Karl Freund

Karl Freund behind camera (1925)

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

    Early life

    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

    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, 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

    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.

    Personal life

    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 interned at the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

    Selected filmography

    As cinematographer

    • The Robber Bride (1916)
    • The Queen's Love Letter (1916)
    • The Princess of Neutralia (1917)
    • The Man in the Mirror (1917)
    • The Marriage of Luise Rohrbach (1917)
    • Countess Kitchenmaid (1918)
    • Die Arche (1919)
    • Intoxication (1919)
    • Catherine the Great (1920)
    • The Golem (1920)
    • The Head of Janus (1920)
    • The Oath of Peter Hergatz (1921)
    • The Rats (1921)
    • The Story of Christine von Herre (1921)
    • Lucrezia Borgia (1922)
    • The Last Laugh (1924)
    • Michael (1924)
    • Variety (1925)
    • Tartuffe (1926)
    • The Mill at Sanssouci (1926)
    • Doña Juana (1927)
    • Metropolis (1927)
    • Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (1927)
    • A Knight in London (1929)
    • Fräulein Else (1929)
    • The 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)
    • (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)

    As director

    • The Mummy (1932)
    • Mad Love (1935)

    As producer

    • Madame Wants No Children (1926)

    See also

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