Actor William Frawley took on the role of his life on “I love Lucy,” playing the unforgettable Fred Mertz.
Frawley took a shine to playing Fred, a friend and companion to Lucy and her husband, Ricky Ricardo. A World War I veteran and husband to Ethel, Frawley plays the Fred Mertz character almost as if he is an extension of himself.
He played the part for several years and the show ran for six successful season with a total of 180 episodes. The show, which aired on the CBS network, came to an end in 1957 and is still one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. William Frawley’s portrayal of Mertz is one of the major reasons for the show’s success. Had the show not gone quite as well, Frawley had a backup plan ready to go should things fall through. According to IMDB, he says he likely would found himself behind a bar if the show did not pan out.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t give much thought to television as a field of endeavor,” William Frawley says. “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.”
Frawley also admits to being unsure if the show would take off in the right direction at first. He compares it to eating the same meal night after night until it becomes stale.
“I didn’t think the thing had a chance,” he says. “We did the lines over and over again, and it was like eating stew every night–stale and not a bit funny.”
The show did pan out, however, and William Frawley became one of the most recognizable faces on television as Mertz. Though the show was one of his biggest roles, it was far from his only one. He was a Broadway performer for quite some time and appears in more than 100 films during his acting career. He also appears in several “silent” films after signing with Paramount Studios in 1916.
William Frawley passed away in 1966 at 79-years-old.