams. However, she soon met Joseph Shearer Danneck Jr., a fellow theater worker she became romantically linked to.

The pair tied the knot in 1928 when she was 19 years old, and they were married for three years. There are vague details about Vance's union with Danneck Jr., but it was a hasty marriage that quickly burned out as well. 


Portrait of Vivian Vance, circa 1940. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The couple, who moved to Albuquerque, realized that they were not happy together. Danneck Jr. left town, leaving Vance with no other choice but to file for legal separation.   


"The Blue Veil" actress had married Danneck Jr. in hopes of leaving her parents' home, but she later realized that she wanted a different life. So Vance moved back to New Mexico as a young adult to pursue her acting career.

Portrait of Vivian Vance, circa 1960. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons



"The Secret Fury" actress' career took her further to New York in the early 30s. This was a time when Vance had established an impressive on-stage career. This was also way ahead of her "I Love Lucy" days. 

She met violinist George Koch, and there was an instant connection. Vance fell in love with him, and in 1933, the two tied the knot. The TV star achieved a tremendous feat during her marriage, landing her first breakout role on Broadway. 

Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz in the I LOVE LUCY episode, "Lucy Becomes a Sculptress." Season 2, episode 15. | Photo: Getty Images


Vance replaced fellow actor Kay Thompson in "Hooray for What!" in 1940 and perfectly pulled off the role. It brought her more credibility in the movie industry, and her career fared well.

However, Vance's marriage to Koch failed, and in 1940, the two called things off. The marriage failed primarily due to Vance's affair with the man who became her third spouse. 

The couple stayed married until Vance's death, but her marriage to Dodd was reportedly her happiest. 



Vance met Philip Ober in the late 1930s when extra-marital affairs in showbiz often made rounds in the news. However, this did not prevent her from enjoying a clandestine affair with Broadway star Philp Ober, as in subsequent times, her affair became fodder for the tabloids. 

While Ober and Vance had an affair, she was married to Koch, and Ober was married to Phyllis Roper. As a result, Obers' wife was suspicious of his late-night relaxations at Vance's apartment and filed for divorce, demanding answers for his actions.

Actress Vivian Vance with William Frawley (bottom), and her husband, actor Philip Ober (top), at home, USA, circa 1955. | Photo: Getty Images


Roper also mentioned that the "Mr. and Mrs. North" actor paid the rent for Vance's apartment. However, she demanded $200 per month in spousal payment, which Ober opposed. He also claimed that his relationship with Vanve was platonic. 

Ultimately the two finalized their divorce, with Roper getting 35 percent in the divorce settlement. Vance married Ober a year after she ended her marriage with Koch, and by virtue of her influence, her third husband landed a recurring role on "I Love Lucy."

Actress Vivian Vance with William Frawley (left), and her husband, actor Philip Ober (right), at home, USA, circa 1955. | Photo: Getty Images


However, Ober's acting career fell off, leaving him to seek employment at the U.S consulate in Puerto Vallarta. All the while, Vance kept flourishing in her acting career. Ober soon became jealous of his wife's success.

He resorted to domestic violence, often battering Vance and psychologically abusing her. Vance's pal Lucille Ball knew what was happening and condemned the terrible situation. Ball's friend Jim Brochu shared an account of her reaction in his book, "Lucy in the Afternoon." The excerpt read

"When she was married to Phil Ober, she… God, that man!... He was a terrible man. He used to beat her up. Loved to embarrass her. He was nuts, and he made her nuts. God, it was a mess."


Publicity photo of the "I Love Lucy" cast: William Frawley, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and Lucille Ball. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ball reportedly advised her friend year-in-year-out to end her marriage Ober, but in her words, Vance was loyal to a fault. With time the trauma she suffered from Ober led to a significant breakdown that threatened her career. 


Ober and Vance ended their tumultuous marriage in 1959, and he went on to marry his third wife, Jane Westover. Ober was married to Westover until he died in 1982. He reportedly got married a third time to conceal his actual sexuality. 

Vivian Vance and Lucille Ball from "The Lucy Show," circa 1960. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons



Ball's friendship with Vance extended beyond their on-screen roles as pals. Ball witnessed much of Vance's woes in her third marriage, which might have strengthened their friendship.

However, there were speculations that there was more to the two's friendship that went beyond platonic. Vance and Ball were labeled lesbians who had an affair in their friendship. 

Candy Moore, Lucille Ball, Jimmy Garrett, Ralph Hart, and Vivian Vance, circa 1960. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Ten years after Vance's death and in the year Ball passed on, an excerpt from the former's tell-all, "Ethel," made it to the public. In it, Vance addressed rumors that she and Ball were lovers. The excerpt stated

"My first husband disapproved of my closeness with Lucille. People are talking about you two, he'd say. You ought to be careful about the hugging and kissing you do on the show."

"The word in Pacific Palisades, where I lived, was that something was wrong with me, something my analyst wouldn't tell me about," she added. 

Photo of Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance from the television program "The Lucy Show." | Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Vance attempted to hide her first two marriages by putting out this narrative. It is noteworthy that when she bagged roles in the 1950s, not much of her personal life was known. And this made it possible to hide her past marriages, but Ober clarified that she met Ball after she married him.


Vivian Vance married John Dodds, a book editor, in 1961. The couple stayed married until Vance's death, but her marriage to Dodd was reportedly her happiest. 

In Ball's account, Vance's marriage to the book publisher was her "second." Ball stated: "Viv was so happy; she didn't want to work anymore. When she found her perfect partner, I lost mine."


Portrait of actress Vivian Vance on October 6, 1952. Los Angeles, CA. | Photo: Getty Images

She continued: "Viv's career really ended when she left [The Lucy Show] and went back east to live with her artistic young husband."

Vance's fourth marriage gave her so much bliss that she did not mind leaving her beloved job to move to Belvedere on the East Coast. Even though her spouse was gay, she was at her happiest with him.

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