The at an early stage Years

The male who accomplished television immortality together Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy to be born in Burlington, Iowa, on February 26, 1887. Together a young boy, william Clement Frawley sang in the choir at St. Paul"s Catholic Church and also played in ~ the Burlington Opera House. His very first job was together a stenographer for the Union Pacific Railroad; he later uncovered employment together a court reporter.

You are watching: How old was william frawley when he died

Finding Fame

Bitten by the display biz bug, that soon began performing a vaudeville act with his brothers Paul.

In 1914, he married Edna Louise Broedt (his only marriage) and the two performed in vaudeville together in a light comedy act as "Frawley and Louise," touring the Orpheum and also the Keith circuits until their divorce in 1927.

Possessing a deep, base singing voice, Frawley additionally had a effective singing career, appearing on Broadway and reportedly introducing the songs "My Mammy" and "My Melancholy Baby" to stage audiences.

In 1916, Frawley signed a contract with Paramount Studios to appear in silent films. Because that the following 35 years, Frawley was a beloved character actor and also a familiar face in more than 100 films. His movie credits room eclectic and also prolific and also include such famous films together Gentleman Jim (1942) with Errol Flynn, Going mine Way (1944) through Bing Crosby, the Christmas standard Miracle top top 34th Street (1947), and also Charlie Chaplin"s Monsieur Verdoux (1947). He additionally made 2 appearances v Abbott and Costello—A Night in the Tropics (1940) and Abbott and also Costello fulfill the Invisible Man (1951)—and one with Bob Hope, The Lemon autumn Kid (1951).

Bad Reputation

Although a highly successful "working actor" in films, Frawley"s movie job had started to sluggish down by 1951. This seems to have two reasons, among which to be his legend crabby, gruff, and also misanthropic personality. A notorious curmudgeon, by 1951 Frawley discovered that fewer and fewer actors, directors, and producers were willing to placed up v him. (As beforehand as 1928, Frawley had been fired indigenous the Broadway present That"s my Baby for punching gibbs Clifton Webb in the nose.)

The other reason for the slowing of his career was his equally well known love for the bottle. So, in mid-1951, when actress Lucille sphere contacted Frawley about the possibility of acquisition on the function of gruff landlord Fred Mertz in her new comedy tv series, I Love Lucy, she and her husband/co-star Desi Arnaz were more than a bit leery. Can not to get Gale Gordon, their first choice for the role, Arnaz contacted Frawley and laid under the law. He merely told Frawley the he"d gain three chances. The an initial screw-up would certainly be tolerated, the second would obtain him a severe reprimand, and the 3rd would acquire him fired.

Frawley, by climate 64 years old, long-divorced, and unemployed, life alone in his Hollywood apartment, agreed come Arnaz"s terms and also was come conduct self professionally end the food of the next nine years, until the show and also its follow-up series, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, finished their legendary runs in 1960.

I Love Lucy

On the an initial day of I Love Lucy rehearsals, Frawley overheard his scripted "wife," co-star Vivian Vance (22 years his junior), say come Lucy and also Desi, "I can"t play his wife. No one will believe I"m married to the old coot." (Note: words "coot" may have actually been replaced by a much cruder epithet by Vance.) everything she in reality did say, Frawley was never to forgive her and, for the following nine years, although lock played one of the funniest husband and also wife groups in TV history, by every accounts the two hated every other.

Interestingly (and fortunately), this extreme hatred appeared to actually help their performances and their back-and-forth barbs and insults played also funnier due to the fact that of it. (After Lucy finished its initial run, a spin-off dubbed Fred and Ethel to be discussed. Frawley was willing to placed aside his feelings toward Vance and also saw the jae won possibilities that the series, yet Vance adamantly refused to ever before work through Frawley again.)

A lifelong baseball fan, Frawley had insisted on a distinctive clause in his I Love Lucy contract: If his beloved new York Yankees made it come the civilization Series, he would be provided time turn off in October because that the human being Series. This clause came right into play 7 times throughout Frawley"s I Love Lucy run and caused him come be created out that two complete episodes.

Frawley earned 5 consecutive Emmy nominations (1953-1957) for his constantly brilliant performances. Return he never ever won, Frawley"s Fred Mertz remains among the many beloved characters in the history of television.

Despite his animosity toward Vance, Frawley did develop one that the couple of genuine friendships of his life during I Love Lucy, ending up being close through Desi Arnaz. Arnaz, the show"s producer, made certain his girlfriend was well-paid; by the end, Frawley was pulling $7,500 a week, a an extremely generous price for the time, to add a great residual deal (which couple of actors had actually in the early on days the television).

My 3 Sons

After the 1960 cancellation that Lucy, Frawley instantly found steady work as "Bub" O"Casey, one more lovable curmudgeon, ~ above the series My three Sons. Much like his I Love Lucy stint, Frawley"s My three Sons occupational was excellent professionally and without incident. (Still harboring negative feelings because that Vivian Vance, though, he did allegedly gain gathering cans of movie at the Desilu studios and also tossing lock onto the surrounding soundstage, wherein Vance was then functioning on The Lucy Show; the according to clanging would certainly inevitably uncomfortable Vance, much to Frawley"s delight.)

By the mid-1960s, though, alcohol and old period finally took your toll, and Frawley began forgetting his lines. One muffed take would certainly follow another, and also he"d try to sheathe his embarrassment by bellowing insults like, "Who writes this crap, anyway?" If the company didn"t get his scene filmed in the mornings, Frawley would occasionally nod turn off in the middle of afternoon filmings. Eventually, a prop man had actually to lie on the floor, the end of the camera"s view, and also tap Frawley"s shoes to keep him from dozing turn off in the close-ups. Through the show"s 5th season, Frawley remained in such ill wellness that that couldn"t happen the studio"s annual health insurance money exam and also was let go.

The End

William Frawley"s last ever before TV figure was through his previous co-star Lucille sphere on a 1965 illustration of The Lucy Show title "The Traveller." In the brief cameo, together Frawley go by, Lucy transforms her head, look at him, and remarks, "He reminds me of who I provided to know."

On in march 3, 1966, 79-year-old wilhelm Frawley died of a heart assault while walking home from a movie. According to Hollywood lore, as soon as Vance heard the news that his death, she shouted, "Champagne because that everyone!"

In Frawley"s honor, Desi Arnaz automatically took the end a full-page ad in every the trade files with the native "Buenos noches, amigo." Arnaz was to serve as among the pallbearers at Frawley"s funeral.

See more: How Much Does A Wingstop Owner Make, Wingstop Franchise Owner Salary, Jobs Ecityworks


Eddie Deezen has appeared in end 30 activity pictures, including Grease, WarGames, 1941, and also The Polar Express. He"s likewise been featured in number of TV shows, including Magnum PI, The facts of Life, and also The Gong Show. And he"s done hundreds of voice-overs for radio and cartoons, such together Dexter"s Laboratory and Family Guy.