I Love Lucy star William Frawley called his on-screen wife Vivian Vance a “poor slut” when a fan asked what she really is, according to a former colleague of the late actor.
In an interview with Page Six, Tim Considine, 81, recalled Frawley rudely insulting Vance on the set of the 1960s sitcom My Three Sons during a visit from the lieutenant general and his aide-de-camp.
The actor who played Frawley’s grandson was in the Air Force Reserve at the time and was pleased that their dinner was a “great success” – his rude co-star “didn’t say anything to alienate anyone.”
Considine’s relief quickly turned to dismay, however, when the lieutenant general asked Frawley what Vance really looked like when they returned to the studio.
“I foresaw it,” he said.
According to actor Tim Considine, I Love Lucy star William Frawley called his on-screen wife Vivian Vance a “poor bitch.” Frawley and Vance are pictured together in 1954.
Frawley and Vance played Fred and Ethel Mertz in I Love Lucy, which aired from 1951 to 1957.
Considine claimed that Frawley bluntly replied, “That pitiful bastard.”
Frawley and Vance played Fred and Ethel Merz—landlords and best friends of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo—on a beloved 1950s sitcom that ran from 1951 to 1957. But it was well known that they despised each other.
Considine, 81, told Page Six that Frawley rudely insulted Vance on the set of the 1960s sitcom My Three Sons.
Gregg Oppenheimer, son of I Love Lucy producer and head writer Jess Oppenheimer, wrote about their feud in his book I Love Lucy: The Untold Story.
According to his father, Frawley and Vance had a great working relationship until he heard her make disparaging remarks about his age.
“Even though the whole world loved Lucy, everyone in I Love Lucy didn’t love everyone else,” he wrote.
“First of all, Vivian Vance hated Bill Frawley. In fact, they got along well at first.
“But Viv soon became upset that people so readily accepted her beautiful young self as the wife of “that old man,” as she called him.
Oppenheimer said Frawley made it clear he was hurt by Vance’s comment and found ways to get revenge.
“When Bill got wind of her complaints, he was offended and in response offered phrases for himself that characterized Ethel as a “bag-like figure full of doorknobs” or something else from a long list of insults,” the writer explained. .
Considine, who played Frawley’s grandson (far right) on the show, said the lieutenant general and his adjutant were visiting the studio at the time.
When the lieutenant general asked Frawley (pictured in “My Three Sons” in 1963) what Vance really was, Considine said he bluntly replied, “That pathetic asshole.”
However, Desi Arnaz, who played Ricky in I Love Lucy, wrote in his memoir The Book that the feud between the two was only one-sided, claiming that Frawley disagreed with Vance’s casting from the start.
“Where the hell did you find that bitch?” Frawley asked, according to Arnaz. “She doesn’t know how to sing. … she gets me.”
The actor also allegedly complained about her singing ability and how she tried to direct their dance routines. Despite this, Arnaz wrote that Vance “never felt any animosity towards him”.
Frawley had a reputation for being an alcoholic and difficult to work with, but Considine called him “a terrific guy” when talking to Page Six.
He said his job was to bring Frawley back to the set of My Three Sons from Nickodell, an old-school Hollywood restaurant and eatery beloved by the Paramount Studios cast and crew.
It was well known that Frawley and Vance despised each other during the filming of I Love Lucy. He also had a reputation for being an alcoholic and difficult to work with.
J.K. Simmons was nominated for an Oscar for playing Frawley in the 2021 Amazon Studios film Being Ricardo (pictured)
“Sometimes he would fall asleep in the middle of the stage,” Considine recalled.
He said that to combat this, the writers would make sure that Frawley’s character, “Bub” O’Casey, stood up and did something physical, like sweeping the floor.
Audrey Kupferberg, co-author of Meet the Mertzes: The Life Stories of Another Lucy Couple I Love, said Frawley was a “mean, rude person” and a “very, very bad alcoholic”.
“He blew on the phone and asked: “Who writes this nonsense?” Considine added with a laugh.
Frawley died of a heart attack in March 1966 at age 79, and Vance died in August 1979 at age 70 after battling breast cancer.
JK Simmons was nominated for an Oscar for playing Frawley in the 2021 Amazon Studios film Being Ricardo, but author Audrey Kupferberg was upset by his toned down version of the character.
Kupferberg, who co-wrote “Meet the Mertzes: Stories from Another Lucy Couple” with her late husband Rob Edelman, told Page Six that Frawley was a “mean, rude person.”
Although she praised Simmons for his performance in the role, she noted that “his character was just not like Frawley”.
“They really warmed him up. The thought of him having a drink or two… he really was a very, very bad alcoholic,” she said, explaining that he would drink day and night at Nicodel and then Musso and Frank.
“He was a misogynist known throughout Hollywood for very foul language and just plain anti-social behavior,” she added.