William Frawley of 'I Love Lucy' Final Years and Sudden Death
William Frawley’s death may have come as a shock and heartbreak to many, but some of those who knew his lousy character celebrated his demise, including his on-screen wife in “I Love Lucy.”
Many know Frawley as the television actor in the hit series “I Love Lucy” and “My Three Sons” who made people laugh endlessly with his profound humor, but behind his comedic spiels was a loathed man who drank alcohol like water.
Born in Burlington, Iowa in 1887, Frawley grew up a choir member at St. Paul’s Catholic Church and played at the Burlington Opera House. Before his Hollywood fame, he would perform with his brother a vaudeville act.
William Frawley died on this date March 3 in 1966. Photo credit: Young & Rubicam. pic.twitter.com/iiRyXz0cYj— Jeffrey Guterman (@JeffreyGuterman) March 3, 2019
In 1914, he married the love of his life, Edna Louise Broedt, whom he performed comedic stints with. Unfortunately, their marriage ended in divorce in 1927, leaving him single for the rest of his life.
Frawley starred in silent films produced by Paramount Studios in 1916, and for the next 35 years, had over 100 films including “Gentleman Jim,” Going My Way,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “Verdoux.”
At the height of his career, he developed a misanthropic, horrible attitude which his colleagues could not stand. In 1928, he was fired from “That’s My Baby” for punching his co-star, and by 1951, lesser producers, directors, and actors, wanted to work with the comedian.
Speaking of wishing people dead, I'm reminded of the fabled antipathy between the co-stars of "I Love Lucy." When the news broke that William Frawley/Fred had died, Vivian Vance/Ethel is said to have ordered around champagne for the entire restaurant. (1/2)— Tony Case (@tonythecase) April 17, 2019
Additionally, the actor grew a love for drinking, which added to the many reasons his career was slowed down and almost put to a halt.
“I LOVE LUCY”
Mid-1951, Frawley received a call from Lucille Ball who invited him to take on a role in her comedy series, “I Love Lucy,” together with her husband and co-star, Desi Arnaz.
Still full of hate for his former co-star, Vance, Frawley would throw cans of film toward her soundstage to annoy her.
Although hesitant, they hired him under several conditions, including only having three chances of screw-ups in his career with them. On the show, Frawley met his on-screen wife, Vivian Vance, who was 22 years younger.
“I can’t play his wife. No one will believe I’m married to that old coot,” Frawley heard Vance say.
Since then, the two developed a hatred for each other, throughout their time working together. After the show’s cancellation in 1960, the actor found a job in “My Three Sons.”
Still full of hate for his former co-star, Vance, Frawley would throw cans of film toward her soundstage to annoy her. In the mid-1960s, Frawley’s age and alcohol took a toll on him, and he began forgetting his lines and falling asleep during takes.
By the show’s fifth season, he was let go due to his deteriorating health, which showed in the studio’s annual health insurance exam. On March 3, 1966, Frawley passed away while walking home from a movie.
As Vance learned of his demise, she shouted, “Champagne for everyone!” says Hollywood lore. Desi, who found a friend in the comedian, mourned Frawley’s death.