Williams, Fritz

Fritz Williams

Frederick (Fritz) Williams, Jr. (23 August 1865-1 April 1930) was a lifelong stage actor who spent his entire life in front of the footlights. He served as Shepherd 1928-1930, and died in office.

Fritz Williams was the son of an actor and his first appearance was when he was six months old. He lived out of a suitcase for years. It was only when he joined the Lyceum Theatre Company in 1886 could he call New York home. He remained with the organization until 1896.

He was elected to The Lambs in 1891 and served on the Council for a number of years. Williams married Katherine Florence, an actress, June 25, 1896.

From The Lamb Script, November 1943 issue

Our Eighteenth Shepherd

Frederick Williams, Jr., or Fritz Williams, as we knew him, was born in Boston, Massachusetts on August 23, 1865. He was the son of Fred Williams, also an actor, and he made his stage debut at the ripe old age of six months. He was “carried on” in the farce, Seeing Warren, at the Boston Museum, and after that he spent only a few short years as a schoolboy before resuming his acting career.

At 14 he was Sir Joseph Porter in a juvenile H.M.S. Pinafore, and many amateur and semi-professional roles followed during the time he was attending St. John’s College in Fordham.

Fritz Williams played his first New York engagement at Wallack’s in 1884. He appeared as Anatole in A Scrap of Paper at the advanced age of 19. His roles were many and varied during the following seasons; he toured with Frank Mayo and later with Edwin Booth. From 1889 to 1896 he was a member of the Lyceum Company. A long series of French farces followed in quick succession, until the season of 1901, when he became a member of the “Hoity-Toity” company under the management of Weber and Fields.

While he is remembered as an actor in non-musical productions, it is interesting to note that Williams attracted New York attention first as a concert singer at the age of 15, when he appeared at Madison Square Garden at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Williams made his first London appearance in Spread Eagle in 1928, after over 40 years on the American stage. We remember him best, perhaps, in the role of Dr. McPhail, his brilliant contribution to the highly successful production of Rain.

Having served as a member of the Board of Directors of The Lambs on several previous occasions, Fritz Williams was first elected Shepherd of The Lambs in 1928, and served two terms in office. A contemporary writer said of him:

Small, dapper, punctilious, with snow-white hair, sparkling blue eyes, and a high-arched, aristocratic nose, he went nearly every day to The Lambs on West Forty-fourth Street. Unfailingly cheerful, he passed among the tables in the dining room with a greeting for everyone. His duties of Shepherd were very serious affairs to him, and he knew most of the 1700 members personally.

Not much more can be said in praise of any Shepherd.

On April 1, 1930, Williams was attending a meeting in The Fold at which he was making plans for a Gambol. He mentioned the fact that he was not feeling well, but expressed the opinion that a cup of tea would perhaps prove to be what he needed. He went to the Grill, and had barely reached his table when he passed away. As A.O. Brown has been quoted, “We mourn his loss. But his death was a beautiful one in the Club he loved so well.” He had been appearing in Berkeley Square at the time of his death.

Services were held at Saint Malachy‘s, attended by a great crowd including The Lambs in the body. David Belasco said of him, “I mourn the loss of a friend, the companionship of a soul,” and the New York Herald Tribune concluded a glowing obituary notice with a tribute ending, “He was one of the best beloved members of his profession.”

Following his death in 1930 at age 64, Williams was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx.