The behind-the-scenes animosity between Vivian Vance and Willian Frawley on the set of I Love Lucy is the stuff of Hollywood legend. They hated each other. It may have actually been beneficial since they played the always bickering Fred and Ethyl Mertz on the show.
But their hatred didn’t end when I Love Lucy did. In fact, it carried on until Frawley’s death a decade later. He even recruited child actors from his next show to “prank” Vance while she was working on The Lucy Show.
Barry Livingston, who played Ernie Douglas on My Three Sons, remembered Frawley putting him and his brothers, who also appeared on the show, up to help him. He explained what they did to HLN several years ago.
“Poor Vivian,” Livingston said, “because we were enlisted in Frawley’s little army.”
Livingston estimated that Frawley would pull a prank once a month. And they weren’t for laughs, Livingston added. These were “borderline mean,” he said.
“We would accumulate film cans — these big circular round metal cans — and Bill would say ‘Today’s the day,’ you know,” he said. “So, we’d go and he’d hold open the door to their sound stage and listen for her voice, and you’d hear her in there doing a scene or rehearsing, and he’d go “OK, throw ’em,” and we’d throw these cans like frisbees. And when they hit it was like a bomb going off.”
The loud explosive noise would startle everyone and ruin takes. “We were wasting their film like crazy,” he said.
Livingston doesn’t think Vance or the rest of the crew ever figured out who was doing these pranks, though.
The Hatred Started On The ‘I Love Lucy’ Set And Carried Over
Vivian Vance and William Frawley’s dislike for one another began when they were paired as the Ricardos’ landlords on I Love Lucy. But it was so intense that it wouldn’t end until Frawley’s death a decade later.
One of the major factors was Frawley’s drinking. He was an alcoholic. It was so bad he often had to keep his hands in his pockets to hide the fact they were shaking from withdrawals. He was also 22 years older than Vance, which made their on-screen marriage seem odd.
According to Screen Rant, she once said, “No one will believe I’m married to that old coot.”
Their hatred ran so deep that when Frawley died in 1966, Vance cheered when she heard the news. She was out to dinner with her husband and reportedly yelled “Champagne for everybody!” when she was informed he had died.