Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mr. Frawley's Birthday

Happy birthday to that grumpy old skinflint, William Frawley, born February 26, 1887. In actuality, of course, it's his iconic character Fred Mertz who I'm describing, but many who worked with him said there wasn't a great deal of difference. One of them was Lucille Ball, who said fondly, "Bill Frawley was Fred Mertz. Period."

He parlayed that memorable face and voice into a long and successful career as a movie character actor before making the switch to TV with I Love Lucy in 1951. From that point on, he seldom stopped working, going on in the 1960s to a co-starring role in My Three Sons. Declining health forced him into retirement a year or so before his death in 1966.

In honor of his birthday, I'm hearing his gravelly voice in my head, singing a little number from a favorite Lucy episode. "Too Many Crooks," finds the brownstone where the Mertzes and the Ricardos live all atwitter over the nocturnal visits of a cat burglar. When Ethel insists that Fred change the locks on all the apartments, and he is equally insistent that they can't afford it, she offers to pay for the hardware herself. To do so, she's dipping into the money she was saving for his birthday present, leaving a resigned Fred to make his exit singing a little ditty to the tune of "Happy Birthday": "New door locks for Fred ... new door locks for Fred..."

If it doesn't sound that hilarious on paper (or on a screen), picture it sung by Frawley in that inimitable voice, and surely that will make you smile.

No comments:

Post a Comment