Kathleen Freeman (February 17, 1919 – August 23, 2001) was an American film, television, voice actress, and stage actress. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, she portrayed acerbic maids, secretaries, teachers, busybodies, nurses, and battle-axe neighbors and relatives, almost invariably to comic effect.
Kathleen Freeman in the late 1960s
|Born||February 17, 1919|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||August 23, 2001 (aged 82)|
New York City, U.S.
|Resting place||Hollywood Forever Cemetery|
|Occupation||Actress, voice artist|
|Partner(s)||Helen Ramsey (19??–2001)|
Freeman was born in Chicago, Illinois. She began her career as a child, dancing in her parents' vaudeville act. After a stint studying music at University of California, Los Angeles, she went into acting full-time, working on the stage, and finally entering films in 1948. In 1946, she was a founding member of the Circle Players at The Circle Theatre, now known as El Centro Theatre. Freeman was a Democrat who supported Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.
Freeman made her film debut in Wild Harvest (1947). Freeman's most notable early role was an uncredited part in the 1952 musical Singin' in the Rain as Jean Hagen's diction coach Phoebe Dinsmore.
Beginning with the 1954 film 3 Ring Circus, Freeman became a favorite foil of Jerry Lewis, playing opposite him in 11 films. These included most of Lewis's better known comedies, including The Disorderly Orderly as Nurse Higgins, The Errand Boy as the studio boss's wife, and especially The Nutty Professor as Millie Lemon. Over 30 years later, she made a brief appearance in Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.
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), and appearances in a spate of comedies in the 1980s and 1990s. Freeman played Sister Mary Stigmata (referred to as The Penguin) in John Landis' The Blues Brothers and Blues Brothers 2000, had cameos in Joe Dante's Innerspace and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (as tipsy cooking host Microwave Marge), and a gangster mother in Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult.
In addition to teaching acting classes in Los Angeles, Freeman was a familiar presence on television. In 1958–59, she appeared three times on Buckskin, a children's program set in a hotel in a fictitious Montana town. She appeared from the 1950s until her death in regular or recurring roles on many sitcoms, including six episodes of The Bob Cummings Show (as Bertha Krause), Topper (as Katie the maid), and The Donna Reed Show (as Mrs. Celia Wilgus, the Stone's busybody next door neighbor). In 1964 she appeared in 5 episodes of The Lucy Show. Later, she was cast on Hogan's Heroes as Frau Gertrude Linkmeyer, General Burkhalter's sister, who longed to wed Colonel Klink. In 1973, she had a co-starring role with Dom DeLuise in the sitcom Lotsa Luck (based on the British sitcom On the Buses). She appeared in several episodes of Wagon Train, Funny Face (as Mrs. Kate Harwell), I Dream of Jeannie (as a grouchy supervisor in a fantasy preview of Major Nelson's future, and later as a hillbilly), 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 a female arm wrestler on Mama's Family. She also starred with Phil Silvers in The Beverly Hillbillies in episodes 25 and 26 of season 8 and episodes 2 and 3 in season 9.
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 scoring a Tony Award nomination and a Theatre World Award for her role as Jeannette Burmeister in the musical version of The Full Monty. In her final episode of As Told by Ginger, Season 2's "No Hope for Courtney", Freeman's character retires from her teaching job although Carl and Hoodsey try convincing her to return to work. The script originally was written to have Mrs. Gordon return to Lucky Elementary School but Freeman died before the episode was finished. The script was then re-written, and Mrs. Gordon died as well. The episode was dedicated in Freeman's memory. The dedication came at the end of the episode after the announcement that Elaine Gordon had died and Carl was crying. The screen faded to black and "In Memory of Kathleen Freeman" was shown.
Weakened by illness, Freeman was forced to leave the Full Monty cast. Five days later, she died of lung cancer at age 82 at Lenox Hill Hospital. She was cremated and her ashes interred in a niche at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. She never married and she had no children. British reports of her death included her long-time companion Helen Ramsey, but U.S. obituaries did not.
- The Naked City (1948) as Stout Girl on Elevated Train (uncredited)
- Casbah (1948) as American Woman (uncredited)
- Behind Locked Doors (1948) as Nurse (uncredited)
- The Saxon Charm (1948) as Nurse (uncredited)
- Annie Was a Wonder (1949, short subject) as Annie Swenson
- Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) as Gwendolyn (uncredited)
- The Story of Molly X (1949) as Seamstress Con (uncredited)
- No Man of Her Own (1950) as Clara Larrimore (uncredited)
- The Secret Fury (1950) as Jury Member (uncredited)
- House by the River (1950) as Effie Ferguson - Party Guest
- The Reformer and the Redhead (1950) as Lily Rayton Parker
- Once a Thief (1950) as Phoebe
- Lonely Heart Bandits (1950) as Bertha Martin
- A Life of Her Own (1950) as Switchboard Operator, Betsy Ross Hotel (uncredited)
- The Second Face (1950) as Shirley (uncredited)
- The Company She Keeps (1951) as Jessie - Parolee with Child (uncredited)
- Cry Danger (1951) as Second Cigarette Clerk (uncredited)
- Cause for Alarm! (1951) as Woman (uncredited)
- A Place in the Sun (1951) as Factory Worker - Prosecution Witness (uncredited)
- Appointment with Danger (1951) as Nun (uncredited)
- Strictly Dishonorable (1951) as Silent Movie Organist (uncredited)
- Behave Yourself! (1951) as Pet Shop Proprietor's Wife (uncredited)
- Come Fill the Cup (1951) as Lil - Newspaper Switchboard Operator (uncredited)
- Let's Make It Legal (1951) as Reporter (uncredited)
- The Wild Blue Yonder (1951) as Nurse Baxter (uncredited)
- The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) as Spectator (uncredited)
- Love Is Better Than Ever (1952) as Mrs. Kahrney
- Singin' in the Rain (1952) as Phoebe Dinsmore (uncredited)
- Talk About a Stranger (1952) as Rosa, Grocery Clerk (uncredited)
- Kid Monk Baroni (1952) as Maria Baroni
- Skirts Ahoy! (1952) as Sarcastic Seamstress (uncredited)
- Wait 'til the Sun Shines, Nellie (1952) as The Burdges' Maid (uncredited)
- O. Henry's Full House (1952) as Mrs. Dorset (segment "The Ransom of Red Chief") (uncredited)
- Monkey Business (1952) as Mrs. Brannigan, Neighbor (uncredited)
- The Prisoner of Zenda (1952) as Gertrud Holf (uncredited)
- The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) as Miss March (uncredited)
- The Magnetic Monster (1953) as Nelly
- She's Back on Broadway (1953) as Annie (uncredited)
- Confidentially Connie (1953) as Mother of Twins (uncredited)
- The Glass Wall (1953) as Zelda - Fat Woman
- A Perilous Journey (1953) as Leah
- Dream Wife (1953) as Chambermaid (uncredited)
- The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953) as 'Happy Stella' Kowalski
- Half a Hero (1953) as Welcomer
- The Glass Web (1953) as Mrs. O'Halloran (uncredited)
- Battle of Rogue River (1954) as Sis Pringle (uncredited)
- The Far Country (1954) as Grits
- Athena (1954) as Miss Seely
- 3 Ring Circus (1954) as Custard-Pie Gag Victim (uncredited)
- The Seven Year Itch (1955) as Woman at Vegetarian Restaurant (uncredited)
- Artists and Models (1955) as Mrs. Muldoon (uncredited)
- The Midnight Story (1957) as Rosa Cuneo
- Pawnee (1957) as Mrs. Carter
- Kiss Them for Me (1957) as Nurse Wilinski (uncredited)
- The Missouri Traveller (1958) as Serena Poole
- Too Much, Too Soon (1958) as Miss Magruder (uncredited)
- The Fly (1958) as Emma
- Houseboat (1958) as Laundromat Gossip (uncredited)
- The Buccaneer (1958) as Tina
- Wagon Train (1959) as Sairy Hogg (Episode: "The Kitty Angel Story")
- North to Alaska (1960) as Lena Nordquist
- Madison Avenue (1961) as Miss Thelma Haley
- The Ladies Man (1961) as Katie
- The Errand Boy (1961) as Mrs. Helen Paramutual / Mrs. T.P.
- Wild Harvest (1962) as Goldie
- The Nutty Professor (1963) as Millie Lemmon
- Who's Minding the Store? (1963) as Mrs. Glucksman
- Mail Order Bride (1964) as Sister Sue
- The Patsy (1964) as Katie (uncredited)
- The Disorderly Orderly (1964) as Nurse Maggie Higgins
- The Rounders (1965) as Agatha Moore
- That Funny Feeling (1965) as Woman at Phone Booth
- Marriage on the Rocks (1965) as Miss Blight
- Three on a Couch (1966) as Murphy
- The Big Mouth (1967) as Little Old Lady (uncredited)
- Point Blank (1967) as First Citizen
- The Helicopter Spies (1968) as Mom
- Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) as Mrs. Danvers
- Hook, Line & Sinker (1969) as Mrs. Hardtack - Baby Sitter
- Death of a Gunfighter (1969) as Mary Elizabeth
- The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969) as Mrs. Stone - Mother
- The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970) as Mrs. Jensen
- Myra Breckinridge (1970) as Bobby Dean Loner
- Which Way to the Front? (1970) as Bland's Mother
- Support Your Local Gunfighter! (1971) as Mrs. Perkins
- Head On (1971) as Nadine
- Stand Up and Be Counted (1972) as Sarah
- Where Does It Hurt? (1972) as Mrs. Mazzini
- The Unholy Rollers (1972) as Karen's Mother
- Your Three Minutes Are Up (1973) as Mrs. Wilk
- The Sting (1973) as Kid Twist's Wife (uncredited)
- So Evil, My Sister (1974) as Hilda
- The Strongest Man in the World (1975) as Officer Hurley
- The Norseman (1978) as Old Indian woman
- Every Girl Should Have One (1978) as Voice Characterization (voice)
- The Blues Brothers (1980) as Sister Mary Stigmata (a.k.a. The Penguin)
- Heartbeeps (1981) as Helicopter Pilot
- The Best of Times (1986) as Rosie
- Inside Out (1986) as Mother (voice)
- The Malibu Bikini Shop (1986) as Loraine Bender
- Mama's Family (1987) as Big Joan
- In the Mood (1987) as Beulah Marver
- Dragnet (1987) as Enid Borden
- Innerspace (1987) as Dream Lady
- Teen Wolf Too (1987) as Admissions Lady
- The Wrong Guys (1988) as Grunskis' Mom
- Chances Are (1989) as Mrs. Handy
- Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989) as Dance Teacher (voice)
- The Princess and the Dwarf (1989)
- Hollywood Chaos (1989)
- The Golden Girls (1990)
- Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) as Microwave Marge
- The Willies (1990) as Miss Titmarsh
- Joey Takes a Cab (1991) as Lola
- Dutch (1991) as Gritzi
- FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992) as Elder #1 (voice)
- Reckless Kelly (1993) as Mrs. Delance
- Hocus Pocus (1993) as Miss Olin
- Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994) as Muriel
- Two Guys Talkin' About Girls (1996) as Rhondas Grandma
- Carpool (1996) as Franklin's Mom (voice)
- Hercules (1997) as Heavyset Woman (voice)
- Blues Brothers 2000 (1998) as Mother Mary Stigmata
- Richie Rich's Christmas Wish (1998) (direct-to-video) as Miss Peabody
- I'll Be Home for Christmas (1998) as Tom Tom Girl Gloria
- Seven Girlfriends (1999) as Mrs. Hargrove
- Ready to Rumble (2000) as Jane King
- Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000) as Denise's Nosy Neighbor (uncredited)
- Joe Dirt (2001) as Joe Dirt's Foster Mother (uncredited)
- Shrek (2001) as Old Woman (voice)
- As Told by Ginger (2000–2003, TV Series) as Mrs. Gordon (voice) (final appearance)
- "Kathleen Freeman". Nndb.com. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
- Jesse McKinley (August 24, 2001). "Kathleen Freeman, 78, Actress Playing Comic Character Roles". The New York Times. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
- Vallance, Tom (March 5, 2014). "Kathleen Freeman". The Independent. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
- "Actress Kathleen Freeman Dies at 82". Backstage. Associated Press. August 24, 2001. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
- Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
- "Freeman, Kathleen (1919–2001)." Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages. Ed. Anne Commire and Deborah Klezmer. Vol. 1. Detroit: Yorkin Publications, 2007, p. 692. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. March 18, 2014.
- Bergan, Ronald (August 27, 2001). "Kathleen Freeman". The Guardian. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
- Clark, Mike (August 30, 2002). "Jerry Lewis tells it like it is — and was". USA Today. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
- Kathleen Freeman on IMDb
- Kathleen Freeman at the Internet Broadway Database
- Bahn, Paul (14 April 2014). The Archaeology of Hollywood: Traces of the Golden Age. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 116. ISBN 9780759123793.