Celebrity Then And Now
Kathleen Freeman
Name: Kathleen Freeman
Birthdate: January 1, 1970
Famous Years: 1958-2001
Currently Known For: N/A
Networth: N/AFamous For: Deceased
Kathleen Freeman
Name Kathleen Freeman
Birthdate January 1, 1970
Famous Years 1958-2001
Currently Known For N/A
Networth N/A
Famous For Deceased

Among the most notable supporting characters on television throughout the 1970s wasn’t part of the main family that was the focus, but broke through with her memorable moments that became part of TV history. That, of course, would be the character Alice Nelson on “The Brady Bunch”. The witty Alice was the housekeeper for the family, and played the role throughout the show’s original run. However, the role would be played by Ann B. Davis, who wasn’t exactly the first choice that the show’s producers had in mind. That actress was in fact Kathleen Freeman.

Freeman was born on February 17, 1919 in Chicago, Illinois to parents that had gotten into the entertainment business. Like many during that era, they were performing in vaudeville shows, and Freeman would become part of the act while she was growing up. Once she got closer to her adult years, she’d look to continue performing on a full-time basis, and headed out to Los Angeles to study music in college while also acting on the side.

The music career didn’t result in a breakthrough, but the acting would become her main job. The decision to shift focus was because of something that happened while she was on stage. “A terrible thing happened,” she said. “I got in a play and got a laugh. I just said a line and, ‘Boom.’” That would lead to her getting earlier appearances on stage, including several different Broadway acts.

In her late 20s, Freeman would get her first appearance as an actress, landing a role in the 1947 film “Wild Harvest”. She’d spend the next few years making brief appearances in movies and eventually on television shows, but mainly in roles where she didn’t receive a credit. After working hard as a cameo actress, Freeman would get her big chance in 1952 when she had a supporting role in the popular film “Singin’ in the Rain”.

This helped land Freeman in the attention of actor Jerry Lewis, and the two would star together in nearly a dozen films throughout their careers. When the 1960s came along, Freeman starred in several of these Lewis films that included “The Nutty Professor”, while also making appearances in films such as “Point Blank” and “Marriage on the Rocks”. One thing that she hadn’t had at that point, though, was a starring role on television. In the late 1960s, it appeared that Freeman was finally destined for a major role on television, with “The Brady Bunch” coming around in late 1969.

When casting started up, show creator Sherwood Schwartz had tabbed Freeman to take on the role of Alice Nelson, which was one of the initial casting choices. The matriarch of the family, Carol, had not yet been cast when the decision was made on Freeman. As the casting went on, Carol’s role was eventually filled by actress Florence Henderson, who famously held down the role for years. Unfortunately for Freeman, it didn’t seem that she and Henderson had great on-screen chemistry.

Because of that, Freeman was dropped from the project as the role would instead go to Davis. Producers said that replacing Freeman would make things more “evenly balanced,” and many believed they made the right casting choice. Freeman may have lost out on that famous role, but she’d have many projects that were still coming her way.

In one interview, Freeman got to talk about her consistent acting career and how it was developing. “This will sound very corny and I’m sorry, but I have always had the sense I was put here to (act),” she said. “I am somebody who is around to help the world laugh. I have always had that sense. Corny, but absolutely true.” Former co-star Jerry Lewis also chimed in, saying that “I have never known an artist who loved doing what they do more than Kathleen. She comes to work with such an energy and passion.”

During the 1970s, she’d continue to appear in handfuls of movies that included “The Sting” and marked the beginning of the 1980s with one of her more famous roles in “The Blues Brothers”. In the film, she played Sister Mary Stigmata, who was known as “The Penguin”. Following that, Freeman had roles in films like “Dragnet” and eventually started to do more voice acting work. You can hear here voice in films such as “Shrek” and “Hercules”.

Freeman’s final appearance would come via voice acting on the show “As Told By Ginger”.When the 2000s started, Freeman unfortunately became ill, and would be diagnosed with lung cancer. On August 23, 2001, Freeman would succumb to her disease and passed away at 82 years old, with her ashes spread at the Hollywood cemetery. Freeman had a very full life and a long career, which she was able to reflect on before her death. “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,” she said.