Karl Freund

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Karl Freund
Born Karl W. Freund
(1890-01-16)January 16, 1890
Dvůr Králové (Königinhof), Bohemia, Austro-Hungarian Empire
Died May 3, 1969(1969-05-03) (aged 79)
United States
Occupation Cinematography
Years active 1926–1969
Karl Freund behind camera (1915)

Karl W. Freund, A.S.C. (January 16, 1890 – May 3, 1969(1969-05-03)) was a cinematographer and film director best known most noted for photographing Metropolis (1927), Dracula (1931), and television's I Love Lucy (1951-1957).

Early life[edit]

Born to Jewish parents in Dvůr Králové (Königinhof), Bohemia, his career began in 1905 when, at age 15, he was hired as an assistant projectionist for a film company in Berlin where his family had moved in 1901.

Early career[edit]

He worked as a cinematographer on over 100 films, including the German Expressionist films The Golem (1920), The Last Laugh (1924) and Metropolis (1927). Freund co-wrote, and was cinematographer on, Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (1927), directed by Walter Ruttmann.

Freund emigrated to the United States in 1929 where he continued to shoot well remembered films such as Dracula (1931) and Key Largo (1948). Notably, his work on Dracula came under a mostly disorganized shoot,[1] with the usually meticulous director Tod Browning leaving cinematographer Freund to take over during much of filming, making Freund something of an uncredited director on the film. He won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for The Good Earth (1937).

Directing and TV career[edit]

Between 1921 and 1935, Freund directed ten films, of which the best known are probably his two credited horror films, The Mummy (1932) starring Boris Karloff, and his last film as director, Mad Love (1935) starring Peter Lorre.

Freund's only known film as an actor is Carl Theodor Dreyer's Michael (1924) in which he appears as a sycophantic art dealer who saves the tobacco ashes dropped by a famous painter.

At the beginning of the 1950s, he was persuaded by Desi Arnaz at Desilu to be the cinematographer for the televisions series I Love Lucy from 1951. Critics have credited Freund for the show's lustrous black and white cinematography, but more importantly, Freund designed the "flat lighting" system for shooting sitcoms that is still in use today. This system covers the set in light, thus eliminating shadows and allowing the use of three moving cameras without having to modify the lighting in-between shots. And where Freund did not invent the three camera shooting system, he did perfect it for use with film cameras in front of a live audience.

Freund and his production team also worked on other sitcoms produced at/through Desilu such as Our Miss Brooks.[2]

Personal life[edit]

In 1937, he visited Germany to bring to the United States his only daughter, Gerda Maria Freund, saving her from almost certain death in the concentration camps. Karl's ex-wife, Susette Freund (née Liepmannssohn), remained in Germany, where she was interned at the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Selected filmography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ In an interview with author and horror historian David J. Skal, David Manners (Jonathan Harker) claims he was so unimpressed with the chaotic production, he never once watched the film in the remaining 67 years of his life. However, in his DVD audio commentary, Skal adds "I'm not sure I really believed him." Source: commentary of film in 2-DVD set Dracula: The Legacy Collection, Universal Studios Home Entertainment (2004)
  2. ^ The Life and Films of Karl Freund, Hollywood Innovator

External links[edit]