February 26, 1887
Burlington, Iowa, United States
March 3, 1966
Hollywood, California, United States
Patricia Barry, Louise Frawley
Former vaudevillian William Frawley is known worldwide as Fred Mertz, the skinflint landlord and friend of the Ricardos, on the perpetually repeated classic TV sitcom "I Love Lucy" (CBS, 1951-1956). This was but one in a long line of gruff character roles, many of whom displayed a hidden soft side, that he played in more than 150 Hollywood films from 1931-1962.The Iowa-born Frawley began his career in the heyday of vaudeville as a comic and singer. According to lore, he reportedly was the first performer to warble the now-American classic (and gag punchline) "Melancholy Baby." Although he made an isolated appearance in a 1916 silent ("Lord Loveland Discovers America"), Frawley remained a stage player until the 1930s. Already middle-aged when Hollywood beckoned, he immediately became a regular face in character roles in both A-list and B pictures at practically every studio. He was particularly memorable as The Duke opposite Mickey Rooney as "Huckleberry Finn" (1939), and the cigar chomping politico who tells the judge to let this Kris Kringle thing slide in "Miracle on 34th Street." Besides 180 episodes of "I Love Lucy" and 10 more one-hour shows, Frawley appeared in numerous anthology episodes during the 50s. In 1960, he joined the cast of "My Three Sons" as "Bub," uncle to three motherless boys and in charge of daily operations in the household. He departed the series in ill health in 1965, and died in 1966.