The show’s director, Marc Daniels, suggested his friend Vivian Vance (39). He took Desi and I Love Lucy writer, Jess oppenheimer, to see her in a stage performance. Lucy had given birth to Lucie just 11 days before, so she couldn’t make the trip with them.
After the first act, Desi turned to his companions and said, “I think we found our Ethel.”
Vivian, of course, got the role, but it was a role that she didn’t exactly embrace. She would complain to anyone who listened how ridiculous that she should be playing William Frawley’s wife. Her feelings toward him were matched on his end and it was actually a fierce feud.
Vivian hated Ethel – her clothes, her appearance, her “man’s” voice….and so on. An overly understanding Lucy tried to appease her by coming up with more laughs for Ethel, and constructing whole scenes around her. Eventually, Vivian eased up and came to enjoy the amazing show that she was a part of.
However, her feud with Frawley was so bad that the director was forever having to break up their fights and trying to bring about peace.
Their feelings toward one another were so bad that when Vivian was told of William Frawley’s death, she actually said, “Champagne for Everybody!”
Odds are he would’ve said the same if the tables had been turned – it was simply a hideous relationship. But you’d never know it by watching their scenes, which is a great testament to each one’s talent and commitment to the show.