After nearly 60 years from his death, William Frawley is still remembered for his life and his legacy. William Frawley, most known for his role as Fred Mertz on the classic sitcom “I Love Lucy,” passed away on March 3, 1966. He died from a heart attack only five days after his 79th birthday.
Frawley was iconic playing alongside Vivian Vance as the loving neighbors and best friends of the Ricardos.
William Frawley and Barry Livingston
Although he will always be most remembered for “I Love Lucy,” Frawley did have other projects in the TV and film industry. Before “I Love Lucy,” Frawley had appeared as a character actor in anything from dramas to musicals to Westerns to romances. After the show, he appeared on another very popular sitcom, “My Three Sons.”
In a recent interview with Fox News, Barry Livingston talks about his role as Ernie Thompson. His brother Stanley Livingston also got to star in the show alongside him. When asked about some of his favorite memories and moments from his time as a child actor, William Frawley and his fun personality stand out.
“He loved to make me and my brother laugh by saying outrageous, sometimes quite vulgar things. When you’re eight or nine years old, it just cracks you up … He wasn’t too far from the characters that he played. He was a very well-known, established character ac even before ‘I Love Lucy.’ And in those days, when it came to doing a television series, there were only three networks. And when you tune in to a TV series, 25 million other people were watching. So his fame really exploded. But on set, he just loved to make my brother and I laughed,” Livingston said.
Frawley played the live-in grandfather and housekeeper named Michael Francis. The series is about a widowed father raising his three sons. Before Fred MacMurray joined the cast, Frawley was going to have the leading role in the series. The show was filmed out of sequence, unlike “I Love Lucy,” which apparently made Frawley uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, by the mid-’60s, William Frawley started to forget his lines due to both alcohol and old age. He left before the show’s fifth season when he couldn’t pass the health insurance examination. Although it is not his most popular role, many of the people who worked alongside Frawley on “My Three Sons” remember him fondly.
‘I Love Lucy’ Star’s Love for Pranks
Barry Livingston joined “My Three Sons” in 1963 as the youngest child of the family. When Frawley and Livingston weren’t filming, they liked to occupy their time with different practical jokes.
It turns out his pranks connected back to “I Love Lucy.” Specifically, he wanted to prank Vivian Vance, his wife on “I Love Lucy” for six seasons. The two did not get along off-screen, which was common knowledge at the time.
In Livingston’s memoir, he talks about the fun that was always going on behind the scenes of “My Three Sons.” Livingston and his brother would play pranks on Vance as she was filming “The Lucy Show” next door.
“Frawley would hold open ‘The Lucy Show’ stage door and cock his ear, listening to a scene being rehearsed inside. The second he heard Vivian’s shrill voice, he’d give us the signal to fling the metal cans through the open door. They would land with a loud metallic bang, and Frawley would yell, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here!’ We’d flee like three juvenile delinquents, Frawley leading the way,” Livingston wrote.
He had a close bond with the two young actors. He even gifted Stan Livingston a long board as a gift.