Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Godspeed Karlheinz Böhm and Mona Freeman

Karlheinz Böhm

Karlheinz Böhm, who was sometimes billed as Carl Boehm or Karl Boehm, died on 29 May 2014 at the age of 86.  In the English speaking world he may be best known for playing psychopath Mark Lewis in Michael Powell's classic Peeping Tom (1960). The cause of his death was complications from Alzheimer's disease.

Karlheinz Böhm was born on 16 March 1928 in Darmstadt, Germany. His father was Austrian conductor  Karl Böhm and his mother was German soprano Thea Linhard. He grew up in  Darmstadt, Hamburg, and Dresden. In 1939 he moved to Switzerland, where he attended the boarding school Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz throughout World War II. He studied philosophy at the University of Graz in Austria. Although he trained as a pianist, he found himself drawn to acting. He made his film debut in an uncredited, bit part in Der Engel mit der Posaune (1948), on which he also served as an assistant to director Karl Hartl.

From the late Forties into the mid-Fifties Karlheinz Böhm appeared in such films as Wienerinnen (1952), Haus des Lebens (1952), Alraune (1952), Salto Mortale (1953), Arlette erobert Paris (1953), Der unsterbliche Lump (1953), Die Sonne von St. Moritz (1954), Die heilige Lüge (1954), Die Hexe (1954), Ewiger Walze (1954), and Sommarflickan (1955).  In 1955 he appeared in Sissi, the first in director Ernst Marischka's films about Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The film proved to be an international success and shot both Karlheinz Böhm and Romy Schneider (who played Empress Elisabeth) to stardom. Mr. Böhm and Miss Schneider also starred in the other two films in the trilogy, Sissi - Die junge Kaiserin (1956) and Sissi – Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin (1957). For a time Mr. Böhm found himself typecast in similar, romantic roles. For the remainder of the Fifties he appeared in such films as Die Ehe des Dr. med. Danwitz (1956), Kitty und die große Welt (1956), Blaue Jungs (1957), Das Schloß in Tirol (1957), The Stowaway (1958), Das Dreimäderlhaus (1958), and Kriegsgericht (1959).

It was in 1960 that Karlheinz Böhm appeared in what is now his most famous role in the English speaking world, that of Mark Lewis in Peeping Tom. The role was a sharp contrast to the romantic nobles he had been playing. Quite simply, Mark Lewis was a quiet photographer with a murderous bent. At the time of its release Peeping Tom proved very controversial and was widely denounced, but is now regarded as a classic. In 1960 Mr. Böhm also appeared in Too Hot to Handle and Der Gauner und der liebe Gott.

In the Sixties Karlheinz Böhm appeared in such films as The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), Come Fly with Me (1963), Rififi in Tokyo (1963), and The Venetian Affair (1967). He guest starred on such TV shows as The Wonderful World of Disney, The Virginian, Burke's Law, and Combat. On television he also appeared in a German adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's Traumnovelle.

From the Seventies into the Nineties Karlheinz Böhm appeared in such films as Magic Graz (1972), Schloß Hubertus (1973), Fontane Effi Briest (1974), Faustrecht der Freiheit (1975), Mutter Küsters' Fahrt zum Himmel (1975), and Inflation im Paradies (1983) . He starred in the Austrian/German TV series Ringstraßenpalais and guest starred on Tatort and Der Bergdoktor.

In addition to being an actor Karlheinz Böhm was also a humanitarian. In 1981 he founded Menschen für Menschen to help those in need in Ethiopia. In addition to providing famine relief, Menschen für Menschen has worked to improve medical care, agriculture, water supplies, and education in Ethiopia. In 2007  Mr. Böhm was given the Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood among Peoples for his humanitarian work. In 2011 he and his wife were given the the Essl Social Prize for his humanitarian work.

Karlheinz Böhm was a remarkable actor. Indeed, it can be hard to believe that the same man played Kaiser Franz Josef in Sissi, Mark Lewis in Peeping Tom, and Jacob Grimm in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Although he was typecast as princes and counts for a time, Karlheinz Böhm had a gift for playing different sorts of characters and doing it very well. It must also be noted that Mr. Böhm went beyond being an actor to become a humanitarian as well. He did a good deal of good for the people of Ethiopia, and his organisation  Menschen für Menschen is still running.  Karlheinz Böhm was not only a great talent, but also a great human being as well.

Mona Freeman

Mona Freeman, who went from being New York City's first Miss Subways to a successful career as a movie actress, died 23 May 2014 at the age of 87. 

Mona Freeman was born on 9 June 1926 in Baltimore, Maryland. Her family later moved to Pelham, New York. Growing up she wanted to be a magazine illustrator, although she was also interested in drama. She was 14 years old when she took up modelling to help pay for her older brother's education at Yale.

She enrolled at the John Roberts Powers modelling agency school. It was not long before she was selected as the first Miss Subways in 1941. Miss Subways was a title developed by the New York Subways Advertising Company and the John Robert Powers modelling agency as a means of drawing people's attention to the various advertisements about the subway. Most Miss Subways were working women (secretaries, nurses, school teachers, et. al.) and the title was bestowed on women of several different ethnicities (Thelma Porter became the first African American to bear the title in 1948). Curiously, when Mona Freeman was named "Miss Subways" she had never ridden the subway. She rode it for the first time when she was given the title.

Mona Freeman's stint as Miss Subways led to a movie contract with Howard Hughes that would later be bought out by Paramount. She made her film debut in a small part in  Till We Meet Again in 1944. This was followed by small parts in such films as National Velvet (1944) and Here Come the Waves (1944).  She received slightly larger roles in films such as Together Again (1944), Roughly Speaking (1945), and Junior Miss (1945).  It was with Black Beauty in 1946 that she received her first lead role. In the late Forties she appeared in such films as That Brennan Girl (1946), Dear Ruth (1947), Mother Wore Tights (1947), Streets of Laredo (1949), The Heiress (1949), Dear Wife (1949), and Copper Canyon (1950).

In the Fifties Mona Freeman appeared in such films as Dear Brat (1951), The Lady from Texas (1951), Flesh and Fury (1952), Jumping Jacks (1952), Thunderbirds (1952), Angel Face (1952), Before I Wake (1954), Dial 999 (1955), and Hold Back the Night (1956). In the Fifties she began appearing frequently on television, guest starring on such shows as Zane Grey Theatre, The 20th Century-Fox Hour, Lux Video Theatre, Studio 57, Wagon Train, Playhouse 90, Wanted Dead or Alive, Riverboat, Maverick, and Thriller.

By the Sixties Miss Freeman's career was almost solely in television. She appeared on such shows as The United States Steel Hour, Perry Mason, and Branded. She made her last appearance on television in the TV movie Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol in 1972. Afterwards she worked as a portrait painter.

Sadly, Mona Freeman was typecast as an innocent teenager for much of her film career. It would be in television that she would largely get to prove her talent as an actress. Among her roles on television was that of Modesty Blaine, a character she played twice on Maverick. Modesty was about as far from the teenager roles she had played on film as one could get: a sharp confidence artist who could easily match wits with the Mavericks. She also made multiple guest appearances on Perry Mason, playing a different character each time. Perhaps the best performance she gave on Perry Mason was in "The Case of the Illicit Illusion", in which she played a woman convinced she was going insane. In the episode Wanted: Dead or Alive episode she played a woman suspected of killing her husband, a role far removed from those for which she was best known.

Of course, while much of her best work was done in television, this is not to say Mona Freeman did not do fine work in film, even if she was constantly playing teenagers. While she always seemed to be playing teens, at least her roles did vary somewhat. She was able to play everything from sweet natured Anne in Black Beauty to the more precocious Miriam in Dear Wife and Dear Brat. If Miss Freeman was typecast as teenagers, it was perhaps because she could play a variety of different sorts of teens and was able to do it well. Regardless, Mona Freeman was an actress of considerable range that was sadly underutilised by Hollywood.

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