Celebrity
The tragic reason why the actor who played Fred Mertz on ‘I Love Lucy’ always hid his hands
Oh wow, this is so sad. I had no idea he was struggling.
Elijah Chan
10.18.22

Not everything we see on TV is as it seems.

If you ask your grandparents, chances are they’ve come across a television program that pictures the suburban American Dream.

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I Love Lucy aired on CBS from 1951 to 1957. It was the most popular show in the United States during that time.

The show won five Emmy Awards and catapulted the careers of several actors.

The show plays on the push and pulls of domestic dynamics.

Lucy Ricardo, played by Lucille Ball, is a housewife who dreamed of becoming something more.

The program played on the hilarious plots that Lucy did to achieve her dreams and how her husband, Ricky Ricardo, foiled her plans with pranks so he could prove a point.

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Through their comedic relationship, other characters helped the couple resolve their dynamics.

One of which was their landlord Fred Mertz, who was played by William Frawley.

It was through Frawley’s treatment of Mertz that people started noticing something.

Frawley started his career in Hollywood in the era of silent movies.

However, it was with Paramount Pictures that his career took off.

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He starred in films like The Lemon Drop Kid in 1934 and Going My Way in 1944. And while he was still landing projects, talks about his working habits began to circulate.

As years passed, Frawley became known for something else.

In 2021, William Frawley was depicted as an alcoholic in the movie Being the Ricardos.

And while the film is still a work of fiction, the alcoholism part is true.

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Frawley’s drinking habits were well-known in Hollywood that a few people were not willing to cast him outright. But in 1951, CBS took a chance on Frawley.

Frawley joined the show I Love Lucy.

He didn’t get into the show easily, though.

CBS reluctantly cast Frawley but only with the following conditions: he was not allowed to drink on the set, show up late for work, or show up drunk.

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Breaking any of these conditions meant it was the end of the line for Frawley as far as the show was concerned.

Because of these stipulations, Frawley began hiding his hand inside his pockets.

This was noticed by some of the fans of the show and was talked about even after the show ended. The reason was said to be caused by Frawley’s withdrawal as an alcoholic.

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He may be a hard drinker, but Frawley did uphold the stipulations of his contract and performed well episode after episode.

His hand was shaking during filming, however, which led him to keep his hands deep inside his pockets.

Eventually, his alcoholism cost him his life.

Despite his tenacity during I Love Lucy, alcohol still filled much of his off-screen life.

He began to slip out of his personal life which in turn bled into his professional life.

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He began forgetting his lines and was much more irate during filming.

He was also known to fall asleep during filming and they had to hire a prop man out of the camera’s view to wake him up.

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He was eventually let go of My Three Sons after failing the annual health exam. He passed away in 1966 from a heart attack.

His works and legacy weren’t forgotten, however.

As a good friend to Desi Arnaz, the man who played Ricky Ricardo, Arnaz even paid for a full-page ad in the newspaper just to say “Buenos noches, amigo.”

Click the video below to learn more about Frawley and the tragic reason why he hid his hands on the show.

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Elijah Chan
[email protected]
Elijah Chan is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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