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Meet the Mertzes: The Life Stories of I Love Lucy's Other Couple

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Meet the Mertzes is an expansive dual biography chronicling the lives of two of America's most popular situation-comedy actors, William Frawley and Vivian Vance, who portrayed Fred and Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy. This meticulously researched book contains interviews with Frawley's and Vance's colleagues, friends, and relatives, and explores their personal and professional Meet the Mertzes is an expansive dual biography chronicling the lives of two of America's most popular situation-comedy actors, William Frawley and Vivian Vance, who portrayed Fred and Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy. This meticulously researched book contains interviews with Frawley's and Vance's colleagues, friends, and relatives, and explores their personal and professional lives before, during, and after I Love Lucy. With a complete filmography and videography of each, Meet the Mertzes finally sets the record straight on the lives and legacies of these compelling stars who detested one another. You'll learn about: -Vance's successful Broadway career prior to I Love Lucy -Frawley's vaudevillian roots and his passion for baseball -Vance's nervous breakdown after the collapse of her first marriage -Frawley's drinking and carousing -Lucille Ball's caustic relationship with both of her costars -Vance's hatred of being known to the world as Ethel Mertz


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Meet the Mertzes is an expansive dual biography chronicling the lives of two of America's most popular situation-comedy actors, William Frawley and Vivian Vance, who portrayed Fred and Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy. This meticulously researched book contains interviews with Frawley's and Vance's colleagues, friends, and relatives, and explores their personal and professional Meet the Mertzes is an expansive dual biography chronicling the lives of two of America's most popular situation-comedy actors, William Frawley and Vivian Vance, who portrayed Fred and Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy. This meticulously researched book contains interviews with Frawley's and Vance's colleagues, friends, and relatives, and explores their personal and professional lives before, during, and after I Love Lucy. With a complete filmography and videography of each, Meet the Mertzes finally sets the record straight on the lives and legacies of these compelling stars who detested one another. You'll learn about: -Vance's successful Broadway career prior to I Love Lucy -Frawley's vaudevillian roots and his passion for baseball -Vance's nervous breakdown after the collapse of her first marriage -Frawley's drinking and carousing -Lucille Ball's caustic relationship with both of her costars -Vance's hatred of being known to the world as Ethel Mertz

30 review for Meet the Mertzes: The Life Stories of I Love Lucy's Other Couple

  1. 4 out of 5

    Graceann

    There's a surprising amount of information packed into 281 pages of reading, and a lot of it was new to me, which was refreshing. I'm one of those folks who watches old movies and looks for the character actors. That wouldn't do me a lot of good with Vivian Vance, who only appeared in three feature films, but William Frawley was all over movie screens in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and usually played the same type - the brusque cop, sports manager, barman, etc. Many people already know that Viv There's a surprising amount of information packed into 281 pages of reading, and a lot of it was new to me, which was refreshing. I'm one of those folks who watches old movies and looks for the character actors. That wouldn't do me a lot of good with Vivian Vance, who only appeared in three feature films, but William Frawley was all over movie screens in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and usually played the same type - the brusque cop, sports manager, barman, etc. Many people already know that Vivian Vance and William Frawley detested each other in real life, which makes their television success as a married couple all that much more of a testament to their acting abilities. They even maintained the facade in publicity for the show, and didn't really discuss disliking one another until after I Love Lucy wrapped. But then, oh boy, then. Frawley was especially awful in his comments about Vance, and even played childish practical tricks on her when they were using adjoining studios in the years after "Lucy" ended. There are problems with meet the Mertzes, but not serious ones. Sometimes assumptions are stated as facts. (It's apparently obvious to the authors that Vance did not marry her second husband because she loved him, though that is impossible to know without discussing it with the lady herself.) The text also suffers from an over-abundance of exclamation points and lists - in one sequence we are shown a long selection of the different Irish names that Frawley's characters were given in his career, when just telling us that he was often cast as an Irishman would have been sufficient. My final bugaboo is that, if you don't know the correct definition of a word, you should not be allowed to use it. "Penultimate" means second-to-last, as in "Lucille Ball's penultimate television series was 'Here's Lucy.'" Penultimate does NOT mean the apex of a person's success, so saying that perhaps the "penultimate" moment of Vivian Vance's career was her winning an Emmy in 1954 is just wrong, and makes the reader wonder what qualifications and/or support the author has. This should have been caught, if not by the author, then by a proofreader or editor, or even a friend reading for the purposes of providing feedback. For the information that I didn't already know from other sources, and for the sheer readability, Meet the Mertzes was definitely worth the time. I loved Lucy, but I loved the chemistry among the four main characters on the show, so this was an entertaining, informative read for me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard Bennett

    I wanted to read this mostly because I've always liked laughing at/with William Frawley ... the 'regular guy' with a gruff exterior, who surprisingly was also very musically talented. A song & dance man from Vaudeville, who went onto Broadway and then into Films and Radio, relocating to California in his adult years. Born in 1887, he worked all his life, almost to the time he passed away in 1966, making him older than I thought (79) all the years he was on television. He was married once, drank I wanted to read this mostly because I've always liked laughing at/with William Frawley ... the 'regular guy' with a gruff exterior, who surprisingly was also very musically talented. A song & dance man from Vaudeville, who went onto Broadway and then into Films and Radio, relocating to California in his adult years. Born in 1887, he worked all his life, almost to the time he passed away in 1966, making him older than I thought (79) all the years he was on television. He was married once, drank to excess, but somehow managed to keep working as a character actor. He spoke his mind to everybody, which may have cost him some wanted jobs, but in his latter years gained fame and celebrity status, outshining many of his fellow movie cohorts. Vivian Vance was another story ... she was 22 years younger than William Frawley, and they had an immediate dislike for each other. She didn't think people would believe that he was her husband, and he didn't like her for what she thought about him. However, both were professionals, and put their differences aside for the sake of the show (and their jobs), becoming famous as the Mertzes. Vivian was on Broadway during some of the same time Mr. Frawley was, and could deliver lines and sing well, and was always working. Her fears and doubts and marriages drove her to the brink of sanity though ... she was married four times in her life; the first two were barely touched on, the third to an actor named Philip Ober, and the fourth to a man who was bi-sexual, but who made her happy and gave her what she wanted most: a home. She suffered with a mental breakdown due to the fact that her life wasn't all roses and her first marriages weren't ideal; she came from a stable home, and this must have worked on her. However, she did pull it all together and went public with the fact that she had indeed suffered with mental issues, and went to the aid of others suffering with the same maladies. I've given this book 5 stars because it was interesting reading, and I wanted to know about the people who entertained America so much during my growing up years... 2 thumbs up !

  3. 4 out of 5

    Malorie Shannon

    I just finished "Meet the Mertzes". I love "I love Lucy" and love Fred and Ethel and the actors that played them. Vivian Vance and William Frawley were each briliant in their roles. This book filled me in on the personal and private lives of these 2 stars. From their days in Vaudeville to superstardom of I Love Lucy, from both having mothers that each in their own ways made each of them to be the slightly damaged people that we fans hardly ever saw to both being such consumate professionals that I just finished "Meet the Mertzes". I love "I love Lucy" and love Fred and Ethel and the actors that played them. Vivian Vance and William Frawley were each briliant in their roles. This book filled me in on the personal and private lives of these 2 stars. From their days in Vaudeville to superstardom of I Love Lucy, from both having mothers that each in their own ways made each of them to be the slightly damaged people that we fans hardly ever saw to both being such consumate professionals that no one watching would ever see even a tiny glimpse of the anomosity between them. This was a great read and I highly recommend it to everyone!!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Tediously written, but must-read for die-hard Lucy fans like me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    The reason I checked off "United States-History-20th Century" is that "I Love Lucy" was the number 1 television show of all the television shows of the 1950s. It's still considered one of the iconic television shows. So Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) and William Frawley (Fred Mertz) made history as the most famous co-stars in one of the most famous situation-comedies on television. Another reason is that William Frawley was a vaudeville performer in the early part of the century and a minor characte The reason I checked off "United States-History-20th Century" is that "I Love Lucy" was the number 1 television show of all the television shows of the 1950s. It's still considered one of the iconic television shows. So Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) and William Frawley (Fred Mertz) made history as the most famous co-stars in one of the most famous situation-comedies on television. Another reason is that William Frawley was a vaudeville performer in the early part of the century and a minor character actor in movies of the "studio era". His career spanned two thirds of the 20th century, so it is worth a look at in terms of the history of American entertainment. That said, I love Fred and Ethel. I grew up watching them. They were more like the adults I knew than Lucy and Ricky Riccardo were. (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the stars of "I Love Lucy") My uncles and aunts were like them, in my childhood opinion. They still make me laugh, and I have seen "I Love Lucy" more than a dozen times. There are many books about Lucille and Desi and their company "Desilu Productions". Rightly so. They were great talents and "Desilu" made many one- and two- thumbs up television shows. But I think this book is the ONLY book devoted to the other two talents that made "I Love Lucy" great. I don't think the show would have been as funny with other actors. For two people that hated each other almost on sight, "Bill" and "Viv" made "Fred" and "Ethel" look like a loving couple. Fred and Ethel verbally jabbed at each other, but married couples do that and still would not think of separating. Archie and Edith Bunker of "All in the Family" and Ralph and Alice Kramden of "The Honeymooners" were like Fred and Ethel Mertz. So were the cartoon Flintstones and Rubbles. As far as I know, the actors playing those roles got along fine off the set. At least they were not recorded as dissing each other. Not so Bill and Viv. They did it all the time, though not in front of fans. Fred and Ethel, as the "older couple", were good foils to Lucy and Ricky, and Bill and Vivian did well by their bosses Lucille and Desi. That was quite a feat, since Lucille and Desi were perfectionists with big egos, and Bill had to keep sober on the set and Vivian had to play the fat frump when she really liked to be fashionable (and she was fashionable when not playing Ethel). When actors have to "play down" their talent week after week to make the stars look great, tempers could explode and the show suffer. The book is set in three parts. Life Before "Lucy". Life During "Lucy". Life After "Lucy". The chapters in Parts 1 and 3 alternate between Frawley and Vance, trying to keep apace chronologically.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Fascinating, well researched biography of both William Frawley and Vivian Vance, the actors who portrayed the famous landlords and perennial best friends of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo in the groundbreaking American television sitcom, "I Love Lucy." This biography reveals the lengthy resumes of both actors, most of which the general public knows little about. William Frawley (who was much older than Vance) was a vaudevillian who made the successful transition to motion pictures and had a long career Fascinating, well researched biography of both William Frawley and Vivian Vance, the actors who portrayed the famous landlords and perennial best friends of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo in the groundbreaking American television sitcom, "I Love Lucy." This biography reveals the lengthy resumes of both actors, most of which the general public knows little about. William Frawley (who was much older than Vance) was a vaudevillian who made the successful transition to motion pictures and had a long career as a character actor. Miss Vance was less well known, but had been active in both local and Broadway theater. Perennial second bananas, both of them however made an invaluable contribution to the huge success of the sitcom which lasts to this day. I was particularly struck by the fact that Vivian was more beautiful, and more talented than she was allowed to display on the show. Without her spark and comedic talent, Lucy could never become "Lucy." Both of them had their troubles and triumphs. Both of them were extremely talented, brought expert comedic skills to the table and were consummate professionals. A fitting tribute to two television history giants whose images still grace television screens around the world every day. Almost 60 years after they were first filmed, and their antics, scrapes, reactions and shenanigans still stand up, still entertain and always make us laugh.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Debi Emerson

    I was born in 1950, so pretty much grew up with "I Love Lucy" and have enjoyed it in reruns over the years. Much has been written about Lucy & Desi, but I never knew much about William Frawley or Vivian Vance beyond their "I Love Lucy" rolls & subsequent stints on "My Three Sons" and other Lucy shows. This is an excellent book covering the lives of the 2 in their pre-Lucy days, as well as during Lucy and post-Lucy. I was born in 1950, so pretty much grew up with "I Love Lucy" and have enjoyed it in reruns over the years. Much has been written about Lucy & Desi, but I never knew much about William Frawley or Vivian Vance beyond their "I Love Lucy" rolls & subsequent stints on "My Three Sons" and other Lucy shows. This is an excellent book covering the lives of the 2 in their pre-Lucy days, as well as during Lucy and post-Lucy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patti Abernathy

    As a huge Lucy fan I looked forward to reading about the other actors on the show. I enjoyed learning more about their personal lives but am left with a lot of questions. The authors interviewed many people and different people seemed to have different opinions so I don't know what to think about Vivian and William. As a huge Lucy fan I looked forward to reading about the other actors on the show. I enjoyed learning more about their personal lives but am left with a lot of questions. The authors interviewed many people and different people seemed to have different opinions so I don't know what to think about Vivian and William.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    A good way to learn about Vivian Vance's and William Frawley's lives before and after I Love Lucy. A good way to learn about Vivian Vance's and William Frawley's lives before and after I Love Lucy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    First, I assume you are a fan of "I Love Lucy" or I can't imagine wanting to read this book. That assumption made, this is a dual biography of Vivian Vance and William Frawley, forever known as the battling couple "Fred and Ethel Mertz" from the iconic 50s TV show "I Love Lucy". Alternating chapters cover Vance's and Frawley's childhood and early years in show business, each actor's experience in doing "Lucy" (it was well known within the business that each actor despised the other personally, b First, I assume you are a fan of "I Love Lucy" or I can't imagine wanting to read this book. That assumption made, this is a dual biography of Vivian Vance and William Frawley, forever known as the battling couple "Fred and Ethel Mertz" from the iconic 50s TV show "I Love Lucy". Alternating chapters cover Vance's and Frawley's childhood and early years in show business, each actor's experience in doing "Lucy" (it was well known within the business that each actor despised the other personally, but both did a very good job of hiding it on the show), and their lives after the show, both personal and professional. The book is a modest-sized volume but the level of information is probably enough for all but the serious scholars. I thought it held my interest well, and I have read a couple other books on the subject. Overall, I give it 3 stars. Worth reading for the Vance and/or Frawley fan.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Krista the Krazy Kataloguer

    After watching "I Love Lucy" episodes for the gazillionth time, I began to realize what fantastic actors Vivian Vance and William Frawley were, and how much their talents contributed to the success of the show. This dual biography fills in the background information about their lives before and after "Lucy," and gives insight into what it was like for them to work with Lucy and Desi. After reading this book, I wish I could have met both Frawley and Vance, especially Vance. Recommended for anyone After watching "I Love Lucy" episodes for the gazillionth time, I began to realize what fantastic actors Vivian Vance and William Frawley were, and how much their talents contributed to the success of the show. This dual biography fills in the background information about their lives before and after "Lucy," and gives insight into what it was like for them to work with Lucy and Desi. After reading this book, I wish I could have met both Frawley and Vance, especially Vance. Recommended for anyone who wants to know more about "Lucy's other couple".

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carol Buxton

    An excellent book After reading this book, watch the first few episodes of "I Love Lucy." You will see them in a new light and enjoy them on a new level of understanding ! Thanks to this wonderful treatment of "Fred and Ethal " I will watch T.V. re runs with with greater respect to the people behind the camera as well as the players. An excellent book After reading this book, watch the first few episodes of "I Love Lucy." You will see them in a new light and enjoy them on a new level of understanding ! Thanks to this wonderful treatment of "Fred and Ethal " I will watch T.V. re runs with with greater respect to the people behind the camera as well as the players.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Neuwirth

    I've loved Lucy ever since I used to watch the episodes with my grandma in her living room...we'd laugh and laugh...I think Viv was incredible; a perfect friend and straight-woman for Lucy and Fred was perfect. Parts of this are sad; as they're not the lovable couple behind the scenes - a must for Lucy fans. I've loved Lucy ever since I used to watch the episodes with my grandma in her living room...we'd laugh and laugh...I think Viv was incredible; a perfect friend and straight-woman for Lucy and Fred was perfect. Parts of this are sad; as they're not the lovable couple behind the scenes - a must for Lucy fans.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lorna

    This was a much "lighter" and faster read than the Desilu book. Obviously there was some repeated information since Vivian and Bill were profiled a bit in that book, but it was nice to get a deeper look at THEIR lives. This was a much "lighter" and faster read than the Desilu book. Obviously there was some repeated information since Vivian and Bill were profiled a bit in that book, but it was nice to get a deeper look at THEIR lives.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Regina

    It was a little slow at first - it might not be for others. It picked up for me and I found the subjects, Vivian Vance and William Frawley, very interesting. It is interesting to know who they were outside of I Love Lucy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dee brown

    Another boring book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chip Carman

    Great read. A really good luck at the careers and private lives of Vivian Vance & William Frawley. Man they worked hard to be in the position to be chosen to play Fred & Ethel! Highly recommend.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Donna Ater-bills

    Wonderful Book I never knew what William Frawley and Vivian Vance were like until I read this book I understand so much now. Thank you

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Mikita

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eli

  21. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Heath

  23. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  24. 5 out of 5

    Janet Bryant

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Dunham

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marnie Buckley

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ralph Updyke

  29. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Westwood

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jay

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