You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Full Monty’s’ Freeman dies


Kathleen Freeman, a Tony-nommed star of the current Broadway musical “The Full Monty,” died Thursday at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City of lung cancer. She was 78.

Longtime character actress gave her final performance in the show just days earlier, having done two shows at the Eugene O’Neill Theater on Saturday.

Her comic turn as a rehearsal pianist in “The Full Monty” not only nabbed the actress her first Tony Award nomination, it epitomized the wisecracking, no-nonsense, eternally perturbed persona she polished over a 50-year career in film, TV and on the stage. As piano-player Jeanette Burmeister, she never failed to bring down the house with her line, “If you want to be in show business, you should be spayed first.”

Born in Chicago, Freeman made her stage debut at age 2 when she appeared with her parents in vaudeville. The family later moved to Los Angeles, and she graduated from UCLA.

A founding member of the Circle Players, and later a director, producer and actor in the Players Ring and Gallery Theaters, Freeman also found time to appear in at least 70 feature films. A partial list includes “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Fly,” “The Rounders,” “Far Country” and “North to Alaska.”

For her film work, she may best be remembered as a stone-face foil to Jerry Lewis, her playing a blue-collar Margaret Dumont to his juvenile Groucho Marx in 10 of the comic’s movies.

More recently, the actress performed in “Shrek,” “Innerspace,” “Dragnet,” “Chances Are,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Naked Gun 331/3,” “Nutty Professor II” and both Blues Brothers comedies.

On television, Freeman appeared in hundreds of TV episodes, including work that nearly spanned the history of the medium, from “Topper” and “The Donna Reed Show” to “Murphy Brown” and “Becker.”

Prior to Broadway, the actress costarred in the national companies of “Deathtrap,” “Annie” and “Woman of the Year.”

She is survived by her best friend, Helen Ramsey.

Memorial services are being planned in Los Angeles and New York.

More Scene

  • Atmosphere91st Annual Academy Awards, Governors Ball

    Inside the 2019 Oscar Parties

    Stars party all around Hollywood before, during, and after the Oscars. Here, Variety hits the town to give you the inside scoop on all the star-studded soirées. Keep checking back throughout the weekend for the latest updates… Impact Awards Gala Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, Feb. 22 Photographers and videographers clamored near the doorways of the [...]

  • Speaker of the United States House

    Nancy Pelosi, Ava DuVernay Honored at VH1 Trailblazers Event

    Cher is feeling a little better about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. “When I see Trump spew his hate and tell his gazillion lies, I get pissed off and feel uneasy at the same time,” the Oscar winner and frequent Trump critic said Wednesday while introducing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at VH1 Trailblazers [...]

  • Karl Lagerfeld'Lagerfeld Confidential' Photocall at the

    Karl Lagerfeld Remembered at Costume Designers Guild Awards

    The death of fashion and costume designer Karl Lagerfeld cast somewhat of a shadow over the usually jubilant Costume Designers Guild Awards — the only award show where clothes literally steal the spotlight away from actors — which was held at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday night. Here it was obvious that Lagerfeld’s impact on [...]

  • Kate Bosworth'Nona' film premiere, New York,

    Kate Bosworth Helps Launch Campaign for Female Filmmakers

    In her 20-year career in Hollywood, Kate Bosworth has starred in blockbusters like “Superman Returns” as well as indie darlings like 2014’s “Still Alice.” But the actress has always had a desire to get more involved from the ground up. Now, she is partnering with Women In Film and Chloe Wine Collection to launch the [...]

  • Amandla Stenberg and Sofia CarsonVanity Fair

    Oscar Week Kicks Off With Vanity Fair's New Hollywood Party

    The night was definitely still young Tuesday at Vanity Fair’s New Hollywood party in Los Angeles. The magazine kicked off Oscar week with a party — the first of its three-event Campaign Hollywood series — at Ysabel in West Hollywood to celebrate new and emerging talent. Co-hosted by Yalitza Aparicio, Henry Golding and Amandla Stenberg [...]

  • Oscars Ultimate Party Guide

    Oscars Ultimate Party Guide 2019

    Welcome to Oscar week. It’s the time of year when Hollywood’s film industry celebrates all things movies. But it’s certainly not just the big show everyone is looking forward to. With voting closed, it’s all about the parties now. Who’s doing what and where and when are they doing it are the questions everyone is [...]

  • Yalitza AparicioTeen Vogue Young Hollywood Party,

    'Roma' Star Yalitza Aparicio, 'Central Park Five's' Jharrel Jerome Sound Off on Trump

    Yalitza Aparicio recently reunited with Alfonso Cuarón, who directed her in “Roma,” for a W magazine photo project that featured her standing at various barriers built at the border between Mexico and the United States. The message? “You can make a name for yourself despite the differences,” Aparicio told Variety on Friday at Teen Vogue’s Young [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content