The Real Life Behind The Scenes Of "I Love Lucy"

Published on October 23, 2016

William Frawley Was Far From the First Choice to Play Fred Mertz


Lucille Ball was eager to have Gale Gordon, whom she’d worked with on her My Favorite Husband radio show, play crusty neighbor and landlord Fred Mertz. But Gordon asked for more money than Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's production company Desilu had to offer.

Character actor William Frawley knew Ball in passing and phoned her personally when he found out about her upcoming TV show to inquire if there might be a part for him. CBS were wary of hiring Frawley, who had a reputation for being a heavy drinker. Eventually he was offered the role with the proviso that if he missed work for any reason other than legitimate illness, he’d be written off.