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William Frawley Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (14) | Personal Quotes (3) | Salary (4)

Overview (5)

Born in Burlington, Iowa, USA
Died in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameWilliam Clement Frawley
Nickname Bill
Height 5' 7½" (1.71 m)

Mini Bio (1)

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.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (1)

Edna Frawley (1 November 1914 - 1927) (divorced)

Trade Mark (2)

Played numerous sarcastic characters, through out his career.
His role as Fred Mertz in I Love Lucy (1951)

Trivia (14)

Interred at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills, California, USA.
Never felt comfortable with the out-of-sequence filming method used on My Three Sons (1960) after doing I Love Lucy (1951) in sequence for years.
Both he and Vivian Vance had nothing but contempt for each other during the run of I Love Lucy (1951), which is probably what filtered into their TV characters and made them work so beautifully. The two were given the opportunity to move into their own "Fred and Ethel" spin-off once "Lucy" had run its course in 1959. Despite his animosity towards her, Frawley saw a lucrative opportunity and was quite game, but Vance nixed the idea, having no interest in ever working with Frawley again. Vance got her own series, Guestward Ho! (1960), which failed, but went on to make sporadic appearances on Lucille Ball's sitcoms and in films throughout the 1960's. Frawley hit it big as Bub on My Three Sons (1960).
Possessed of a fine singing voice in his earlier days, it was supposedly William Frawley, not Al Jolson, who introduced Jolson's popular hit song "My Mammy" to vaudeville audiences.
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 bachelor apartment for most of his years in Hollywood.
Unable to secure his first choice, Gale Gordon, for the role of "Fred Mertz," Desi Arnaz agreed to consider Frawley, who heavily lobbied for the part. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball had invested everything they had for the pilot and were concerned about Frawley's alcoholism, which was no secret around Hollywood. Arnaz made it clear to him that if he showed up drunk for work more than once, he would be not only fired from the program but blacklisted throughout the entertainment industry. Frawley, despite his lengthy film resume, was virtually unemployable by 1951, thanks to a combination of his fondness for the bottle and his disagreeable personality. He readily agreed to Arnaz's condition. He never showed up drunk on the set at all, and, in fact, Arnaz became one of his very few close friends. When Frawley died, Arnaz took out a full-page ad in the trade papers consisting of Frawley's picture edged in black and three words: "Buenas noches, amigo!".
Despite the fact that they played husband and wife on I Love Lucy (1951), Frawley and Vivian Vance 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!".
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 168-169. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
In early 1928, he was fired from the Broadway show 'She's My Baby' starring Beatrice Lillie for punching Clifton Webb in the nose.
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) 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.
In 1912, he was the first person to sing the classic 'My Melancholy Baby.' He was appearing at the Mozart Cafe in Denver, Colorado. He happened to visit a pub on Curtis Street, where he knew the proprietor. Knowing Bill was looking for a new song for his act, the proprietor directed him to the pub's back room, where George Norton and Ernie Burnett were in the process of composing 'My Melancholy Baby.' He introduced the song that very night at the Mozart Cafe. In the audience that night was writer Damon Runyon, well known for his drinking. After Frawley introduced the song, Runyan, drunk and maudlin, called out 'Get Frawley to sing 'Melancholy Baby'!' repeatedly throughout the rest of the evening. Bill sang many encores. The comedy staple of a drunk requesting 'My Melancholy Baby' actually has a basis in fact.
William Frawley won five consecutive Emmy nominations for best supporting actor for _"I Love Lucy (1953)"_, but he never won.

Personal Quotes (3)

To tell you the truth, I don't give much thought to television as a field of endeavor. It's a place - an art let's call it - where I'm making a livelihood. If something happens to television, I'll tend bar, something I enjoy doing.
[on his initial reaction to "I Love Lucy"] I didn't think the thing had a chance. We did the lines over and over again, and it was like eating stew every night - stale and not a bit funny.
[on Hollywood] The money was great, and you had a ball. I played in 96 pictures - maybe one or two good ones.

Salary (4)

I Love Lucy (1951) $450 weekly (1951)
I Love Lucy (1951) $1,000 weekly (1952)
I Love Lucy (1951) $3,500 weekly (1953)
I Love Lucy (1951) $7,500 weekly (1957)

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