Kathleen Freeman
Freeman in 1972
Born(1923-02-17)February 17, 1923[1][2]
DiedAugust 23, 2001(2001-08-23) (aged 78)
Resting placeHollywood Forever Cemetery
  • Actress
  • voice artist
Years active1948–2001

Kathleen Freeman (February 17, 1923 – August 23, 2001) was an American 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.[3] In film, she is perhaps best remembered for appearing in 12 Jerry Lewis comedies in the 1950s and 1960s and The Blues Brothers (1980)

Early life

Freeman was born on February 17, 1923, in Chicago, Illinois.[4] She began her career as a child, dancing in her parents' vaudeville act.[5] Freeman was a Democrat who supported Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.[6] She was also a practitioner of Religious Science International[7]


Cary Grant and Freeman (in uncredited role) as a laundromat gossip in Houseboat (1958)


Freeman made her film debut in Wild Harvest (1947).[8] For a short time in the early 1950s, Freeman was a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract player, appearing mostly in small and uncredited bit parts. Her most notable early role was an uncredited part in the 1952 MGM musical Singin' in the Rain as Jean Hagen's diction coach Phoebe Dinsmore.[9]

Beginning with the 1954 film 3 Ring Circus, Freeman became a favorite foil of Jerry Lewis, playing opposite him in 11 films.[10] 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 The Nutty Professor as Millie Lemon. Over 30 years later, she made a brief appearance in Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.

Her 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 (1980) and Blues Brothers 2000 (1998). She also played a foul-mouthed apartment building manager in Dragnet (1987), a teacher in Hocus Pocus (1993), and a gangster mother in Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult (1994). She also had cameos in Joe Dante's Innerspace (1987) and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) (as tipsy cooking host Microwave Marge).

In the 1973 film The Sting, Freeman was seen in a family photo for Kid Twist’s character (played by Harold Gould) in the Western Union office scene.


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 Stones' busybody next door neighbor). In 1964, she appeared in five 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 a nurse in the television series Love American Style.

Freeman played Sgt Carter's mother in a 1969 episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., as well as appearing as a different character in a 1968 episode of the same series. She also starred with Phil Silvers in The Beverly Hillbillies in episodes 25 and 26 of season eight and episodes two and three in season nine. She also made a first season appearance playing the wife of a couple who take the Clampetts to court, falsely accusing them of reckless driving and causing injuries to the couple (Season 1, Episode 32).

She appeared as the voice of Peg Bundy's mom, an unseen character in several episodes of Married... with Children. She played a female arm wrestler on Mama's Family, and also appeared in episodes of Growing Pains, Simon & Simon, ALF, L.A. Law, The Golden Girls, Doogie Howser, M.D., Roseanne, Coach and Home Improvement among others.

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, and a guest appearance on the sitcom Becker. She received a Tony Award nomination and a Theatre World Award for her role as Jeannette Burmeister in the musical version of The Full Monty.[11] In her final episode of As Told by Ginger, season two'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 rewritten, 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 a title card said "In Memory of Kathleen Freeman".


Weakened by illness, Freeman was forced to leave the Full Monty cast. Five days later, she died of lung cancer[1] at age 78 at Lenox Hill Hospital.[12] She was cremated and her ashes interred in a niche at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.[13] She never married and she had no children. The report of her death in the British newspaper The Guardian mentioned her "long-time companion Helen Ramsey";[9] Playbill's report referred to Ramsey as Freeman's "longtime and best friend",[14] and similarly Variety called her Freeman's "best friend".[15]



Year Title Role Notes
1948 The Naked City Stout Girl on Elevated Train Uncredited
Casbah American Woman
The Saxon Charm Nurse
Behind Locked Doors
1949 Mr. Belvedere Goes to College Gwendolyn
Annie Was a Wonder Annie Swenson Short film
The Story of Molly X Seamstress Con Uncredited
1950 No Man of Her Own Clara Larrimore
The Secret Fury Jury Member
House by the River Effie Ferguson - Party Guest
The Reformer and the Redhead Lily Rayton Parker
Once a Thief Phoebe
Lonely Heart Bandits Bertha Martin
A Life of Her Own Switchboard Operator, Betsy Ross Hotel Uncredited
The Second Face Shirley
1951 The Company She Keeps Jessie - Parolee with Child
Cry Danger Second Cigarette Clerk
Cause for Alarm! Woman
A Place in the Sun Factory Worker - Prosecution Witness
Appointment with Danger Nun
Strictly Dishonorable Silent Movie Organist
Behave Yourself! Pet Shop Proprietor's Wife
Come Fill the Cup Lil - Newspaper Switchboard Operator
Let's Make It Legal Reporter
The Wild Blue Yonder Nurse Baxter
1952 The Greatest Show on Earth Spectator
Love Is Better Than Ever Mrs. Kahrney
Singin' in the Rain Phoebe Dinsmore Uncredited
Talk About a Stranger Rosa, Grocery Clerk
Kid Monk Baroni Maria Baroni
Skirts Ahoy! Sarcastic Seamstress Uncredited
Wait 'til the Sun Shines, Nellie The Burdges' Maid
O. Henry's Full House Mrs. Dorset Uncredited
Segment: "The Ransom of Red Chief"
Monkey Business Mrs. Brannigan, Neighbor Uncredited
The Prisoner of Zenda Gertrud Holf
The Bad and the Beautiful Miss March
1953 The Magnetic Monster Nelly
She's Back on Broadway Annie Uncredited
Confidentially Connie Mother of Twins
The Glass Wall Zelda - Fat Woman
A Perilous Journey Leah
Dream Wife Chambermaid Uncredited
The Affairs of Dobie Gillis 'Happy Stella' Kowalski
Half a Hero Welcomer
The Glass Web Mrs. O'Halloran Uncredited
1954 Battle of Rogue River Sis Pringle
The Far Country Grits
Athena Miss Seely
3 Ring Circus Custard-Pie Gag Victim Uncredited
1955 The Seven Year Itch Woman at Vegetarian Restaurant
Artists and Models Mrs. Muldoon
1957 The Midnight Story Rosa Cuneo
Pawnee Mrs. Carter
Kiss Them for Me Nurse Wilinski Uncredited
1958 The Missouri Traveller Serena Poole
Too Much, Too Soon Miss Magruder Uncredited
The Fly Emma
Houseboat Laundromat Gossip Uncredited
The Buccaneer Tina
1960 North to Alaska Lena Nordquist
1961 Madison Avenue Miss Thelma Haley
The Ladies Man Katie
The Errand Boy Mrs. Helen Paramutual / Mrs. T.P.
1962 Wild Harvest Goldie
1963 The Nutty Professor Millie Lemmon
Who's Minding the Store? Mrs. Glucksman
1964 Mail Order Bride Sister Sue
The Patsy Katie Uncredited
The Disorderly Orderly Nurse Maggie Higgins
1965 The Rounders Agatha Moore
That Funny Feeling Woman at Phone Booth
Marriage on the Rocks Miss Blight
1966 Three on a Couch Murphy
1967 The Big Mouth Little Old Lady Uncredited
Point Blank First Citizen
1968 The Helicopter Spies Mom
1969 Support Your Local Sheriff! Mrs. Danvers
Hook, Line & Sinker Mrs. Hardtack - Baby Sitter
Death of a Gunfighter Mary Elizabeth
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys Mrs. Stone - Mother
Love American Style Nurse
1970 The Ballad of Cable Hogue Mrs. Jensen
Myra Breckinridge Bobby Dean Loner
Which Way to the Front? Bland's Mother
1971 Support Your Local Gunfighter! Mrs. Perkins
Head On Nadine
1972 Stand Up and Be Counted Sarah
Where Does It Hurt? Mrs. Mazzini
The Unholy Rollers Karen's Mother
1973 Your Three Minutes Are Up Mrs. Wilk
1974 So Evil, My Sister Hilda
1975 The Strongest Man in the World Officer Hurley
1978 The Norseman Old Indian Woman
1980 The Blues Brothers Sister Mary Stigmata, a.k.a. The Penguin
1981 Heartbeeps Helicopter Pilot
1986 The Best of Times Rosie
Inside Out Mother Voice
The Malibu Bikini Shop Loraine Bender
1987 In the Mood Beulah Marver
Dragnet Enid Borden
Innerspace Dream Lady
Teen Wolf Too Admissions Lady
1988 The Wrong Guys Grunskis' Mom
1989 Chances Are Mrs. Handy
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland Dance Teacher Voice
The Princess and the Dwarf Unknown
Hollywood Chaos
1990 Gremlins 2: The New Batch Microwave Marge
The Willies Miss Titmarsh
1991 Joey Takes a Cab Lola
Dutch Gritzi
1992 FernGully: The Last Rainforest Elder #1 Voice
1993 Reckless Kelly Mrs. Delance
Hocus Pocus Miss Olin
1994 Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult Muriel
1996 Two Guys Talkin' About Girls Rhonda's Grandma
Candysack Elderly Marilyn Monroe Impersonator Voice
Carpool Franklin's Mom Voice
1997 Hercules Heavyset Woman
1998 Blues Brothers 2000 Mother Mary Stigmata
Richie Rich's Christmas Wish Miss Peabody Direct-to-video
I'll Be Home for Christmas Tom Tom Girl Gloria
1999 Baby Geniuses Lenny's Noisy Neighbor Uncredited
Seven Girlfriends Ms. Hargrove
2000 Ready to Rumble Jane King
Nutty Professor II: The Klumps Denise's Nosy Neighbor Uncredited
2001 Joe Dirt Joe Dirt's Foster Mother
Shrek Old Woman Voice
Final film role


Year(s) Title Role Notes
1950–1954 Fireside Theatre Mrs. Chernowitz 8 episodes
1952 Dragnet Unknown Episode: "The Big Death"
Big Town Episode: "Marry My Past"
I Married Joan Customer in Dress Shop Episode: "Birthday"
Our Miss Brooks Miss Atterberry Episode: "The Embezzled Dress"
Schlitz Playhouse Ripplehissian Gang Episode: "The Pussyfootin' Rocks"
1953 Cavalcade of America Unknown Episode: "The Indomitable Blacksmith"
I Married Joan Betty 2 episodes
The Loretta Young Show Freida Foss Episode: "Girl on a Flagpole"
1953–1954 Topper Katie 19 episodes
1954 Mr. & Mrs. North Mary Farrell Episode: "The Girl in Cell 13"
1954–1955 Mayor of the Town Marilyn "Marilly" the Housekeeper 39 episodes
1954–1956 The Loretta Young Show Jessie 3 episodes
1955 Lux Video Theatre Connie Episode: "Not All Your Tears"
The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show Helga Episode: "Harry Morton's Cocktail Party"
1955–1956 Matinee Theatre Village Shopkeeper 3 episodes
1955–1958 The Bob Cummings Show Bertha Krause 6 episodes
1956 Father Knows Best Fussy Woman Uncredited
Episode: "The Bus to Nowhere"
It's Always Jan Mrs. Johnson 2 episodes
Warner Bros. Presents Unknown Episode: "Strange World"
The Loretta Young Show Cousin Phemie Episode: "His Inheritance"
1958 December Bride Marie Episode: "The Fred MacMurray Show"
Tombstone Territory Hannah Woolsey Episode: "The Outcasts"
Lassie Mrs. Graff Episode: "The Raffle"
1959 Wagon Train Sairy Hogg Episode: "The Kitty Angel Story"
Lux Playhouse Emma Episode: "The Miss and Missiles"
1959–1962 General Electric Theatre Girdle Woman 2 episodes
1959–1963 77 Sunset Strip Hannah Wells / Mrs. Ryan / WAF Secretary / Mrs. Holmes 4 episodes
1959–1964 The Donna Reed Show Mrs. Celia Wilgus
1960 Hawaiian Eye Opal Jensen Episode: "Then There Were Three"
Bourbon Street Beat Elsie Episode: "Wagon Show"
The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Mrs. Metzger Episode: "Rock-A-Bye Dobie"
The Case of the Dangerous Robin Unknown Episode: "The Nightmare"
1960–1961 Bachelor Father Hilda 2 episodes
1961 Guestward Ho! Mrs. Laughing Water Episode: "The Hootons Versus Hawkeye"
1962–1971 The Beverly Hillbillies Mabel Johnson / Agnes / Flo Shaffer 6 episodes
1962 Margie Mrs. Botts Episode: "Flaming Youth"
The Detectives Betty Episode: "Pandora's Box"
Rawhide Mrs. Beamish Episode: "The Greedy Town"
Wagon Train Mrs. Benson Episode: "The Caroline Casteel Story"
Laramie Edna Holtzhoff Episode: "Justice in a Hurry"
The Dick Powell Theatre Unknown Episode: "Pericles on 31st Street"
87th Precinct Miss Wilson Episode: "Girl in the Case"
1963 Arrest and Trial Mrs. Hinch Episode: "The Quality of Justice"
1964–1965 The Dick Van Dyke Show Mrs. Campbell / Hotel Maid 2 episodes
1965 Alfred Hitchcock Hour Angela Morrow / Wife Episode: "World's Oldest Motive"
1966–1971 Hogan's Heroes Gertrude Linkmeyer 4 episodes
1967–1970 Bonanza Miss Hibbs / Ma Brinker 2 episodes
Dragnet Mrs. Sunshine Pound Episode: "The Gun"
1968–1969 Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Alice Whipple / Mom 2 episodes
1969 The Bill Cosby Show Eloise Parker Episode: "A Word from Our Sponsor"
1973 The Mod Squad Martha Episode: "Cry Uncle"
1973–1974 Lotsa Luck Iris Belmont 22 episodes
1975 The Daughters of Joshua Cabe Return Essie Television film
Kolchak: The Night Stalker Bella Sarkof Episode: "The Youth Killer"
1976 Father O Father Housekeeper Television film
1977 Kojak Ma Wonderly Episode: "Case Without a File"
ABC Weekend Special Mrs. Stetson Episode: "Soup and Me"
1978 Police Woman Landlady Episode: "Sons"
1980 CHiPs Outraged Lady Episode: "To Your Health"
1983 Sutter's Bay Unknown Television film
1985 AfterMASH Mrs. Poulos Episode: "Saturday's Heroes"
Snorks Additional Voices Voice
Episode: "Snorkitis Is Nothing to Sneeze At/The Whole Toot and Nothing But..."
Simon & Simon Felix's Customer Episode: "Facets"
1986 My Sister Sam Mrs. Pink Episode: "Patti's Party"
1987 Hunter Ann Ridley Episode: "Requiem for Sergeant McCall"
Mama's Family Big Joan McCall Episode: "Mama with the Golden Arm"
She's the Sheriff Bessie Episode: "Hildy Gets Shot"
1988 Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis Marie Television film
The Facts of Life Noreen Grisbee 2 episodes
The Canterbury Ghost Mrs. Umney Voice
Television film
Glitz Mrs. Magyk Television film
Simon & Simon Stella Brunansky Episode: "The Merry Adventures of Robert Hood"
Murphy Brown Mrs. Caldwell Episode: "Respect"
ALF Betty Susla Episode: "Alone Again, Naturally"
1988–1990 Growing Pains Madge / Marge / Estelle / Sophie 5 episodes
The Hogan Family Mother Poole 2 episodes
1989 L.A. Law Joan Ackerman Episode: "Izzy Ackerman or Is He Not"
TV 101 Landlady Episode: "First Love: Part 3"
The Magical World of Disney Mrs. Crackshell Voice
Episode: "Super DuckTales"
Generations Mrs. Brezinski 7 episodes
Mr. Belvedere Woman Episode: "Fear of Flying"
Christine Cromwell Kathryn Episode: "Things That Go Bump in the Night"
1989–1990 Head of the Class Nurse 2 episodes
DuckTales Mrs. Crackshell / Nurse Hatchet Voice
10 episodes
1990 Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers Ma Voice
Episode: "Short Order Crooks"
A Family for Joe Mrs. Lee Episode: "Law and Order"
Sydney Louisa Episode: "36-24-36"
The Golden Girls Mother Superior Episode: "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Sophia?"
1991 The Munsters Today Grandma Episode: "A House Divided"
Sons and Daughters Debbie Episode: "Deep Throat"
Out of This World Miss Ogilvy Episode: "Educating Kyle"
Tales from the Crypt Mrs. Parker Episode: "Loved to Death"
Beverly Hills, 90210 Pawn Shop Clerk Episode: "Anaconda"
Matlock Lucy Lewis Episodes "The Witness Killings"
MacGyver Rose Magruta Episode: "Off the Wall"
1992 Major Dad Edna Episode: "Close Encounters"
Martin Saleslady Episode: "The Gift Rapper"
Doogie Howser, M.D. Mrs. Mickling Episode: "The Patient in Spite of Himself"
1993 Chairman's Choice Unknown Television film
Nurses Sister Mary Alma Episode: "Smokin' in the Boys' Room"
1993–1994 Phenom Maureen De La Rosa 2 episodes
1994 Herman's Head Mrs. Debusher Episode: "Bedtime for Hermo"
Party of Five Mona Episode: "Kiss Me Kate"
1995 The Mommies Rona Episode: "Enter Ken"
Renegade Felipe's Mother Episode: "Most Wanted"
Bless This Mess Jimmy's Mother Voice
Episode: "The Postman Always Moves Twice"
Married... with Children Peg's Mom Voice
5 episodes
1996 Dave's World Waitress Episode: "Loves Me Like a Rock"
Melrose Place Madge Episode: "The Circle of Strife"
The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest Mrs. Evans Voice
Episode: "Return of the Anasazi"
Common Law Danish Lady Episode: "In the Matter of: Luis in Love"
Roseanne Seaweed Attendant / Edna 2 episodes
ER Rhonda's Patient Episode: "No Brain, No Gain"
1996–1997 Duckman Nurse Voice
2 episodes
1997 Coach Magda Episode: "The Stench of Death"
1998 Cow and Chicken Greta Voice
Episode: "Sumo Cow/Comet!"
Night Man Fern Episode: "Bad to the Bone"
Home Improvement Gwen Episode: "The Son Also Mooches"
Love Boat: The Next Wave Maw-Maw Cranston Episode: "How Long Has This Been Going On?"
Clueless Pearl Episode: "Cashless"
1999 Caroline in the City Grandma Duffy 2 episodes
Rugrats Margaret Voice
Episode: "Wrestling Grandpa/Chuckie Collects"
Arli$$ Helen Krupp Episode: "The Changing of the Guard"
Providence Miss Van Gundy Episode: "The Third Thing"
Grown Ups Mona Episode: "Online Romance"
1999–2000 Detention Eugenia P. Kisskillya Voice
13 episodes
2000 Becker Edith / Evelyn Episode: "The Hypocratic Oath"
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show Community Center Cook Episode: "Honey, I'm the Wrong Arm of the Law"
Batman Beyond Ma Mayhem Voice
Episode: "The Eggbaby"
2000–2002 As Told by Ginger Mrs. Gordon Voice
13 episodes

Video games

Year Title Voice
1997 The Curse of Monkey Island Madame Xima


  1. ^ a b "Kathleen Freeman, 78, veteran actress, dies". Deseret News. August 25, 2001.
  2. ^ "SAG-AFTRA - Summer 2010". digital.copcomm.com. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  3. ^ McKinley, Jesse (August 24, 2001). "Kathleen Freeman, 78, Actress Playing Comic Character Roles". The New York Times. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  4. ^ Vallance, Tom (March 5, 2014). "Kathleen Freeman". The Independent. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
  5. ^ "Actress Kathleen Freeman Dies at 82". Backstage. Associated Press. August 24, 2001. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
  6. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  7. ^ An Interview with Kathleen Freeman, Skip E. Lowe, 1997
  8. ^ "Freeman, Kathleen (1919–2001)." Dictionary of Women Worldwide: 25,000 Women Through the Ages. Ed. Anne Commire and Deborah Klezmer. Vol. 1. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2007, p. 692. March 18, 2014, ISBN 978-0787675851
  9. ^ a b Bergan, Ronald (August 27, 2001). "Kathleen Freeman". The Guardian. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
  10. ^ Clark, Mike (August 30, 2002). "Jerry Lewis tells it like it is — and was". USA Today. Retrieved October 23, 2015.
  11. ^ Kathleen Freeman at the Internet Broadway Database
  12. ^ McKinley, Jesse (August 24, 2001). "Kathleen Freeman, 78, Actress Playing Comic Character Roles". The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  13. ^ Bahn, Paul (April 14, 2014). The Archaeology of Hollywood: Traces of the Golden Age. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 116. ISBN 978-0759123793.
  14. ^ https://playbill.com/article/kathleen-freeman-veteran-actress-of-full-monty-dead-at-82-com-98263
  15. ^ "'Full Monty's' Freeman dies". August 24, 2001.