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William Frawley

William Frawley

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Also Known As: Died: March 3, 1966
Born: February 26, 1887 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Burlington, Iowa, USA Profession: actor, vaudevillian

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Former vaudevillian William Frawley is known worldwide as Fred Mertz, the skinflint landlord and friend of the Ricardos, on the perpetually repeated classic TV sitcom "I Love Lucy" (CBS, 1951-1956). This was but one in a long line of gruff character roles, many of whom displayed a hidden soft side, that he played in more than 150 Hollywood films from 1931-1962.The Iowa-born Frawley began his career in the heyday of vaudeville as a comic and singer. According to lore, he reportedly was the first performer to warble the now-American classic (and gag punchline) "Melancholy Baby". Although he made an isolated appearance in a 1916 silent ("Lord Loveland Discovers America"), Frawley remained a stage player until the 1930s. Already middle-aged when Hollywood beckoned, he immediately became a regular face in character roles in both A-list and B pictures at practically every studio. He was particularly memorable as The Duke opposite Mickey Rooney as "Huckleberry Finn" (1939), and the cigar chomping politico who tells the judge to let this Kris Kringle thing slide in "Miracle on 34th Street". Besides 180 episodes of "I Love Lucy" and 10 more one-hour shows, Frawley appeared in numerous anthology episodes...

Former vaudevillian William Frawley is known worldwide as Fred Mertz, the skinflint landlord and friend of the Ricardos, on the perpetually repeated classic TV sitcom "I Love Lucy" (CBS, 1951-1956). This was but one in a long line of gruff character roles, many of whom displayed a hidden soft side, that he played in more than 150 Hollywood films from 1931-1962.

The Iowa-born Frawley began his career in the heyday of vaudeville as a comic and singer. According to lore, he reportedly was the first performer to warble the now-American classic (and gag punchline) "Melancholy Baby". Although he made an isolated appearance in a 1916 silent ("Lord Loveland Discovers America"), Frawley remained a stage player until the 1930s. Already middle-aged when Hollywood beckoned, he immediately became a regular face in character roles in both A-list and B pictures at practically every studio. He was particularly memorable as The Duke opposite Mickey Rooney as "Huckleberry Finn" (1939), and the cigar chomping politico who tells the judge to let this Kris Kringle thing slide in "Miracle on 34th Street". Besides 180 episodes of "I Love Lucy" and 10 more one-hour shows, Frawley appeared in numerous anthology episodes during the 50s. In 1960, he joined the cast of "My Three Sons" as "Bub," uncle to three motherless boys and in charge of daily operations in the household. He departed the series in ill health in 1965, and died in 1966.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Safe at Home! (1962) Bill Turner
2.
 Rancho Notorious (1952) Baldy Gunder
3.
 The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) Gloomy Willie
4.
 Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951) Detective Roberts
5.
 Rhubarb (1951) Len Sickles
6.
 East Side, West Side (1950) Bill the bartender
7.
 Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) Byers
8.
 Pretty Baby (1950) Corcoran
9.
 Blondie's Hero (1950) Marty Greer
10.
 Kill the Umpire (1950) Jimmy O'Brien
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Credited with having originated the song "Melancholy Baby" during his days as a vaudevillian.
1916:
Appeared in isolated silent film, "Lord Loveland Discovers America"
1931:
Arrived in Hollywood, appeared in "Surrender"
1939:
Played The Duke in remake of "Huckleberry Finn"
1947:
Had memorable role in "Miracle on 34th Street"
1950:
First TV series as regular, "The First Hundred Years"
:
Appeared in what is probably his best-known role, the skinflint landlord Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy" and the follow-up series "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour"
:
Portrayed 'Bub', the father-in-law of widower Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) and unofficial housekeeper to the clan on the sitcom "My Three Sons" (CBS)
1962:
Made final feature film, "Safe at Home"
1965:
Made last appearance with Lucille Ball on episode of "The Lucy Show"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

Frawley is said to have put himself in contention for the role of Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy" by telephoning Lucille Ball and saying "Red. I hear you gotta TV series coming on. You got a part for me?"

A rabid New York Yankees baseball fan, Frawley had written into his "I Love Lucy" contract that he did not have work during The World Series if the Yankees were playing. Considering the 1950s New York Yankees were in eight of the 10 series during the decade, this did cause Desilu a few problems and Frawley does not appear in two "I Love Lucy" episodes due to this clause.

Some say it was because of his drinking, but Frawley did not drive. Luckily, he lived in the El Royale apartments on Rossmore, in walking distance of all three locations where "I Love Lucy" was filmed during its run. Frawley's favorite watering hole was Nickodell's restaurant and bar, which was only a few yards away from the Paramount main gate.

Frawley was always happiest when he could sing on an "I Love Lucy" episode. Although Vivian Vance had also been a singer in musical comedy, Frawley insisted she could not carry a tune. It was one of the off-stage elements of friction between Mr. and Mrs. Fred Mertz.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Louise Frawley. Married in 1914; divorced in December 1926, breaking up their vaudeville act.
companion:
Patricia Barry. Actor. Born in 1930.

Bibliography close complete biography

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

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