Birthday: February 26, 1887
Died At Age: 79
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: William Clement Frawley
Born in: Burlington, Iowa
Famous as: Actor
Height: 5'9" (175 cm), 5'9" Males
Spouse/Ex-: Edna Frawley (m. 1914–1927)
father: Michael A. Frawley
mother: Mary E. Brady
Died on: March 3, 1966
place of death: Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
U.S. State: Iowa
Who was William Frawley?
William Clement Frawley was an American actor who was active in films, television, and theater. He is best remembered for playing the character of the World War I veteran, ‘Fred Mertz’ in the American television sitcom ‘I Love Lucy’ between 1951 and 1957. He had worked in over hundred films in his career, which lasted for almost fifty years. Frawley first made a name for himself working on Broadway and later signed a deal with the Paramount Studios in the mid 1910s. He and his wife Edna Louise teamed up to create one of the most popular theater comedy acts, ‘Frawley and Louise,’ which stayed in business for almost thirteen years. During his career he gained a bad reputation for losing his temper on the sets and fighting with other actors. He once got fired from one production after he punched another actor on the nose. When Frawley was approached for the role of ‘Fred Mertz’ in ‘I Love Lucy’, Desi Arnaz, who played the character of ‘Enrique Alberto Fernando y de Acha "Ricky" Ricardo III’ warned him to behave himself during the shooting.
Childhood & Early Life
William Clement Frawley was born in Burlington, Iowa, on February 26, 1887 to Michael A. Frawley and Mary E. (Brady) Frawley. He was the second of four siblings. He went to a Catholic school for his early education and also sang in the choir.
While in school, he also performed in local amateur shows and acted at the Burlington Opera House in different productions. However, his mother, being a highly religious and traditional lady, did not approve of this.
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William Frawley started his career working as a stenographer in an office of the Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, Nebraska, but his love for acting never went away. When he left this position to work as a court reporter in Chicago, he signed for a role in a musical comedy, ‘The Flirting Princess’, which his mother did not approve at all.
He then took a job in a railway company in St. Louis, Missouri in order to please his mother. But this was not the life he wanted. Eventually he, along with his brother Paul, formed a vaudeville act and started working as an entertainer. He also wrote a script named ‘Fun in a Vaudeville Agency’ and earned 500 dollars for it.
Frawley continued working in vaudeville and collaborated with pianist Franz Rath to build their own act ‘A Man, a Piano, and a Nut’. He was also passionate about singing and performed many songs.
He joined the Broadway theater and appeared in several acts including the musical comedy ‘Merry, Merry’ in 1925, and Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's drama ‘Twentieth Century’ in 1932.
Frawley appeared in a short comedy film ‘Moonlight and Pretzels’ in 1933 and subsequently signed a seven-year contract with the Paramount Pictures.
In the next thirty years, Frawley appeared in several films including ‘Hell and High Water’ (1933), ‘The Crime Doctor’ (1934), ‘Here Is My Heart’ (1934), ‘Alibi Ike’ (1935), ‘Desire’ (1936), ‘Double or Nothing’ (1937),‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ (1939), ‘Rhythm on the River’ (1940), ‘Public Enemies’ (1941), ‘Moonlight in Havana’ (1942), ‘Going My Way’ (1944), ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (1947), ‘The Lone Wolf and His Lady’ (1949) and ‘Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man’ (1951).
In 1951, Frawley started to feel that his acting career in the film industry was declining. When he came to know about the upcoming sitcom ‘I Love Lucy’, he eagerly applied for a role. Both Arnaz and Ball were very happy to cast him; however, Frawley’s past records of losing temper on the sets and drinking habit made the show’s executives concerned. Arnaz badly wanted to cast someone of Frawley’s caliber for the role of Fred Mertz, so he took the chance with him and cast him anyway. Frawley gave his best to the show which went on to become a major hit.
Later in 1960, Frawley signed a contract to appear in the ABC comedy ‘My Three Sons’. He played the role of a live-in grandfather and housekeeper ‘Michael Francis "Bub" O'Casey’ between 1960 and 1965. Frawley was supposed to be one of the lead characters in the show which told the story of a widower raising his three sons, but when Fred MacMurray joined the show, Frawley’s character became a supporting act.
In 1951, Frawley started appearing in ‘I Love Lucy’, an American sitcom, starring Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and Lucille Ball besides him. He portrayed the character of ‘Fred Mertz’, a cantankerous and miserly landlord, and was critically praised for his work. The show won five Emmy Awards as well as several nominations in other prestigious award functions.
In 1960, he signed for the American sitcom ‘My Three Sons’ to portray the character of ‘Michael Francis "Bub" O'Casey’. He was a regular between 1960 and 1965 and was later replaced by William Demarest when he fell sick. The show could not obtain insurance for him due to his health issues and had to drop him from the future seasons.
Awards & Achievements
On February 8, 1960, William Frawley received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6322 Hollywood Boulevard.
In March 2012, he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
William Frawley married Edna Louise Broedt in 1914 and the couple developed their vaudeville act ‘Frawley and Louise’. They separated in 1921, but continued working on their act until their divorce in 1927.
He became close friends with Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball during their days on the sets of ‘I Love Lucy’.
On March 3, 1966, Frawley was returning home from a movie when he collapsed after suffering a heart attack. He died on the same day and was later buried in San Fernando Mission Cemetery.