William Frawley found ''a little dignity'' after I Love Lucy

Frawley was candid about switching from Fred Mertz to Bub O'Casey.

One star forever tied to his most famous role is William Frawley, eternally linked to Fred Mertz from I Love Lucy. By 1951, the esteemed actor had starred in over 100 movies but realized that the offers for roles were becoming sparse as he aged. Then 64, Frawley contacted celebrity couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz regarding the casting of their new show. He was interested in playing Lucy's cantankerous landlord and personally called Ball to check his chances. Ball and Arnaz agreed they'd benefit from having a veteran of the film world on set, and the rest is history. For the rest of his days, William Frawley was best known as Fred Mertz.

While he'd co-star with his Car 99 castmate in Fred MacMurray's 1960 My Three Sons, to the press and the public, Frawley was always going to be Mertz. According to a '61 article in The Modesto Bee, Frawley was frequently called by his former onscreen name. Frawley noted how frequently he was approached and asked of his old TV wife, Ethel, played by Vivian Vance. His response? "She's home doing the laundry like she should," said Frawley.

Compared to I Love Lucy, his later role in My Three Sons was a lot less trouble. 

"One day Lucille was supposed to toss a pie at me for some silly reason," Frawley remembered. "Seven or eight pies were available, but Lucy wanted an extra one for rehearsal, to get her eye back. She got her eye back alright, and splat, I got it right in the puss."

"If I didn't have pie on my face, I had a helmet on, or chickens were getting in my way on the stage floor. On [My Three Sons], the only thing I have to worry about is tripping over that silly dog."

The later role sounded much more appropriate for the rapidly-aging star. Whereas Lucy and Ethel's antics were enough to give anyone grey hair, My Three Sons was much tamer. Plus, the show was shot at the same production lot as Lucy, so Frawley was surrounded by old friends.

While he remained good-natured and seemed to only reflect positively upon the time he spent on I Love Lucy, Frawley was definitely clear that it was a younger man's game. "Thank goodness, we have a little dignity on this series," said Frawley, speaking of My Three Sons

William Frawley loved this new job and stayed with My Three Sons until his declining health forced him to leave. 

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33 Comments

WGH 6 months ago
My family didn't have a color television until 1980.

Therefore I watched all these episodes in black and white. No point in taking the quiz for me- lol!
JHP 12 months ago
Fred Mertz - you are in my heart:)

happy sven day to all - wait all week for that show
Bapa1 12 months ago
I recall reading that Gale Gordon was first approached to play Fred Mertz, but was unavailable. So Frawley got the part. He supposedly did not get along with Vivian Vance onset either.
rogerkbaker Bapa1 12 months ago
True story about Gale Gordon, as Lucille Ball worked with him on radio (My Favorite Husband). He was already committed to another TV series (Our Miss Brooks), which is why the role of Fred Mertz went to Frawley. A few years after I Love Lucy, when Lucille Ball developed The Lucy Show, Mr. Gordon was committed to Dennis the Menace, so Charles Lane was cast as Lucy's foil. As soon as Gale was freed from his other show, he became Mr. Mooney and Mr. Lane was sent packing.
Runeshaper 12 months ago
William Frawley was a very talented man and I'm glad that he was able to keep acting, like he wanted.
edsawyeranddougfan52 12 months ago
Anyone remember Ricky Allen who played Sudsey Pfeiffer on My Three
Sons?
McGillahooala 12 months ago
The best My Three Sons episodes are the first seasons when he and Tim Considine are on it.
Pacificsun 12 months ago
This is basically a retooled story, but a little softer take on the actor, himself. Wonder if there was pressure to make it a little more flattering. The consensus of opinion during the years of filming ILL is that Mr. Frawley was a "chore" to manage. Did he respond better to Desi, or Lucy, who could be sure. But it was definitely predictable income. And my hunch is two-fold. First that the production couldn't afford to lose Mr. Frawley because he was so identified with the character (and fictional marriage). And two, by the time he got to Mr. MacMurray's production, nobody was going to put up with temperament. As it was said to be a privilege working along side him (aka in Fedderson's production company). But you know what. Actors are hired right along with their given personalities.
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 12 months ago
An interesting series, with an equally interesting history in regards to accommodations, contracts, Etc....
Pacificsun LoveMETV22 12 months ago
Yes, there is and I graciously defer to your accumulation of it. Just in terms of scanning wiki (My Three Sons) alone, was overwhelming. What a complicated bunch of beings to track, rangle, and plunk down on their marks. I wonder if Mr. FM nailed down his preferred schedule so he wouldn't have to defer to the limitations of the child actor's restrictions. Even so, Mr. FM had a marvelous reputation and a gentleman for that era!!
LoveMETV22 Pacificsun 12 months ago
Graciously deferring to anyone else who wishes to add.

Well not being there and just going from what's been published, it seems it was a mutual agreement/arrangement between Mr. MacMurray and Mr. Fedderson, and yes I think a lot had to do with MacMurray's reputation( years of experience) and Fedderson's desire to have him in his stable. JMO
Moody 12 months ago
William Frawley as Bub is one the reasons why I like the early b/w episodes of My Three Sons over the color. Bub was just so much a part of the family & genuinely cared for the kids. Uncle Charlie always seemed grouchy & wanted to be somewhere else.
MrsPhilHarris Moody 12 months ago
I prefer the Bub episodes too. Uncle Charlie was awful.
BorisK 12 months ago
Bill dropped dead on the corner of Hollywood & Vine after going to the movies ... some great stories out there about his ghost still being seen.
McGillahooala BorisK 12 months ago
I would hate to have to haunt that stretch of real estate.
cperrynaples BorisK 12 months ago
Yes, he had just seen Inside Daisy Clover with Natalie Wood!
ncadams27 12 months ago
The article mentions William Frawley and Fred MacMurray as castmates in Car 99, an obscure 1935 film. They could have also mentioned they they appeared together in the 1958 Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour episode “Lucy Hunts Uranium”.
MrsPhilHarris ncadams27 12 months ago
That episode is a riot, especially when they are racing in their vehicles.
cperrynaples 12 months ago
One thing Frawley didn't like: Shooting out of sequence to accomidate Fred MacMurray!
LoveMETV22 cperrynaples 12 months ago
Yes. Frawley was accustomed to a different style of filming schedule. However the accommodation was agreed upon between the show's producer Don Fedderson and Fred MacMurray.
edsawyeranddougfan52 12 months ago
Fred Mertz played by William Frawley is one of the funniest characters to exit in the situation comedy world.
Bub on My Three Sons was also a wonderful character just like
Fred Mertz .
https://youtu.be/DWoDC54sI4A
Fans of William Frawley:
This is a clip from the Eddie
Cantor movie from 1936 called
Strike Me Pink where William Frawley plays a crook with the name Koppel. William Frawley is seen in a short scene where the guy is throwing pieces of paper around and walking through the town. William Frawley can't believe believe what he's seeing.
This movie is available on DVD.
justjeff 12 months ago
"Bubs"??? Its 'Bub", you boobs!
Moody justjeff 12 months ago
Boobs? Can you say that here?
teire 12 months ago
Love him as both Fred and Bub. He has always reminded me of my grandfather, Pop.
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