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Biography of Everett Freeman
Everett Freeman was born on 2 February 1911 in New York, New York. His contribution to books, movies, radio and television shows spanned more than 50 years.
Freeman was involved in writing and producing radio drama and comedy in the 1930s when he produced and wrote for hit shows such as Baby Snooks. During this time Hollywood had picked up on one of his stories, 1,000 Dollars a Minute, and it was made in to a movie in 1935 starring Roger Pryor and Leila Hyams. This certainly opened doors for Everett as he was asked to co-write the screenplay for Married Before Breakfast in 1937 and The Chaser in 1938.
Around this time, Everett’s brother Devery thought that he too would try his hand at writing. Soon, their careers were to follow very similar and intertwining paths on the Hollywood scene. The only difference was Everett’s production background meant that, as well as prolific writing, he occasionally produced tv shows and films. Devery, on the other hand, was content to stick to writing alone. Both brothers proved to be successful and in-demand Hollywood property.
As well as coming up with original stories of his own, Everett Freeman was often given the job of writing the screenplay based on an established story. Being a screenplay writer is never an easy job, especially if the original author is still alive and worst still of they are the main star of the show. So it was, in 1939, when Freeman was asked to write the screenplay for the movie You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man starring and written by W.C. Fields. It helped that Fields was a childhood hero to Everett. His respect for the man helped him through a difficult production where W.C. Fields would be continually changing the storyline to the point where the movie was very nearly scrapped.
World War II required that all Americans did their bit for the war effort. Warner Brothers decided to make the fundraiser movie Thank Your Lucky Stars, cramming in as many stars as they could find in cameo roles. Everett Freeman was asked to write the plot which was notionally about a nobody (Eddie Cantor) who is used to substitute for the celebrity Eddie Cantor and a whole load of would-be stars crashing an all-star revue in the hope they would get noticed. The irony of the story, or course, was that the performers were already stars. Freeman did not have his work cut out as the plot was incidental to the real purpose, which was to parade stars like Cantor, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, Bette Davis in order to raise as much money as possible for the war effort. All the performers and back room staff, including Everett Freeman, gave up their fee for this cause and the project raised over $2M.
Freeman continued writing screenplays, including Larceny, Inc in 1942, starring Edward G. Robinson and Bob Hope’s The Princess and the Pirate in 1944. He was also one of 36 writers, one of which was his brother Devery, who contributed to Ziegfeld Follies in 1946. Then things were turned around as two books, Cleopatra Arms and Miss Grant Takes Richmond, both penned by Everett and Devery were the subject of a screenplays for 1949 movies A Kiss in the Dark starring David Niven and Miss Grant Takes Richmond, starring Lucille Ball. Both these stories were about rich guys dolling out their money to help the poor through the good example of others.
The year 1951 marked another milestone in Everett Freeman’s career as he produced his first movie and had one of his stories made into another movie. Jim Thorpe — All-American was the film he produced (and co-wrote the screenplay for). Then the movie Too Young to Kiss was released, based on a story penned by Everett alone. This was about a Cynthia, a 22 year old gifted pianist who, determined to get noticed, takes part in a children’s piano competition. Everything goes well – in fact too well. She wins the competition and a New York agent decides to sign her up for a 5-year deal and book the child prodigy onto a New Symphony Hall concert. Cynthia’s dilemma is worsened as she falls for the agent. The movie starred June Allyson. A year later, another of Everett Freeman’s stories, a biography of swimmer Annette Kellerman, was released. Just as he had featured a fictional heroine in Too Young to Kiss, this time he told the story of real life heroine Kellerman. The film that resulted was Million Dollar Mermaid starring Esther Williams. This was followed in 1957 by another film from an original Everett Freeman story, Kelly and Me.
In the mid 1950s, Freeman was becoming interested in television. In its early days, tv was a mere novelty to artists and writers alike. Its audiences were small and the production techniques were limited. By the early to mid 50’s, improved technology and mass produced television receivers were making the medium more attractive, as audiences were multiplying. Freeman had already had plenty of production experience in radio and was as experienced as anybody on a film set. He used these talents and hit the ground running with his debut as a tv producer with Bachelor Father, a situation comedy starring John Forsythe.
This was the start of a 10 year period when most of Freeman’s work was for television. Among the shows he produced was Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, which he also wrote for. He also penned scripts for other shows such as General Electric Theater. He returned to the cinema in 1966 when he wrote the script for Doris Day and Rod Taylor in The Glass Bottom Boat. He worked with Doris Day again as co-screenplay writer for Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?, which he also produced. Now established as a producer and screenplay writer, he saw out the decade with The Maltese Bippy (a Rowan & Martin movie that Freeman wrote) and How Do I Love Thee? The final film he is credited with is ZigZag, a rarity in that it was not of the comedy genre that had always been his specialism.
Everett Freeman retired from show business in 1970, after having spent 40 years at the top of his profession. He lived in Westwood, California until his death from kidney failure, on January 27 1991, aged 79.
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