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Also Known As: Died: August 23, 2001
Born: February 17, 1919 Cause of Death: lung cancer
Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, USA Profession: actor, composer, musician, director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A character player, instantly recognizable and long beloved for her prolific assortment of portrayals of steely mothers, dour maids and hard-hearted Hannahs, Kathleen Freeman actually began her career just out of diapers as part of her parents' vaudeville act. The petite, stout performer formed her own theater company and was acting in "Ethan Frome" when she was spotted by talent scouts and signed for the movies. Freeman's early film career began with numerous nameless roles in the late 1940s and 50s in such films as "The Naked City" (1948), "Dream Wife" (1953) "The Fly" (1958). She was especially memorable in a hilarious supporting role in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) as the voice teacher of Jean Hagen. The actress also enjoyed a 10 film collaboration with Jerry Lewis ranging from "Three Ring Circus" (1954) through "The Nutty Professor" (1963) and "The Disorderly Orderly" (1964) and winding up with "Which Way to the Front?" (1970). In her long and prolific career (with some 100 features and several hundred TV shows to her credit), Freeman always proved the stalwart character player whether playing a frontierswoman ("The Ballad of Cable Hogue" 1970) or an officious clerk ("Teen Wolf Two" 1987). She...

A character player, instantly recognizable and long beloved for her prolific assortment of portrayals of steely mothers, dour maids and hard-hearted Hannahs, Kathleen Freeman actually began her career just out of diapers as part of her parents' vaudeville act. The petite, stout performer formed her own theater company and was acting in "Ethan Frome" when she was spotted by talent scouts and signed for the movies. Freeman's early film career began with numerous nameless roles in the late 1940s and 50s in such films as "The Naked City" (1948), "Dream Wife" (1953) "The Fly" (1958). She was especially memorable in a hilarious supporting role in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) as the voice teacher of Jean Hagen. The actress also enjoyed a 10 film collaboration with Jerry Lewis ranging from "Three Ring Circus" (1954) through "The Nutty Professor" (1963) and "The Disorderly Orderly" (1964) and winding up with "Which Way to the Front?" (1970).

In her long and prolific career (with some 100 features and several hundred TV shows to her credit), Freeman always proved the stalwart character player whether playing a frontierswoman ("The Ballad of Cable Hogue" 1970) or an officious clerk ("Teen Wolf Two" 1987). She has been a frequent presence on the small screen as well with regular roles on several series ("Topper", CBS 1953-54; "It's About Time", CBS 1966-67; "The Beverly Hillbillies", CBS 1969-71) and TV-movies (e.g., "The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang", NBC 1970). One of Freeman's better-remembered battleaxes was her Sister Mary Stigmata from "The Blues Brothers" (1980) and "Blues Brothers 2000" (1998). In a similar spoof vein, "Dragnet" (1987) saw her as a belligerent landlady, and "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult" (1994) presented her as the tougher-than-leather mother of Fred Ward.

Throughout her distinguished career, Freeman also acted on stage and was featured in tours of such hits as "Deathtrap", "Woman of the Year" and "Annie" (playing Miss Hannigan). In 2000, she landed perhaps her best role ever as the crusty but lewd piano player Jeanette Burmeister (who just shows up one day out of the blue) in the hit musical "The Full Monty". Her second act opening number "Jeanette's Showbiz Number" proved one of the more memorable moments of the show and brought a richly deserved Tony nomination for the veteran performer.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Shrek (2001) Old woman
2.
 Ready to Rumble (2000) Jane King
3.
 I'll Be Home for Christmas (1998) "Tom Tom Girl" Gloria
4.
 Richie Rich's Christmas Wish (1998) Mrs Peabody
5.
 Blues Brothers 2000 (1998) Sister Mary Stigmata
6.
 Hercules (1997) Voice Of Heavyset Woman
7.
 Carpool (1996) Voice Of Franklin'S Mom
8.
 At First Sight (1995) Grandmother
9.
 Reckless Kelly (1994) Mrs Delance
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1926:
Joined parents in their vaudeville act when she was 2 1/2 (date approximate)
:
After college, formed the Circle Players with Beverly Garland, Alvin Sargent and Alan J Pakula, among others
:
Was signed for first role after scouts saw her performing in her own theater company's rendition of "Ethan Frome"
1948:
Film debut in one-line part ("Read about that bathtub murder?") in "The Naked City"
1948:
Starred in the short "Annie Was a Wonder"
1951:
Acted in "A Place in the Sun"
1952:
Made uncredited appearance in "Singin' in the Rain"
1953:
TV series debut, "Topper" (CBS); played the maid Katie
1953:
Played 'Happy' Stella Kowalski in "The Affairs of Dobie Gillis"
1954:
Made first of 10 features with Jerry Lewis, "Three Ring Circus"
1954:
Had regular role on "Mayor of the Town" (syndicated)
1955:
Co-starred in "Artists and Models", starring Lewis
:
Made appearances as Schultzy's friend Bertha on the sitcom "Love That Bob/The Bob Cummings Show"
1958:
Appeared as a neighbor on "The Donna Reed Show" (ABC)
1958:
Had supporting role in "The Fly"
1961:
Reteamed with Jerry Lewis in "The Errand Boy" and "The Ladies' Man"
1963:
Supported Lewis in "The Nutty Professor" and "Who's Minding the Store?"
1964:
Again worked with Lewis in "The Disorderly Orderly"
1966:
Eight teaming with Jerry Lewis, "Three on a Couch"
:
Played Mrs. Boss on the CBS sitcom "It's About Time", centering on two astronauts who find themselves transported back to the Stone Age
:
Cast in recurring role of Gertrude Linkmeier in "Hogan's Heroes"
1969:
Acted in "Support Your Local Sheriff" and again reteamed with Jerry Lewis for "Hook, Line and Sinker"
:
Had regular role of Flo Shafer on "The Beverly Hillbillies" (CBS)
1970:
Co-starred in "Myra Breckinridge"
1970:
Tenth and last film with Lewis, "Which Way to the Front?"
1971:
Cast as a nosy landlady on the short-lived CBS sitcom "Funny Face", starring Sandy Duncan
:
Portrayed Dom DeLuise's mother on the NBC sitcom "Lotsa Luck"
1975:
Played a policewoman in "The Strongest Man in the World"
1978:
Broadway debut in "13 Rue de l'Amour"
1979:
Appeared as the mother of bank robbers in the NBC Western movie "The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang"
1980:
Had supporting role as a nun in "The Blues Brothers"
1987:
Acted in "Dragnet"
1988:
Played Ma in the TBS update of "Our Gang"
1988:
Was the third secretary of "Murphy Brown" (CBS)
1990:
Provided a character voice in "Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland"
1992:
Voiced the First Elder in "FernGully: The Last Rainforest"
1994:
Co-starred in "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult"
1995:
Made several appearances on the Fox sitcom "Married ... With Children", playing Al Bundy's mother-in-law
1998:
Reprised role of Sister Mary Stigmata in "Blues Brothers 2000"
2000:
Delivered showstopping turn as a pianist (who just showed up one day) in the stage musical "The Full Monty"; earned Tony nomination
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

American Film Institute: - 1975
University of California at Los Angeles: Los Angeles , California -

Notes

She refuses to give her exact age, for fear of its connotations and disputes several film reference books that say she is 80. "I used to lie about my age, making myself older for roles," she scoffed. "And they took me seriously." --From "'The Full Monty': Been Around? Yep, and Goin'" by Jesse McKinley in The New York Times, January 5, 2001

At the time of her death, Ms. Freeman's age was reported variously as 78 and 82.

In addition to her many film credits, Ms. Freeman has toured extensively in stage productions like "Deathtrap", "Annie" (as Miss Hannigan) and "Woman of the Year".

"I think I'm a living example of the fact that you don't have to be in every inch of a film or play to be important to it. And let's be candid here: I never felt any great personal beauty. I guess I was awfully pretty at some point, but funny was always my book." --Kathleen Freeman quoted in The New York Times, January 5, 2001

"I'm not interested in ever showing up without doing my best. I've been trained. You've got to be great every time, not once." --Kathleen Freeman to Michael Buckley at www.broadwayonline.com, May 22, 2001.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Helen Ramsey. Survived her.

Contributions

bergy7 ( 2007-11-26 )

Source: not available

Played the role of Peg Bundy's mother in the popular Fox TV comedy series "Married with Children"..1989-1999. (voice only... never appeared on-screen.

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