Karl Freund

Karl Freund

Darsteller, Regie, Regie-Assistenz, Drehbuch, Kamera, Produzent
*16.01.1890 Königinhof an der Elbe, Böhmen (heute Dvur Králové nad Labem, Tschechien); †03.05.1969 Santa Monica, Kalifornien, USA

Biography

Karl Freund was born January 16, 1890, in Dvur Králové nad Laben, Bohemia. In 1901, he moved to Berlin with his parents Julius Freund and Marie, née Hermann. After graduating from school, he did an apprenticeship at a stamp factory. In 1906, he became a projectionist at Alfred Duskes' Kinematographen und Film-Fabriken GmbH. In 1907, he went to work for the Internationale Kinematographen- und Licht-Effekt-Gesellschaft.

It was probably here that he worked on his first short films as either a cinematographer or an assistant: "Das Lied von der Glocke" and one of the first short films about the "Captain of Köpenick". Both movies are mentioned in Luft’s portraits, which were based on interviews with Freund. However, they must be considered lost.

In 1908, he became a Pathé Frères newsreel cameraman. In addition, he worked as a technical assistant to Oskar Messter. In 1911, Freund went to Belgrad to set up a film laboratory for the brothers Savić. One year later, he worked on his first feature film, the melodrama "Jadra Majka" (Poor Mothers), which was probably directed by Boža Savić. The Austrian playboy and film pioneer Count Alexander ("Sascha") Kolowrat-Krakowský hired him as one of the first staff members of his Vienna-based film company Sascha-Film-Fabrik. In 1912, Freund worked on "Naturaufnahmen" as well as on some burlesque films starring Max Pallenberg: "Pampulik als Affe", "Pampulik kriegt ein Kind", and "Pampulik hat Hunger". The movies were a failure, however, and have never been screened.

In 1913, Freund returned to Berlin where Paul Davidson hired him as a cameraman for the Projektions-AG Union (PAGU). Here, he collaborated with Axel Graatkjaer on the "Asta Nielsen / Urban Gad series 1913/14".

Prior to this, Freund allegedly assisted Friedrich Weinmann on the films "Eine Venezianische Nacht" and "Die Insel der Seligen", which were directed by Max Reinhardt and shot in Venice.

In 1915, Freund joined the Austrian army but was released after only three months due to being overweight. From 1916, he worked for the Messter newsreel and photographed feature films produced by the Messter-Film GmbH and directed by Robert Wiene and Rudolf Biebrach, including the Henny Porten series 1916/1917.

From 1915 until 1918, Freund was married to the daughter of the music antiquarian Leo Lippmansohn and became the father of a daughter. While working on Richard Oswald's "Die Arche" ("The Arc"), Freund met the actress Gertrude Hoffmann whom he married on May 31, 1920.

In 1919, Karl Freund established his own company. With a daily output of 1500 meters, the Karl-Freund-Film GmbH provided film and photo operations, ranging from the development of photographic negatives to the distribution of "first-class operators", instruments, and movies. In spring 1921, Freund made his directing debut with "Der tote Gast".

Supported by his longtime assistant Robert Baberske, Freund worked as a cinematographer on large-scale movies produced by companies such as Decla-Bioscop, Gloria, and Oswald-Film. Some of the directors he has collaborated with include Ernst Lubitsch, Richard Oswald, Fritz Lang, Ludwig Berger, Paul Wegener, Paul Czinner, E. A. Dupont, and Carl Theodor Dreyer. In the latter's film "Michael" Freund also portrayed an arts dealer.

Freund, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, the set designers Robert Herlth and Walter Röhrig, as well as the screenwriter Carl Mayer, constituted the most important team of artists in German silent cinema. Most of their movies were produced by Erich Pommer.

In 1924, Mayer encouraged Freund to develop the "unleashed camera" – an engine-driven camera which was either fastened at his chest or to a bicycle. His innovative cinematography on E. A. Dupont's "Varieté" gained him fame in the USA.

By now regarded as the most significant German cameraman, Freund's colleagues elected him chairman of the "Klub der Kameraleute". Enjoying huge commercial success, Freund was able to afford a manor near Berlin, a personal butler, as well as several luxury cars. With his film laboratory he engaged in numerous experiments concerning new film techniques such as Blattnerophone (used in magnetic sound recording), Tri-Ergon (optical sound), or the special effect known as "Schüfftan process" (using miniature backgrounds with action foregrounds).

After he finished work on Lang's "Metropolis", Freund was appointed head of production at Fox-Europa Filmproduktion. Freund used this position to support young talents. Under his direction, Fox-Europa Filmproduktion produced such movies as Walther Ruttmann's "Berlin – Die Sinfonie der Großstadt" ("Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis", based on an idea by Carl Mayer) and Berthold Viertel's "K 13 513. Die Abenteuer eines Zehnmarkscheines" (in collaboration with Béla Balázs).

In 1928, Freund worked in London where he collaborated with Lupu Pick on "A Knight in London" (co-produced by the Blattner Picture Corporation, for which he also shot a series of short films). Furthermore, he established the company Movie Colour Ltd. and began experimenting with techniques for filming movies in color (Keller-Dorian cinematography). In 1929, Herbert Kalmus, head of Technicolor Corporation, invited him to come to the United States to continue with his experiments.

Alongside Eastman Kodak's John Capstaff, Freund pursued his color film experiments at Paramount's Astoria Studios in New York before moving to Hollywood.

Upon his arrival he was signed as a cinematographer by Carl Laemmle's Universal and went to work straight away, developing the final sequence of Lewis Milestone's Remarque adaptation "All Quiet on the Western Front". Other movies he shot for Universal include the horror classics "Dracula" and "Murders in the Rue Morgue" – both starring Bela Lugosi in the leading role – as well as the seminal zombie movie "The Mummy", starring Boris Karloff in the title role. With "The Mummy", Freund made his debut as a Hollywood director.

During the following two years, he directed a string of Universal movies from different genres. His credits include the musical comedy "Moonlight and Pretzels" (featuring "several catchy songs and a good cast"), the espionage movie "Madame Spy" (a remake of the German Universal production "Unter falscher Flagge"), as well as "The Countess of Monte Cristo" (the American version of Karl Hartl's Ufa film production from 1932).

Other films include the stage comedy adaptation "Uncertain Lady" (starring Edward Everett Horton), the tragic family story "I Give My Love" (written by Vicky Baum) and "The Gift of Gab", which featured a huge cast of radio stars and left the critic of the New York Times with the impression of having looked at "an endless and progressively soporific procession of one-reelers" (9/26/1934).

At the instigation of Irving Thalberg, Freund signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1935 and directed Peter Lorre's Hollywood debut "Mad Love". Ironically playing with elements from horror films and featuring expressionistic camera work, the remake of "Orlacs Hände" (Robert Wiene, 1924) was the last film that Freund directed.

Being bound to M-G-M due to a fixed-term contract, Freund went back to cinematography and worked on two movies starring Greta Garbo. In 1937, he received an Academy Award for his camera work on Irving Thalberg's last production, "The Good Earth".

In 1938 and 1939, Freund worked for different producers, eventually returning to M-G-M in late 1939. In 1947, he signed with Warner Bros., for which he shot his last feature film in 1950: Michael Curtiz's western "Bright Leaf", starring Gary Cooper and Lauren Bacall.

In order to expand his research on film and camera techniques, Freund established the Burbank-based Photo Research Corporation in 1944. In addition to developing technologies for the military, the company also generated devices such as the Norwich photometer, instruments used to measure color density as well as innovative television cameras.

In 1950, the successful TV celebrities Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball hired Freund as a supervising photographer for their production company Desilu. Alongside Arnaz, Freund developed the so-called "Multicam" system, which involved three simultaneously operating motion picture cameras. Although the system allowed for fast production, it also caused peculiar difficulties concerning the lighting of shows such as "I Love Lucy", "December Bride" and "Our Miss Brooks".

In 1960, Freund retreated to his farm in the San Fernando Valley. He devoted himself to his research projects, attended film symposiums all over the world, and hosted cinematography seminars in Hollywood.

Karl Freund died May 3, 1969, at the St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica.

Filmography

1949/1950 Montana
Director of photography
 
1947 This Time for Keeps
Director of photography
 
1945 Dangerous Partners
Director of photography
 
1944 The Seventh Cross
Director of photography
 
1941 Blossoms in the Dust
Director of photography
 
1940 Comrade X
Camera operator
 
1940 Florian
Director of photography
 
1939 Balalaika
Director of photography
 
1937 The Good Earth
Director of photography
 
1936 The Great Ziegfeld
Director of photography
 
1935 Mad Love
Director
 
1932 Afraid to Talk
Director of photography
 
1928/1929 Fräulein Else
Director of photography
 
1928 Eine Nacht in London
Director of photography
 
1927 Berlin. Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt
Screenplay, Assistant camera operator, Line producer
 
1927 Doña Juana
Director of photography
 
1926/1927 Der Sohn der Hagar
Producer
 
1926 1000 Schritte Charleston [Teil 1]
Creative supervisor
 
1926 1000 Schritte Charleston [Teil 3]
Creative supervisor
 
1926 1000 Schritte Charleston [Teil 2]
Creative supervisor
 
1926 1000 Schritte Charleston [Teil 4]
Creative supervisor
 
1926 K 13 513. Die Abenteuer eines Zehnmarkscheines
Producer
 
1926 Madame wünscht keine Kinder
Producer
 
1925/1926 Metropolis
Director of photography
 
1925 Varieté
Director of photography
 
1925 Tartüff
Director of photography
 
1924 Der letzte Mann
Director of photography
 
1923/1924 Die Finanzen des Großherzogs
Director of photography
 
1923/1924 Michael
Cast, Director of photography
 
1923 Die Austreibung. Die Macht der zweiten Frau
Director of photography
 
1923 Die letzte Sensation des Zirkus Farini
Director of photography
 
1923 Der große Sensationsprozeß
Director, Director of photography
 
1922 Lucrezia Borgia
Assistant director (other), Director of photography
 
1922 Herzog Ferrantes Ende
Director of photography
 
1922 Tiefland
Director of photography
 
1921/1922 Kämpfende Welten
Director of photography
 
1921/1922 Der brennende Acker
Director of photography
 
1921 Der Mann aus Neapel
Director of photography
 
1921 Der Roman der Christine von Herre
Director of photography
 
1921 Der tote Gast
Director, Director of photography, Producer
 
1921 Der Schwur des Peter Hergatz
Director of photography
 
1921 Die Ratten
Director of photography
 
1921 Das Schicksal der Comtessa Dolores
Director of photography
 
1920/1921 Loge Nr. 11
Director of photography
 
1920/1921 Verlogene Moral
Director of photography
 
1920/1921 Marizza, genannt die Schmuggler-Madonna
Director of photography
 
1920/1921 Der verlorene Schatten
Director of photography
 
1920 Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam
Director of photography
 
1920 Katharina die Große
Director of photography
 
1920 Der Januskopf
Director of photography
 
1920 Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin
Director of photography
 
1920 Die Nacht auf Goldenhall
Director of photography
 
1920 Louise de Lavallière
Director of photography
 
1920 Die Frau im Delphin oder 30 Tage auf dem Meeresgrund
Director of photography
 
1919/1920 Satanas
Director of photography
 
1919/1920 Die Spinnen. 2. Teil: Das Brillantenschiff
Director of photography
 
1919/1920 Augen. Im Banne der Hypnose
Director of photography
 
1919/1920 Die Spinnen (2 Teile)
Director of photography
 
1919 Rausch
Director of photography
 
1919 Die Gesunkenen
Director of photography
 
1919 Die letzten Menschen. Die Arche. 2. Teil
Director of photography
 
1919 Die Arche
Director of photography
 
1919 Phantome des Lebens
Director of photography
 
1919 Die Prostitution, 2. Teil - Die sich verkaufen
Director of photography
 
1919 Die Welteroberer
Director of photography
 
1918/1919 Die Prostitution, 1. Teil - Das gelbe Haus
Director of photography
 
1918 Die blaue Laterne
Director of photography
 
1918 Das Maskenfest des Lebens
Director of photography
 
1918 Der tote Gast. Der Fall Rödern
Director of photography
 
1918 Auf Probe gestellt
Director of photography
 
1918 Die Dame, der Teufel und die Probiermamsell
Director of photography
 
1918 Die Sieger
Director of photography
 
1918 Das Geschlecht derer von Ringwall
Director of photography
 
1918 Agnes Arnau und ihre drei Freier
Director of photography
 
1918 Die Heimkehr des Odysseus
Director of photography
 
1917/1918 Edelsteine
Director of photography
 
1917 Gefangene Seele
Director of photography
 
1917 Die Faust des Riesen. 1. Teil
Director of photography
 
1917 Die Faust des Riesen. 2. Teil
Director of photography
 
1917 Höhenluft
Director of photography
 
1917 Gräfin Küchenfee
Director of photography
 
1917 Die Claudi vom Geiserhof
Director of photography
 
1917 Christa Hartungen
Director of photography
 
1917 Die Prinzessin von Neutralien
Director of photography
 
1916/1917 Die Ehe der Luise Rohrbach
Director of photography
 
1916/1917 Der Liebesbrief der Königin
Director of photography
 
1916 Die Räuberbraut
Director of photography
 
1916 Das wandernde Licht
Director of photography
 
1916 Gelöste Ketten
Director of photography
 
1916 Feenhände
Director of photography
 
1916 Bummelstudenten
Director of photography
 
1916 Abseits vom Glück
Director of photography
 
1916 Der Mann im Spiegel
Director of photography
 
1916 Der Ruf der Liebe
Director of photography
 
1915/1916 Frau Eva
Director of photography
 
1915 Der Hund von Baskerville: Das unheimliche Zimmer
Director of photography
 
1914/1915 Weisse Rosen
Director of photography
 
1914/1915 Die Tochter der Landstraße
Director of photography
 
1914/1915 Die ewige Nacht
Director of photography
 
1914/1915 Engeleins Hochzeit
Director of photography
 
1914/1915 Vordertreppe und Hintertreppe
Director of photography
 
1914-1916 Aschenbrödel
Director of photography
 
1914 Der Hund von Baskerville
Director of photography
 
1914 Das Feuer
Director of photography
 
1913/1914 Zapatas Bande
Director of photography
 
1913/1914 Das Kind ruft
Director of photography
 
1913/1914 Engelein
Director of photography
 
1913 Die Filmprimadonna
Director of photography
 
1913 S 1
Director of photography
 
1913 Die Suffragette
Director of photography
 
1913 Venezianische Nacht
Director of photography
 
1913 Die Firma heiratet
Assistant camera
 
1912 Pampulik hat Hunger
Director of photography
 
1912 Pampulik als Affe
Director of photography
 
1912 Pampulik kriegt ein Kind
Director of photography
 
1907 Der Hauptmann von Köpenick
Director of photography
 
1907 Das Lied von der Glocke
Director of photography