February 26, 2013

Revisiting Fred Mertz

Today is actor William Frawley's 126th birthday.

It's especially interesting timing because over the past couple of months, Len and I have been watching all of the episodes of I Love Lucy on DVD and I have been giving Frawley's performance as Fred Mertz a lot of thought.

Season 2, "Job Switching"
Watching the show as a kid, I never paid much attention to Fred. I just thought of him as this grouchy, old, bald guy who kind of looked like a potato. I never gave him a second thought as I was too busy watching Lucy's cartoon antics, something that would obviously appeal more to a child. However, as I've gotten older and more appreciative of seasoned character actors, I began to realize that William Frawley is an absolute delight. I was shocked to realize that he is actually quite animated and his cutting remarks to Ethel are still really funny. Their bored, irritated relationship is still my favorite thing about the show (and clearly was the blueprint for my other favorite bored landlord couple - Stanley and Helen Roper from Three's Company).

In the episodes we've seen so far (we are watching them in order), Fred has performed old vaudeville routines, dressed in drag, pretended to be a burglar and kicked in a television set. He's incredible and I can't wait to see what new antics he will be up to next.

Fred and Ethel Zombies!

Note - I did skip ahead and watch a Season 5 episode called "The Great Train Robbery". It's really great, but my favorite bit is the running gag where Lucy keeps pulling the emergency brake on the train they are riding. Every time she does it, the Mertzes end up covered in food from the dining car. Slowly the Mertzes enter the scene covered in goop. They actually look like really terrifying - like zombies -with Fred looking exactly like an extra from Night of the Living Dead!