Wednesday, July 11, 2012

KATHLEEN FREEMAN (1919 - 2001)

Kathleen Freeman  was an American film, television, and stage actress. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, she portrayed tart maids, secretaries, teachers, busybodies, nurses, and battle-axe neighbors, almost invariably to comic effect. She was born February 17, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois, and began her career as a child, dancing in her parents' vaudeville act. After a stint studying music at UCLA, she went into acting full time, working on the stage, and finally entering films in 1948. She was a founding member, in 1946, of the Circle Players at The Circle Theatre, now known as El Centro Theatre.

Her most notable early role was an uncredited part in the 1952 musical Singin' in the Rain, as Jean Hagen's articulate diction coach Phoebe Dinsmore. In 1954, Freeman played receptionist Miss Seely in Athena. Beginning with the 1955 film Artists and Models, Freeman became a favorite foil of Jerry Lewis, playing opposite him in 11 films, including The Disorderly Orderly, The Errand Boy, Three on a Couch, and the Nutty Professor. Other film roles included appearances in The Missouri Traveler (1958), the horror film The Fly (1958), the Western spoofs Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) and Support Your Local Gunfighter! (1971), The Blues Brothers, and Blues Brothers 2000.

 In addition to teaching acting classes in Los Angeles, Freeman was also a familiar presence on television. She appeared from the 1950s until her death in regular or recurring roles on many sitcoms, including Topper (as Katie the maid), The Donna Reed Show (as Mrs. Wilgus, the Stone's busybody next door neighbor), Hogan's Heroes (as Frau Gertrude Linkmeyer, General Burkhalter's sister, who longed to wed Colonel Klink), Mrs. Kate Harwell, Sandy Duncan's's landlady and friend in Funny Face; I Dream of Jeannie (as a grouchy supervisor in a false preview of Maj. Nelson's future), the short-lived prehistoric sitcom It's About Time (as Mrs. Boss), and as the voice of Peg Bundy's mom, an unseen character on Married. . .with Children. She played guest roles on countless other shows, from The Lucy Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, and The Dick Van Dyke Show to Home Improvement. She also played Sister Agnes in an episode of The Golden Girls. In 1969, Freeman made a guest appearance on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C, playing Sergeant Carter's mother in the episode "I'm Always Chasing Gomers." 

In later years, Freeman also worked extensively as a voice actress, playing Ma Crackshell on DuckTales, a Theban woman in Disney's Hercules, and fortune teller Madame Xima in the video game Curse of Monkey Island. She remained active in her last two years, with a regular voice role on As Told By Ginger, a voice bit in the animated feature film Shrek, a guest appearance on the sitcom Becker and, most notably, scoring a Tony Award nomination and a Theatre World Award for her role of accompanist Jeannette Burmeister in the Broadway musical version of The Full Monty. Weakened by illness, Freeman reluctantly left Broadway's Full Monty cast on August 18, 2001. Five days later, on August 23, 2001, she died of lung cancer at age 82. 

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