Born: 17 February 1919 (Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Died: 23 August 2001 (New York City, New York, USA)
Cause of Death: Lung Cancer
Film and TV Appearances: 291+
Award Nominations: 2 (1 Win)
Years Active: 1948 - 2001
Hogan's Heroes (1966-1971)
Kathleen Freeman was born on 17 February 1919 to the Vaudevillian song and dance act, Dixon and Freeman. After making her stage debut at the age of 2 and performing with her parents for a few years, she was sent to school where got interested in acting.
After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles where she majored in music (she studied piano), she began acting full-time mainly appearing in plays at the Circle Theatre in Los Angeles. It was while she was performing in one of the plays for the theatre company The Circle Players (which she had formed with her friends) that was she was discovered by talent scouts.
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Freeman made her film debut in 1948 in an uncredited role in the film The Naked City. She appeared in approximately 37 films, uncredited mainly during the 1950s.
One of the actors she played opposite in The Naked City was Jerry Lewis and it was the beginning of a comic partnership and personal friendship that lasted many years. She appeared with him in a number of films including The Nutty Professor (1963); The Patsy (1964) and The Disorderly Orderly (1964).
Some of the films she appeared where she was credited in were Once a Thief (1950); The Light Fantastic (1952); The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953); The Far Country (1954); Pale Arrow (1957); The Fly (1958); North to Alaska (1960); Madison Avenue (1961); Wild Harvest (1962); West of Montana (1964); Marriage on the Rocks (1965); Three on a Couch (1966); Point Blank (1967); The Helicopter Spies (1968); Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969); Myra Breckinridge (1970); Head On (1971); Stand Up and Be Counted (1972); So Evil, My Sister (1974); The Norseman (1978); The Blues Brothers (1980); Heartbeeps (1981); The Best of Times (1986); Dragnet (1987); The Wrong Guys (1988); Chances Are (1989); The Willies (1990); Dutch (1991); Hocus Pocus (1993); Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994); Blues Brothers 2000 (1998); Seven Girlfriends (1999); and Ready to Rumble (2000).
Charmin Ad - 1971
It was through her numerous roles on television that she became a well-known face (although for some, not a well-known name). After making her TV debut in 1952 she had a regular role or guest appearances in a few series...
- Topper (1953-1955) as Katie in 16 episodes.
- Mayor of the Town (1954-1955) as Marilly
- The Bob Cummings Show (1955-1959) as Bertha Krause in 6 episodes
- The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966) as Mrs. Celia Wilgus in 4 episodes
- The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971) as Flo Shafer in 4 episodes
- Hogan's Heroes (1965-1971) as Gertrude Linkmeyer in 4 episodes
- Funny Face (1971) as Kate
- Lotsa Luck (1973-1974) as Iris Belmont
TV movies she appeared in were Good Old Days (1966); Ready and Willing (1967); But I Don't Want to Get Married! (1970); Westward the Wagon (1971); Call Her Mom (1972); The Daughters of Joshua Cabe Return (1975); and Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis (1988).
Some of the many TV shows she guest starred on were Fireside Theatre; The Loretta Young Show; Buckskin; Bachelor Father; General Electric Theater; 77 Sunset Strip; Wagon Train; The Lucy Show; The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; Gomer Pyle: USMC; Bonanza; Love, American Style; Kojak; The Facts of Life; Simon and Simon; L.A. Law; Valerie; Growing Pains; Beverly Hills, 90210; Matlock; Phenom; Melrose Place; Roseanne; Home Improvement; Caroline in the City; and Becker.
Stage and Other Work
It wasn't until 1978 that Freeman made her Broadway stage debut in 13 Rue de l'Amour. Her only other Broadway appearance was in the musical The Full Monty in 2000 for which she received a Tony nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for the role of Jeanette Burmeister. She also won a Theatre World Award.
Other plays she appeared in during her life included Annie; Deathtrap; Woman of the Year (with Lauren Bacall); and her own one-woman show, Are You Somebody?
Late in her career, Freeman began to work as a voice actor in many films and TV shows. Animated productions she lent her voice to included
- Ducktales as Mrs. Crackshell - 10 episodes
- Detention as Miss Eugenia P. Kisskillya - 7 episodes
- As Told by Ginger as Mrs. Gordon - 14 episodes
She was also the voice of Peg's mom in five episodes of Married with Children (1987-1997).
This will sound very corny and I'm sorry but I have always had the sense I was put here to do this: I am somebody who is around to help the world laugh. I have always had that sense. Corny but absolutely true.— Kathleen Freeman
Other career highlights included being a performer in the California Artists' Radio Theatre for National Public Radio; teaching acting in Studio City, California; and directing plays at The Circle and Players Ring Theatre (including acting in them);
Kathleen Freeman continued to perform until five days before her death in 2001. She is buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. The Kathleen Freeman Spirit Award was created in her memory to honor young actors and actresses in regional theatre or drama school.