William Frawley was forced to play roles that made him miserable

He said many of his roles were phony, but he loved playing Bub on My Three Sons and Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy.

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When you look at William Frawley, two characters come to mind: Fred Mertz and Bub. The I Love Lucy and My Three Sons roles were among the few that Frawley actually enjoyed playing. He could be seen in over 100 films, several television shows and on Broadway throughout his career, but he loathed many of the parts he played.

He began his career in 1914 as a comedy duo with his ex-wife Edna Louise Broedt, and their comedy act "Frawley and Louise" continued until 1927, when they divorced. After appearing on Broadway and in films because of his seven-year Paramount Pictures contract, he moved on to television to play his most-known roles.

"I am today the same as I was at 20," he told The Asbury Park Press in 1962, days before his 69th birthday. "I never played the phony by putting on a sweet act for people I didn't like. That's not fair to the people you do like. The people who accept you for what you are, those are really people!"

Frawley was a veteran actor with a reputation for being cranky and mean, like his I Love Lucy and My Three Sons characters. However, being forced to play roles that made him miserable could be why he acted that way.

"Can you imagine me in silk pantaloons and turban as the keeper of a harem? Well, that is the kind of role(s) they threw at me. And, even though they forced me to play them, I had the satisfaction of burning their ears pretty good," he added.

He took those roles and played them to the best of his ability but thought they were phony, especially his film roles.

"But, I never hit my stride in movies. [Almost] all my roles were phony and I was miserable playing them. Television, now, that was a Godsend for me. At last, I was playing characters I really liked."

A sentence from the newspaper article stated, "Actually, what Frawley meant was that at last he was given the opportunity to play himself."


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37 Comments

LalaLucy 12 months ago
Ornery as can be, but definitely made two of my favorite TV characters of all time. 🙂
AgingDisgracefully 12 months ago
I'm not a professional - or even a shameless fraud - but it seems Mr. Bill arrived "pre-miseried."
I could be wrong.
tootsieg 12 months ago
William Frawley was a character. What you saw is what you got.
PawAboutMeGrooms tootsieg 12 months ago

Sadly he was an alcoholic but still was an awesome actor
Barry Livingston remembered that Frawley always had a "liquid lunch" at a nearby bar! He also encouraged he and Stanley to taunt Vivian Vance who shot The Lucy Show on an adjoining soundstage!
Cougar90 12 months ago
He said something along the lines of, "I made two or three good pictures. The others? I just took the money and ran."
CoreyC 12 months ago
William Frawley was in Miracle on 34 Street with Natalie Wood.
tomtriox 12 months ago
Supposedly Desi Arnez was one of the few people who got along well with William Frawley while Vivian Vance was one of the few actresses who got along with Lucille Ball.
zman47240 tomtriox 12 months ago
Yeah, him and Vivian Vance couldn’t stand each other off screen.
Wiseguy70005 zman47240 12 months ago
..."he" and Vivian Vance..."
Wiseguy70005 12 months ago
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15inchBlackandWhite 12 months ago
If he was so miserable being an actor why didn't he just become an accountant or something?
The article stated some of the roles made him miserable not acting in general.
Andybandit 12 months ago
I never saw MTS in black and white. I thought William Frawley played Uncle Charlie on MTS. Stupid me.
BernieLJ Andybandit 9 months ago
I think that it was William Demarest that played Uncle Charlie in some of the episodes.
Pacificsun 12 months ago
Well, at least he was being honest in saying that he didn't like phonies.

However, the entertainment industry is built on illusion. Not quite sure what he expected. I also couldn't see him playing anything except himself. To the extent that we all knew people in our lives with his kind of a disposition, he represented real life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Frawley

Wiki doesn't show that he won any Emmys or Awards. I wonder if it was because of his personality. Because nominations and winning, is driven by politics and connections.
ysatis Pacificsun 12 months ago
I agree. I think that an actor who can immerse themselves convincingly into a role/character, no matter if they like the character or not, are most convincing and can win awards.
LoveMETV22 12 months ago

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Enjoyed William Frawley in his many roles, including Fred Mertz and Bub.
harlow1313 LoveMETV22 12 months ago
I would have liked to have seen Fred Mertz on the catwalk, singing, "I'm too Sexy for my Pants." Right, said Fred.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 12 months ago
Not aware of any edited videos that show your " I would have liked to have seen."
However and (jmo), William Frawley was a "fashion plate" of his time.
cperrynaples 12 months ago
Would you believe he worked with Charlie Chaplin? I'm not even going to try and spell the title but it's the one where he kills women to support his ailing wife! One of his potential victims was Martha Raye!
Moody 12 months ago
I think one of the reasons I prefer the b/w episodes of My Three Sons is because of William Frawley as Bub. He was great in that role & wasn't a curmudgeon-like character like Uncle Charlie. He had a genuine fondness for the boys & Steve. Uncle Charlie acted as if he wanted to be somewhere else most of the time. Just my opinion.
Pacificsun Moody 12 months ago
Just my hunch. But am betting it was a privilege working with Fred MacMurray, and industry legend. No doubt, he gave his best, never acted temperamental. And had to set a good example in front of the boys. FM would've fired him on the spot otherwise.

But it probably took a lot to really rile Desi. They needed him in that part. And the bottom line was probably just showing up. Sober, that is.
MrsPhilHarris Moody 12 months ago
I love the B&W episodes. Stanley Livingston was very upset when Wm. Frawley left the show. He really liked him. Barry Livingstone said Frawley was kind of fun but Uncle Charlie was not.
Moody MrsPhilHarris 12 months ago
I agree the b/w episodes were a lot better than the color ones. I still watched the show all the way to the end although the last season was hard to watch. It was clear, at least to me that the show had run its course. It's still one of my all-time favorite shows.
MrsPhilHarris Moody 12 months ago
It’s one of my all time favs too. I love little Chip and his friend Sudsy. I love the chaos of the house with newspapers on the floor, tv blaring, radio on, people talking on the phone all at the same time. It reminds me of my home when I was growing up. I agree about the last season. It was painful to watch.
MrsPhilHarris 12 months ago
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MrsPhilHarris 12 months ago
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daDoctah 12 months ago
Is it true that Frawley was Lucy's *second* choice to play Fred Mertz? I hear she wanted her good friend Gale Gordon for the role, but he was contractually tied up playing Mr Conklin on "Our Miss Brooks" at the time (he later became "Mr Mooney" on her next series, and her brother-in-law "Harry Carter" on the series after that).
cperrynaples daDoctah 12 months ago
TRUE! He did play Ricky's manager in the first season and a judge on LDCH! He wasn't Mr. Mooney in the first season of TLS because he was Mr. Wilson! But yes he did TLS, HL, and the ill-planned Life With Lucy!
Pacificsun cperrynaples 12 months ago
Only in terms of ILL, I don't think GG would've had the right chemistry with VV. WF/FM really did seem like a cranky old landlord and a Penny Pincher. GG was just an old fashioned complainer.
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CarolKelley 12 months ago
Chubby (Norman), Jackie and Farina -those were the days.
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Adamsfather45 12 months ago
Bub on My Three Sons, one of my all-time favorite sitcom characters.
Runeshaper 12 months ago
"The people who accept you for what you are, those are really people!" - Love this!
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