William Frawley, best known for his role in “I Love Lucy,” had an extensive run in Hollywood— that earned him five Emmy nominations. Despite the high number of nominations, he unfortunately never had one under his belt.
By 1951, the 64-year-old actor had appeared in over 100 movies but was struggling to find work. After hearing that Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball were casting for a new television comedy, he auditioned for the role of Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy.”
After a stellar audition, Ball and Arnaz agreed to have Frawley appear as Fred Mertz. However, CBS executives were apprehensive about casting him, considering Frawley had a drinking problem. However, Frawley never arrived to set drunk and was known to have mastered his lines after only one reading.
The On-Screen Couple Who Couldn’t Get Along
For nearly a decade, Frawley played the role of Fred, even though he didn’t get along with Ethel. His on-screen wife was played by Vivian Vance.
Things got off to a rocky start after Frawley overheard Vance telling Ball and Arnaz that no one would believe that she was married to such an old man. Despite their arguments, Ball and Arnaz offered them a chance to reprise their roles in a spin-off titled “Fred and Ethel.”
Vance turned down the offer since she decided to never work with Frawley again. According to Vance, his lousy attitude affected his personality, making him difficult to work with.
For his work on “I Love Lucy,” Frawley was Emmy-nominated five consecutive times from 1953 to 1957 for “Outstanding Supporting Actor” in a comedy series.
Even though he never won, he went on to have a successful career following his stint on “I Love Lucy.”
William Frawley’s Career After ‘I Love Lucy’
Following “I Love Lucy,” Frawley joined “My Three Sons,” playing the grandfather Michael Francis, then “Bub” O’Casey in 1960. The network had initially slated Frawley to be the lead before Frederick MacMurray joined the cast.
Frawley’s final television appearance was on October 25, 1965. He had a brief cameo in Ball’s second television sitcom, “The Lucy Show.” In the episode, Frawley plays a horse trainer, and Lucy comments: “You know, he reminds me of someone I used to know.”
On March 3, 1966, Frawley passed away five days after his 79th birthday. Arnaz, MacMurray, and “My Three Sons” executive producer Don Fedderson were pallbearers at his funeral.
When asked about Frawley, Ball said, “I’ve lost one of my dearest friends and show business has lost one of the greatest character actors of all time. Those of us who knew him and loved him will miss him.”