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. 

JOYCE JAMESON (1932 - 1987)

Joyce Jameson, born September 26, 1932, in Chicago was an American actress best remembered for her blonde bimbo roles during the Marilyn Monroe period. She was known for many television roles including recurring guest appearances as “Skippy” one of the "fun girls" in the 1960s television series The Andy Griffith Show.

Jameson began work in the early 1950s with numerous uncredited roles in films and television. She made her film debut in 1951 playing a chorus girl dancer in the motion picture Show Boat. Her other notable film credits of that early period included Problem Girls (1953), Tip on a Dead Jockey (1957) and The Apartment (1960). In 1962, she starred alongside Vincent Price and Peter Lorre in the Roger Corman horror film Tales of Terror. One year later, she again starred alongside Lorre and Price in the raucous comedy The Comedy of Terrors (1964), where she was more typically cast as she had been in the 1950s. In 1964, she appeared as a hotel hooker in the comedy Good Neighbor Sam, starring Jack Lemmon. In 1966, she appeared in the Elvis Presley film Frankie and Johnny and in Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! featuring Bob Hope and Elke Sommer. In the 1970s, Jameson had notable roles in films such as Death Race 2000 (1975) and in the 1976 Clint Eastwood western The Outlaw Josey Wales. She also appeared in Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and one of her last roles was in Hardbodies in 1984.

Jameson was also well credited as a television actress. She appeared in guest roles in numerous television series including Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, McHale's Navy, My Favorite Martian, The Munsters, F-Troop, Hogan's Heroes, Alias Smith and Jones, Emergency!, and Barney Miller. Towards the late 1970s she appeared in Charlie's Angels and in the early 1980s in The Love Boat. Her ongoing role as Skippy paired with Daphne (played by Jean Carson) in the The Andy Griffith Show established "The Fun Girls", and inspired the characters for the later series Laverne & Shirley.

Contrary to her onscreen stereotype, off screen Jameson was said to be the direct opposite of her screen persona. She was reportedly intelligent, sensitive, and extremely well read. She was married to actor/songwriter Billy Barnes for much of her earlier life and was a longtime girlfriend of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. star Robert Vaughn.  Joyce Jameson suffered from depression and was an insomniac who regularly took pills to help her sleep. On January 16, 1987, she committed suicide by overdosing on pills at the age of 54. Her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered at sea.

JEAN CARSON (1923 - 2005)

Jean Carson was an American stage, film and television actress best known for her work on the classic 1960s sitcom The Andy Griffith Show as one of the "fun girls". Born February 28, 1923, in Charleston, West Virginia, she first became interested in show business as a child. At age 12 she got her first acting job, five dollars for a small part in a production of Carmen that traveled through Charleston. In high school she was voted Girl Most Likely to Succeed as an Actress. Carson told her mother she was going to be on Broadway and in 1948, after studies at Carnefie Mellon University, Carson made her Broadway debut in George S. Kaufman's's Bravo. Other Broadway work included Anniversary Waltz with Macdonald Carey, Two Blind Mice with Melvyn Douglas, and Bird Cage, which garnered her a Tony Award nomination.
Carson went on to appear in many pioneering television series, including Studio One, NBC Presents, The Twilight Zone, and The Ford Theatre Hour. She continued to make guest starring appearances throughout the 1950s, as well as a regular role on 1959's The Betty Hutton Show and roles in films such as The Phenix City Story in 1955 and I Married a Monster from Outer Space in 1958. Carson felt she was typecast by some of these roles as a “second woman” but that they helped her get work on The Andy Griffith Show. Carson had a brief role as Naomi in the 1962 episode “Convicts at Large”, but her most popular role was Daphne, one of the "fun girls", who appeared with Joyce Jameson on a recurring basis from 1962 to 1965. Daphne was a notorious flirt who greeted her objects of affection with a throaty "Hello Doll”. 
Carson earned fourth billing in the 1968 Peter Sellers comedy The Party, perhaps her best known film. Her last film role was 1977's Fun with Dick and Jane. She retired early in the next decade, save for some plays in the Palm Springs area (where she had moved to be close to her children). She associated herself with The Andy Griffith Show for many years, attending cast performances, conventions, and other meetings and writing back to fans personally until she suffered a severe stroke which left her incapacitated in September 2005. On November 2, 2005, Carson died from complications of the stroke; she was 82 years old. 

JANE DULO (1917 - 1992)

Supporting actress Jane Dulo launched her performing career in vaudeville at age ten. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 13, 1917. She specialized in television comedies and was involved with the medium since the 1950s. Best remembered as 99’s Mother (which is how the nameless role was billed), she was introduced when Max and 99 married during the fourth season of Get Smart. She played raucous housewives, man-hungry spinsters, and bewildered tourists in everything from Sgt. Bilko to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. As a navy nurse she chased Ernest Borgnine for the first two seasons of McHale’s Navy and had a straight role as a nurse for one season of Medical Center. Other television credits include guest appearances on series such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Joey Bishop Show, and The Andy Griffith Show. Fans of the long-running TV variety show Sha Na Na may remember her as the woman in the window. She made her movie debut in Roustabout in 1964 and went on to have a sporadic film career. She also appeared occasionally on and off Broadway.  Jane Dulo died May 22, 1992, in Los Angeles following heart surgery. 

RETA SHAW (1912 - 1982)

Reta Shaw, born September 13, 1912, in South Paris, Maine, was an American character actress known for playing authoritative women, housekeepers, and domineering wives, especially on television. She appeared on Broadway in her comic role as Mabel in the original production of The Pajama Game in 1952, as well as in Gentlemen Prefer Blones, Picnic, and Annie Get Your Gun, the last on tour with Mary Martin. She had featured roles in several motion pictures, including Picnic, The Pajama Game, Mary Poppins, Pollyanna, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Bachelor in Paradise, and Escape to Witch Mountain.

On television, she was seen with Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Andy Griffith, and Patty Duke, and appeared on Wally Cox's Mr. Peepers series, Armstrong Circle Theater, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Millionaire, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. She is best remembered as the housekeeper on TV's The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. She appeared in the first season of The Ann Sothern Show in the role of Flora Macauley, the overbearing wife of the gentlemanly hotel owner Jason Macauley (played by Ernest Truex). In the 1960-1961 television season, she played the housekeeper, Thelma, to Tab Hunter's character Paul Morgan, a young cartoonist, in The Tab Hunter Show. Shaw again played a housekeeper in the 1961-1962 CBS series Ichabod and Me, starring Robert Sterling and George Chandler. Shaw's character of Bertha/Hagatha, a matronly witch, was a recurring role on TV's Bewitched. She played escaped convict Big Maud Tyler in an episode of The Andy Griffith, entitled "Convicts at Large". She appeared again in season four as Eleanora Poultice, the educated voice teacher of the legendary Barney Fife. She also appeared in an episode of I Dream of Jeannie entitled "Jeannie and the Wild Pipchicks" where she played a strict dietician who has her innermost inhibition released (in her case a beautiful butterfly).

Reta Shaw died of emphysema in Encino, California, on January 8, 1982. She was 69 years old. Shaw was cremated and her remains are interred in a niche in the Columbarium of Remembrance at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery. She was divorced from actor William Forester and had one daughter.


(1917 - 2012)

Veteran actor Ernest Borgnine passed away at the age of 95 last Sunday, July 8, 2012, in Los Angeles.