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I Love Lucy: The Very Brief Reunion of Lucy Ricardo and Fred Mertz

Lucille Ball and William FrawleyAfter six seasons on the air, the hugely successful I Love Lucy sitcom ended. The stars had tired of the weekly grind but transitioned to the more expensive The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show specials. A baker’s dozen of those were produced over three years. By the end, the writers had run dry and the marriage of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball had fallen apart. The day after the production wrapped, Ball filed for divorce.

Before the show ended, it was proposed that the Mertz’s, played by William Frawley and Vivian Vance, continue in their own spin-off. The two had never liked each other off-screen but Frawley realized that the show could be very lucrative and agreed. Vance didn’t want any part of it and refused.

Sadly, the end of the specials was the last time that the four actors would ever play their iconic characters. Arnaz continued to produce and direct and acted occasionally before eventually retiring. Ball went on to act in three more series, movies, and specials. Vance co-starred on The Lucy Show for three seasons and then did guest shots and commercials after that.

After the end of the Lucy-Desi series of specials, Frawley went directly into a regular role on My Three Sons, playing Fred MacMurray’s gruff father-in-law. Despite the persona of the characters he played, Don Grady and Stanley Livingston have both indicated that he was very warm and affectionate to them off-screen.

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Frawley did have his nasty side though and still didn’t care for Vance. It seems that The Lucy Show and My Three Sons were produced on neighboring soundstages. According to a recent interview on Stu’s Show, Grady and Livingston said that Frawley would give them Frisbees and tell them to toss them into the Lucy soundstage, just as Vance was filming a complicated scene.

In 1965, after five seasons on My Three Sons, Frawley was fired. His health had become so poor that it was no longer possible to insure him for the show. The actor wasn’t pleased about being let go and reportedly returned to the set on a regular basis until he was asked to stop. He died on March 3, 1966.

Fittingly, Frawley’s last on-screen appearance came in October 25, 1965 on The Lucy Show. Vance had already left the series and Frawley appears in just a brief cameo with Ball. For one brief moment, it’s like Lucy Ricardo and Fred Mertz are together again.

 

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Bobby November 18, 2009 at 5:20 am

For you I love Lucy fans, get the book Meet the Mertzes. Gives info on Ethel and Fred, Vivian and William. .

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admin November 18, 2009 at 6:27 am

@Bobby: Great suggestion.

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Yvonne July 29, 2009 at 8:23 pm

After 50 years “I Love Lucy” is still number 1 among the young and the old. Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel were the best. I really do miss them.

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jolene craine July 25, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I LOVED LUCY AND ALL OF THE GANG. ITS ASHAME VIVIAN DIDNT GET ALONG WITH BILL , I WISH THEY HAD WORKED MORE TOGETHER . I MISS THEM ALL AS I ALWAYS WILL. I GREW UP WATCHING THEM AND I WATCH THE SHOWS EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE ON DVD. GOD BLESS THEM ALL

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Tom July 22, 2009 at 7:38 am

As a kid I never missed “I Love Lucy,” maybe because it was one of the few shows on TV at the time. But I do remember it fondly and I did like William Frawleys’ character. As for “My Three Sons,” that was another show that I never missed. I didn’t know at the time that when William Frawley went missing that he had been forced out and subsequently past away. Knowing that the studio fired him is very disheartening. It’s just another example of Hollywood’s cold cold heart. Rotten Bastards!

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