What’s a sure-fire way to get fired from a Broadway show? This I Love Lucy found out the answer when he punched a co-star in the nose.
Actor William Frawley is best known for playing landlord Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy. But before he landed that role on the show, he was a stage actor. In early 1928, he acted in the Broadway show, “She’s My Baby” which starred Beatrice Lillie. However, shortly after his start with the show, he was fired for punching Clifton Webb in the nose. In his book, Meet the Mertzes: The Life Stories of I Love Lucy’s Other Couple, Frawley recounted the incident.
“I was thrown out of that one for punching Clifton Webb in the nose,” said Frawley. “He spoke nasty to me a couple of times, and I told him that if he did that again, I’d sock him in the nose. He did and I did, and I got kicked out.”
How Did William Frawley Land His Role On I Love Lucy?
By 1951 Frawley was 64 years old and had appeared in over one hundred films. When he heard that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were casting for a new sitcom, he immediately auditioned. However, Ball was partial to her friend Gale Gordon for the role. But when Gordon wasn’t available, Frawley decided to take matters into his own hands. He called Lucille Ball and asked her if he had a shot at the role. She was impressed by his assertiveness and both she and Arnaz agreed to cast him.
However, CBS executives weren’t too happy about the casting choice. They warned Ball and Arnaz about Frawley’s drinking problems and history of aggressiveness (the whole punching a guy in the nose thing). Arnaz talked with Frawley and told him that if he ever showed up drunk, or was involved in any kind of antics that made the show look bad, he’d be fired. Frawley never showed up drunk to the set of I Love Lucy and he and Arnaz became close friends.