Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fred and Ethel 
Assuming the rumor about "I Love Lucy" basing the characters of the Mertz on a real life couple is true, here is more evidence that could confirm the notion. (Previous article on the Floon Family Follies). I was sent this picture from one of my blog readers of the real Fred and Ethel Floon (the faded picture to the right.) It is in better shape than the photo I found of the Floon Troupe, and clearly shows Ethel and Fred Floon in more detail. Unfortunately other than the photograph, the reader did not have much more information other than being aware of the performers and the troupe. 
To me there is a slight resemblance of the couple on the right to William Frawley and Vivian Vance who played the Mertz. Of course like a conspiracy theory it is easier to show connections working backwards than forwards.  So it is easier to see the resemblance to the actors who played Fred and Ethel Mertz looking back in time. 
According to those who saw the Floon Family Follies, Fred and Ethel were song and dance performers. They had an act in early Vaudeville but later toured with a troupe hawking early patent medicine. Ethel was a somewhat dizzy belting singer, and Fred played a frugal curmudgeon in the act. Ethel seemed to be the comedian of the act while Fred was more of the straight man. Certainly not the caliber of Burns and Allen but contemporaries. They eventually retired from show business and became landlords of a brown stone building in New York City. They never performed professionally after their retirement, but were willing to jump into one of their old routines at a moments notice. Seems to me that is the very back story of the imaginary Mertz couple.
But there is even more compelling evidence to the rumor. William Frawley was not the person that Lucille Ball wanted to play the role of Fred Mertz originally. The original actor that Lucille Ball wanted to play Fred Mertz was Gale Gordon. At the time "I Love Lucy" went into production Gale Gordon was obligated to another television series. On the later episodes of "The Lucy Show" Gale Gordon was available to play the comic foil role of Mr. Mooney.  The resemblance of Fred Floon to Gale Gordon is not as strong, but still the same type of actor.  However, this is the Internet and everything is true on the Internet. 
I was part of the generation that thought  Paul McCarthy was dead based upon "evidence" hidden in the Beatles Albums of the day. That proved not to be the truth, and this could be the same. I love a good story and I am a conspiracy nut.  This does not have the element of a conspiracy but it is an interesting story. There could be some people still around who know about the Floons who can either substanciate this rumor or totally debunk it.  Being the web it could be that this blog entry will find them.  I will certainly update any more information that I get on the Floon Family Follies and its relation to "I Love Lucy".  Until then.
As you were,
Jay

3 comments:

Jay Johnson said...

The comment below was sent to me. It is written by Chris Lockhart who is an expert on I LOVE LUCY. This should set the rumor to rest.

Jay Johnson said...

According to Madelyn Pugh, who wrote every I LOVE LUCY episode including
the pilot - Fred & Ethel were not based on real people.

The name MERTZ came from a local family from Pugh's hometown. Years
after the show became famous, she was always worried that the real Mertz
family was angry with her.
But she bumped into one of the adult children who told her that the
entire family got a big kick out of the "fame." Pugh could not remember
where the names Fred and Ethel came from, but she was pretty sure they
were pulled from the cast of characters out of the life of her writing
partner Bob Carroll, Jr - as was often the tradition.

According to the article, the real life Fred & Ethel were performers.
TV's Fred and Ethel Mertz were vaudevillians, but it was an afterthought
- not part of the original character creations. The writers wanted to
include a brief song during the first season and asked actors Frawley
and Vance if they could sing. The writers were surprised to learn that
both had extensive Broadway musical training. (Vance was even in the
original cast of ANYTHING GOES.)
This sent to me from someone who knows the actual history of I Love Lucy.

So, a showbiz backstory was created to utilize their song & dance
talents - which the writers thought would open up all new
possibilibities for plotlines.

So, based on the recollections of the show's creators - the similarities
with the real life F & E are merely coincidental.
Chris Lockhart

8:28 PM

Roomie said...

Fred and Ethel Floon ROCK/ED!!!!!! And that is all that I have to say about that.....
Carry on,
FF&MF