Karl W. Freund
January 16, 1890
|Died||May 3, 1969 (aged 79)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Karl W. Freund, A.S.C. (January 16, 1890 – May 3, 1969) was an Austrian cinematographer and film director best known for photographing Metropolis (1927), Dracula (1931), and television's I Love Lucy (1951-1957). Freund was an innovator in the field of cinematography and is credited with the invention of the unchained camera technique.
Karl Freund was born in Dvůr Králové (Königinhof), Bohemia. When he was 11 his family moved to Berlin. His career began in 1905 when, at age 15, he was hired as an apprentice projectionist for Alfred Duskes films. In 1907, he began work at the International Cinematograph and Light Effect Society. Freund was drafted by the Imperial Army to fight in World War I but was released from duty after only three months.
Early film career
Freund began his film career in 1905. He was a newsreel cameraman in 1907 and a year later was working for Sascha-Film in Vienna. In 1911, Freund moved to Belgrade to create a film laboratory for the Brothers Savic. Freund worked as a cinematographer on over 100 films, including the German Expressionist films The Golem (1920) and The Last Laugh (1924). Freund worked with director Fritz Lang on a multiple projects, of which Metropolis (1927) is the best known. Freund co-wrote, and was cinematographer on, Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (1927), directed by Walter Ruttmann. Between 1926 and 1929, Freund was the production head at Fox Europa Film.
Innovation in Cinematography
Early in his career Freund began to experiment with different ways of filming and new aspects of film. In 1914 he worked with Oskar Messter, a pioneering inventor and experimenter with sound film technology.
The Unchained Camera
Karl Freund is the inventor of the unchained camera. With its first appearance in Der letzte Mann, the unchained camera was a revolution in early film. For the first time, the camera was free of the tripod and could move around the set. Because it was no longer confined to one position, thousands of new shots were possible. Freund was known to wear the camera on his stomach and walk around while it was filming. He would also put the camera on a cart that moves along a track. Several other innovative ways of moving the camera were introduced by Freund, including putting the camera on a crane.
American film and television career
Freund emigrated to the United States in 1929, where he continued to shoot well-remembered films such as Dracula (1931) and Key Largo (1948). His work on Dracula came under a mostly disorganized shoot, 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).
Between 1921 and 1935, Freund directed 10 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.
I Love Lucy
At the beginning of the 1950s, he was persuaded by Desi Arnaz at Desilu to be the cinematographer for the television series I Love Lucy from 1951. Critics have credited Freund for the show's lustrous black and white cinematography, but more important, 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 between shots. While Freund did not invent the three-camera shooting system, he did perfect it for use with film cameras in front of a live audience. The cameras that were used were BNC Mitchell cameras with T-stop calibrated lenses on dollies. The center camera was for wider shots. The other two were positioned 75 to 90 degrees away from center and were primarily used for close-ups.
Despite his extensive experience in film cinematography, Freund said that switching to television was a challenge for him. Because I Love Lucy was filmed in front of a live audience there were restrictions on where the camera could be placed.
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. His ex-wife, Susette Freund (née Liepmannssohn), remained in Germany, where she was murdered at the Ravensbrück concentration camp in 1942.
- The Robber Bride (1916)
- The Queen's Love Letter (1916)
- The Giant's Fist (1917)
- Mountain Air (1917)
- The Princess of Neutralia (1917)
- The Man in the Mirror (1917)
- The Marriage of Luise Rohrbach (1917)
- Countess Kitchenmaid (1918)
- Put to the Test (1918)
- The Victors (1918)
- The Lady, the Devil and the Model (1918)
- The Ringwall Family (1918)
- Precious Stones (1918)
- Agnes Arnau and Her Three Suitors (1918)
- The Blue Lantern (1918)
- Die Arche (1919)
- Prostitution (1919)
- Intoxication (1919)
- The Night at Goldenhall (1920)
- Catherine the Great (1920)
- The Golem (1920)
- The Head of Janus (1920)
- The Oath of Peter Hergatz (1921)
- Children of Darkness (1921)
- The Rats (1921)
- The Story of Christine von Herre (1921)
- Lucrezia Borgia (1922)
- Louise de Lavallière (1922)
- The Last Laugh (1924)
- Michael (1924)
- Variety (1925)
- Tartuffe (1926)
- The Mill at Sanssouci (1926)
- Out of the Mist (1927)
- Doña Juana (1927)
- Metropolis (1927)
- Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (1927)
- A Knight in London (1929)
- Fräulein Else (1929)
- Sleeping Partners (1930)
- Bad Sister (1931)
- Dracula (1931)
- Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
- Back Street (1932)
- The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933)
- Camille (1936)
- The Good Earth (1937)
- Parnell (1937)
- Conquest (1937)
- Letter of Introduction (1938)
- Man-Proof (1938)
- Tail Spin (1939)
- Golden Boy (1939)
- Rose of Washington Square (1939)
- Balalaika (1939)
- Pride and Prejudice (1940)
- Green Hell (1940)
- Blossoms in the Dust (1941)
- Tortilla Flat (1942)
- Cry "Havoc" (1943)
- A Guy Named Joe (1943)
- Du Barry Was a Lady (1943)
- The Seventh Cross (1944)
- Without Love (1945)
- The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)
- A Letter for Evie (1946)
- Undercurrent (1946)
- Two Smart People (1946)
- That Hagen Girl (1947)
- This Time for Keeps (1947)
- Key Largo (1948)
- South of St. Louis (1949)
- Montana (1950)
- Bright Leaf (1950)
- The Sensational Trial (1923)
- The Mummy (1932)
- Moonlight and Pretzels (1933)
- Madame Spy (1934)
- The Countess of Monte Cristo (1934)
- Uncertain Lady (1934)
- I Give My Love (1934)
- Gift of Gab (1934)
- Mad Love (1935)
- Madame Wants No Children (1926)
- "KARL FREUND". www.cinematographers.nl. Retrieved 2017-05-08.
- Walk, Ines (2008-12-01). "Karl Freund • Biografie • Person • Film-Zeit". film-zeit.de: Portal über Filme & Filmleute vor und hinter der Kamera (in German). Archived from the original on 2017-08-07. Retrieved 2017-05-08.
- Brownlow K, Branagh K, Winterbottom M, et al. Cinema Europe : The Other Hollywood. Image Entertainment; 2000.
- Pierre, Paul Matthew St (2016-08-15). Cinematography in the Weimar Republic: Lola Lola, Dirty Singles, and the Men Who Shot Them. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781611479454.
- 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)
- Institute, American Film (1999-01-01). The American Film Institute catalog of motion pictures produced in the United States. F4,1. Feature films, 1941 - 1950, film entries, A - L. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520215214.
- ""Filming the 'Lucy' Show" - by Karl Freund". www.lucyfan.com. Retrieved 2017-05-08.
- The Life and Films of Karl Freund, Hollywood Innovator Archived 2011-08-07 at the Wayback Machine
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