William Frawley, who played the beloved character of Fred Mertz on the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy, was a veteran vaudevillian performer who gave his all to each performance. However, astute fans of the famous sitcom may have noticed that the Fred Mertz actor had a penchant for keeping his hands where the camera couldn’t see them. Some might think that Fred’s hands often being deep inside of his pockets may have been a creative choice by the veteran actor. But it was actually a choice that was born out of personal necessity. Join Facts Verse as we explore why William Frawley hid his hands in ever scene of I Love Lucy.
William Frawley Was a Veteran Performer Before Receiving the Role of Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy
When audiences hear the name William Frawley, the first thing that will pop into their hands is understandably the veteran vaudevillian performer’s iconic turn as the character of Fred Mertz in the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. However, casual fans of the series may surprised to learn that William had actually performing in the entertainment industry for several decades by the time he landed the memorable role. Despite the fact that he had been working so long the industry. He had failed to attain star status as a result of his bad attitude and drinking habit.
William’s Weird Contractual Stipulations
Entering into I Love Lucy, William Frawley had a pretty negative reputation. In fact, many of the studio heads didn’t want William to play the part of Fred Mertz. And instead attempted to insist that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz find someone else for the role. It was Desi Arnaz who was most adamant about William’s hiring, though the Cuban actor still had his doubts. William ended up hired onto the show at the insistence of Desi’s gut instinct. Though he only given the part of Fred Mertz under the explicit presumption that he’s going to significantly cut back on his alcohol use. Join Facts Verse as we explore why William Frawley hid his hands in ever scene of I Love Lucy.
William Frawley having to do his best to try and remain sober wasn’t the only strange stipulation that the actor’s I Love Lucy contract came along with. There also said to have been a clause in the contract stating that William had to freed from work duties in the event of the Brooklyn Dodgers performing in the World Series. Lucille and Desi were more than happy to allow William to indulge in his passion for sports so long. As the actor made good on his end of the bargain and always gave a good performance on their series. While William certainly always performed well and made Fred Mertz a standout character on the show. The actor certainly wasn’t very sober throughout it’s filming.
William Loved Sports More Than Booze
Outside of I Love Lucy, William Frawley’s passion for sports could often seen in the actor’s choice of Hollywood roles. The actor appeared in a staggering number of sports-related pictures over the course of his several-decades-spanning career, though most of these pictures have lost in time due to their decidedly low quality and dated appeal. William’s first appearance in a sports-related picture came in 1935, towards the beginning of his Hollywood career. This appearance was in the feature Hold ‘Em Yale. The actor would go on to appear in well over a dozen sports-related pictures following this. With his last sports-related film 1962’s Safe at Home, which released after William had risen to greater prominence than ever on I Love Lucy.
William Not Said to Have Been the Best Guy
It’s certainly hard not to love William Frawley if you take his work at face value. Though there’s a lot less to love once you actually get to know about who the man really was. While William may have had a penchant for comedy. He was said to have a little bit too much in real life like the curmudgeonly characters that he played on the screen. There are a number of notable character flaws that the actor had. Those who worked with William oftentimes had a hard time standing the veteran vaudevillian performer’s lack of political correctness. With the actor known to have been decidedly racist and misogynistic.
The comedic actor was certainly a product of his times, though that’s no excuse for much of his negative behavior. William was already hard to work with when he entered into the industry. And his propensity for drinking past his limitations only made him harder to deal with as time went on. It was a minor miracle that William managed to get his role on I Love Lucy, though the actor doesn’t seem to have treated the role with much respect if his refusal to give up alcohol is any indication. Join Facts Verse as we explore why William Frawley hid his hands in ever scene of I Love Lucy.
Although William Frawley had entered into the filming of I Love Lucy under the stipulation that he was going to significantly cut back on his drinking. He didn’t end up doing this! In fact, rumor has it that the star drunk the majority of the time that he’s filming the beloved series. Though he had a subtle way of hiding his alcohol abuse’s most aberrant symptoms from his coworkers. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
William Knew How to Hold His Liquor… Except in His Hands
In addition to being a veteran vaudevillian performer at the time that he began playing the role of Fred Mertz on the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. William Frawley was also an exceptionally seasoned alcoholic. William was certainly a man that knew how to hold his liquor. And it was likely hard to tell for most of the star’s coworkers over the course of his career whether he was drunk or not. While William may have been able to hold his liquor when it came to his demeanor. There was one side effect of his alcohol abuse that he could not hide from his coworkers: his shaky hands.
As a result of William Frawley’s continued alcohol abuse over the course of I Love Lucy’s filming, the actor suffered from incredibly shaky hands. Not wanting to draw attention to himself. The star knew that he had to figure out something to do with his hands that would seem natural but would allow him to keep them hidden. The trained performer that he was. William was able to come up with a magic fix to ensure that no one knew just how much he was abusing alcohol on the show’s set. That fix was to hide his hands in his pockets!
As it turns out, William Frawley’s alcoholism was the indirect catalyst for the star always hiding his hands deep down in his pockets while portraying the character of Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy. It’s uncertain just how effective William was in covering up his alcohol abuse. As the fact that the actor was drunk throughout much of I Love Lucy’s filming seems to have been common knowledge. However, whatever William was doing, he managed to stay on the good side of Lucille and Desi while giving his all to the performance of Fred.
William Frawley’s Long Life Before I Love Lucy
William Frawley was born in the late 1880s, and his early work was in hard labor. Not wanting to live the rest of his life laying railroad tracks. William began dreaming of becoming a performer as a young adult. His mother tried to dampen William’s growing dreams, but they eventually won out. According to William himself, he was discovered while singing railroad songs at a café in Chicago and then subsequently thrust into the theater. The star initially garnered attention as a singer, though he soon turned his sights towards performing vaudeville. With his brother Peter, William formed a vaudeville duo. Together, they began performing in small venues around the country.
After breaking things off with his brother, William settled in Denver, Colorado, and began working as the house comedian for a local café. He did this for a year before getting restless again and heading out to California. Where he formed a vaudeville partnership with a piano player. In 1914, William married a woman by the name of Edna and the two formed a new vaudeville duo. With Edna portraying the straight man. In 1916, William appeared in his first film.
William divorced from Edna in the late 1920s. And the vaudevillian performer would never marry again over the course of his remaining years. However, the star had plenty more to do in his career! Following the divorce, the star headed out to New York City and worked for a time on Broadway. Following this Broadway stint, Paramount Pictures offered him a seven-year contract in Hollywood.
William’s Hollywood Days and His Later Life
By the end of the 1930s, little had come of William’s tenure with Paramount Pictures. This came despite the fact that William had been cast as a character actor in a number of pictures for the studio. While many of these pictures had been successful. And some of William’s performances had even received some mild acclaim, it was inarguable that the actor was never the standout aspect of whatever feature he was appearing in. Entering into the 1940s, William’s career was in dire straits, and this made him turn to alcohol more.
William accepted the role of Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy and gave it his all when the cameras were rolling. Though it seems that he wasn’t willing to give up his alcohol addiction. Following I Love Lucy, William appeared on the series My Three Sons, though his health began to seriously decrease over the course of that show’s run. In 1966, he passed away.
Astute fans may have noticed that William Frawley was always hiding his hands while performing on I Love Lucy. Though they were likely surprised to find out why he did so! Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that William Frawley had a stipulation in his I Love Lucy. The contract that said he couldn’t work when the Brooklyn Dodgers were playing in the World Series, and that the veteran vaudevillian performer had been working in the entertainment industry for four decades before taking on the iconic role of Fred Mertz? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!