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.