Kathleen Freeman (1919 - 2001) was an American character actress in film, television, and stage whose career spanned more than fifty years. Most of her career seemed to be spent playing an array of tart maids, secretaries, teachers, busybodies, nurses, and battle-axe neighbors, almost invariably to comic effect.
Born in Chicago, Illinois on February 17, 1919, Freeman 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. 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.
Beginning with the 1955 film Artists and Models, she became a favorite foil of Jerry Lewis, playing opposite him in ten movies. 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 thirty years later, she had a small cameo in The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, a sequel to the remake of the Lewis film.
Still other film roles included appearances in 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.
She played Sister Mary Stigmata in John Landis' The Blues Brothers and Blues Brothers 2000, had cameos in Joe Dante's Innerspace and Gremlins 2 (as tipsy cooking host Microwave Marge in the latter), and a Ma Barker type gangster mother in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.
Freeman was also a familiar presence on television, from the 1950s until her death, with regular or recurring roles on many sitcoms, including Topper (as Katie the maid), Hogan's Heroes (as Frau Gertrude Linkmeyer, who longed to wed Colonel Klink), The Beverly Hillbillies (in a story arc as Flo Shafer, wife of conman Phil Silvers), 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 I Love Lucy to Home Improvement.
In later years, she also worked extensively as a voice actor, 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 Shrek, a guest appearance on Becker, and most notably, scoring a Tony Award nomination for her stage role of accompanist Jeannette Burmeister in the Broadway musical version of The Full Monty.
Five days after her last Full Monty performance, she died of lung cancer, aged 82, on August 23, 2001.