Honored for her work in 1953, Vance became the first actress to win an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Supporting Actress". Vance accepted her award at the Emmy ceremony in February 1954. She was nominated an additional three times (for 1954, 1956 and 1957) before the end of the series.In 1957, after the highly successful half-hour I Love Lucy episodes had ended, Vance continued playing Ethel Mertz on a series of hour-long specials titled The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show (later retitled The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour). In 1959, she divorced her third husband Philip Ober, who allegedly physically abused her.[When the hour-long Lucy-Desi specials ended production in 1960, Vance and Frawley were given the opportunity to star in their own "Fred and Ethel" spin-off show. Although Frawley was interested, Vance declined. The program was retooled and broadcast as Guestward, Ho!, with Joanne Dru taking the female lead. In 1960, Viv appeared in a pilotwithout Frawley for that same proposed series Guestward, Ho! The pilot didn't sell. In 1962, when Lucy was planning to return to television in a new series, she asked Vance to rejoin her. Vance reluctantly agreed, with the stipulation that she be allowed to appear in more glamorous clothes, as well as having her character be named "Vivian" (as she was tired of the public addressing her as "Ethel"). She appeared on The Lucy Show from 1962 until 1965, as Vivian Bagley, a divorced mother of one son, sharing a house with Ball's character. The character of Vivian Bagley was the first divorcee ever on a weekly American television series.
The strain of commuting from her home in Connecticut to Hollywood was too hard on her, however. By 1964, she appeared in only half of the episodes. The following year, she was offered a new contract with Desilu Studios, giving her the opportunity to direct. This never came to fruition.After her departure from The Lucy Show, Vance appeared occasionally alongside Lucille Ball on reunion shows and made several guest appearances on Ball's third sitcom, Here's Lucy (1968-1974).
In 1973, our dear Viv was diagnosed with breast cancer. The following year, she and her husband moved to Belveder, California, so she could be near her sister. It was during this period that Vance played the part of "Maxine", who wheeled around a catering truck, dispensing Maxwell House coffee to office workers in a series of television commercials. In 1977, Vance suffered a stroke which left her partially paralyzed. Her final television appearance with Lucille Ball was on the CBS special Lucy Calls the President, which aired November 21, 1977.Vivian Vance, who never had children, died on August 17, 1979, at the age of 70, of bone cancer. After her death, Desi Arnaz remarked, "It’s bad enough to lose one of the great artists we had the honor and the pleasure to work with, but it’s even harder to reconcile the loss of one of your best friends."
She was the godmother of Lovin' Spoonful guitarist John Sebastian, and had been very close friends with his mother Jane. Viv's body was cremated, and the ashes scattered at sea.
During a 1986 interview, Lucille Ball talked about watching I Love Lucy reruns and her reaction to Vance's performance: "I find that now I usually spend my time looking at Viv. Viv was sensational. And back then, there were things I had to do—I was in the projection room for some reason, and I just couldn't concentrate on it. But now I can. And I enjoy every move that Viv made. She was something."