N/A (passed away Mar. 3rd, 1966)
Burlington, Iowa, USA
William Frawley's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles1952 - Rancho Notorious
1951 - Rhubarb
1951 - The Lemon Drop Kid
1951 - Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
1950 - Blondie's Hero
1950 - Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye
1949 - Red Light
1948 - The Babe Ruth Story
1947 - Monsieur Verdoux
1947 - Blondie's Anniversary
1947 - Miracle on 34th Street
1947 - Blondie's Anniversary
1945 - Lady on a Train
1944 - Going My Way
1942 - Gentleman Jim
1941 - The Bride Came C.O.D.
1941 - Blondie in Society
1940 - One Night in the Tropics
1939 - Rose of Washington Square
1936 - The Princess Comes Across
1935 - Roberta
Guest TV Roles
Michael Francis 'Bub' O'Casey
Himself - Guest
William Frawley was born in Burlington, Iowa. As a boy he sang at St. Paul's Catholic Church and played at the Burlington Opera House. His first job was as a stenographer for the Union Pacific Railroad. He did vaudeville with his brother Paul, then joined pianist Franz Rath in an act they took to San Francisco in 1910. Four years later he formed a light comedy act with his new wife Edna Louise Broedt, "Frawley and Louise", touring the Orpheum and Keith circuits until they divorced in 1927. He next moved to Broadway and then, in 1932, to Hollywood with Paramount. By 1951, when he contacted 'Lucille Ball' about a part in her TV show "I Love Lucy" (1951), he had performed in over 100 films. His Fred Mertz role lasted until the show ended in 1960, after which he did a five-year stint on "My Three Sons" (1960). Poor health forced his retirement. He collapsed of a heart attack on March 3, 1966, aged 79, walking along Hollywood Boulevard after seeing a movie. He is buried in San Fernando Mission Cemetery.William Clement Frawley (February 26, 1887 – March 3, 1966) was an American stage entertainer, screen and television actor. Although Frawley acted in over 100 films, he achieved his greatest fame playing landlord Fred Mertz for the situation comedy I Love Lucy.
Early life and career
William was born to Michael A. Frawley and Mary E. Brady in Burlington, Iowa. As a young boy, Bill (as he was commonly called) attended Roman Catholic school and sang with the St. Paul's Church choir. As he got older, he loved playing bit roles in local theater productions, as well as performing in amateur shows. However, his mother, a religious woman, discouraged the idea.
In 1916, Frawley had appeared in two short subject silent films. He performed subsequently in three other short films, but it wasn’t until 1933 that he decided to develop a cinematic career, beginning with short comedy films, and the feature musical Moonlight and Pretzels (Universal Studios, 1933). He relocated to Los Angeles and signed a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures.
Finding much work as a character actor, he had roles in many different genres of films — comedies, dramas, musicals, westerns and romances. Frawley had a notable performance in the 1947 holiday favorite, Miracle on 34th Street, as Judge Harper's political adviser (who warns his client in great detail the dire political consequences if he rules that there is not any Santa Claus). Some of his other memorable film roles were as the baseball manager in Joe E. Brown's, Alibi Ike (1935), and as the wedding host in Charlie Chaplin's, Monsieur Verdoux (1947).
I Love Lucy
By 1951, the 64-year-old Frawley had appeared in over 100 movies but was starting to find film role offers becoming fewer. When he heard that Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball were casting a new television situation comedy, he applied eagerly to play the role of the cantankerous, miserly landlord Fred Mertz.
I Love Lucy debuted October 15, 1951 on CBS and was a huge success. The series was broadcast for six years as half-hour episodes, later changing to hour-long specials from 1957 to 1960 titled The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show (later retitled The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour).
Vivian Vance played Ethel Mertz, Frawley’s on-screen wife. Although the two actors worked well together, they greatly disliked each other in real life. Most attribute their mutual hatred to Vance's vocal resentment of having to play wife to a man 22 years her senior. Frawley reportedly overheard Vance complaining; he took offense and never forgave her. "She's one of the finest girls to come out of Kansas," he once observed, "But I often wish she'd go back there."
An avid New York Yankees baseball fan, Frawley had it written into his I Love Lucy contract that he did not have to work during the World Series if the Yankees were playing. The Yankees were in every World Series during that time except for 1954 and 1959. He missed two episodes of the show as a result.
During 1960, Ball and Arnaz gave Frawley and Vance the opportunity to have their own "Fred and Ethel" spin-off series for Desilu Studios. Despite his animosity towards her, Frawley saw a lucrative opportunity and accepted. Vance, however, refused the offer, not having any desire to work with Frawley again, and the proposed series was nixed. Afterward, and for the remainder of Frawley's life, he and Vance had very little contact with each other.
My Three Sons
Frawley next performed for the ABC (later CBS) situation comedy My Three Sons, playing live-in grandfather/housekeeper Michael Francis "Bub" O'Casey beginning during 1960. Featuring Fred MacMurray as main actor, the series was about a widower raising his three sons.
- When he died in 1966, his gross estate totaled $92,446, and his assets were on track to grow after he died. He had a residual deal for _"I Love Lucy" (1951)_ (qv), which was unique to performers of the day; he was to be paid in perpetuity. His estate and heirs were paid for decades for rerun revenues.
- He said he introduced the classic song "(Nothing Could Be Finer Than to Be in) Carolina in the Morning" in the Broadway Musical Revue "The Passing Show of 1922", which ran at the Winter Garden Theater in New York September 20 - December 2, 1922. As of this writing (May 2008), this has not been positively confirmed, as he is not listed in the Internet Broadway Database as being a cast member of that show.
- Despite the fact that they played husband and wife on _"I Love Lucy" (1951)_ (qv), Frawley and 'Vivian Vance' (qv) disliked each other intensely. Part of it was the real life age difference between the two (Frawley was 22 years Vance's senior), but essentially it was a clash of two driving, strong personalities. Vance and her fourth husband were dining out when they heard Frawley had died. Upon receiving the news, Vance reportedly shouted, "Champagne for everybody!".
- In early 1928, was fired from Broadway show 'She's My Baby' starring 'Beatrice Lillie' (qv) for punching 'Clifton Webb' (qv) in the nose.
- Interred at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, California, USA.
- By almost all accounts, Frawley's off-screen personality was not all that much different from his on-screen one. A notorious misanthrope, with one brief failed marriage behind him and a fondness for the bottle, he lived in the same spare bachelor apartment for most of his years in Hollywood.
- Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 168-169. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
- Is portrayed by 'John Wheeler (I)' (qv) in _Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter (1991) (TV)_ (qv)
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