Benedict Freedman dies at 92; author and Occidental professor

After Benedict Freedman and his wife, Nancy, turned the true-life adventure of a teenager who married a Canadian Mountie into the bestselling 1947 novel “Mrs. Mike,” one reviewer theorized that the couple partly based the book’s happy marriage on their own.

The Freedmans collaborated well into their 80s, writing 10 books that included two late-in-life sequels to “Mrs. Mike,” which is still in print. It has appeared in 27 foreign editions and received the Hollywood treatment in a 1949 film of the same name starring Evelyn Keyes and Dick Powell.

Benedict Freedman, who also was a longtime mathematics professor at Occidental College, died Feb. 24 at a daughter’s home in Corte Madera, Calif., his family said. He was 92.

The Freedmans were inspired to write “Mrs. Mike” after meeting the former Katherine Mary O’Fallon, then a widow in her 50s, in 1945 in California. She shared her tale of being a young bride from Boston who married Sgt. Michael Flannigan of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a backcountry lifestyle in Canada.

They took off to “the real wilderness” and “made a wonderful life … through a lot of tragedy and trouble,” Benedict Freedman said of the Flannigans in 2002 in the Oakland Tribune.


Since the Freedmans couldn’t afford to travel to Canada, they did their research in the UCLA library.

In 1947, the Los Angeles Times called the “Mrs. Mike” book an “unforgettable story,” while a 1950 New York Times review of the film said the “affecting novel” had been turned into an “exhilarating” movie.

The couple’s other books include the romance “This and No More” (1950), the show-business novel “Lootville” (1957), and one of their favorites, “The Apprentice Bastard” (1966), a story about a man at an ethical crossroads.

Freedman was born Dec. 19, 1919, in New York City, to David Freedman, a writer for radio and Broadway, and his wife, Beatrice, a violinist.

At 13, Benedict enrolled at Columbia University after skipping several grades but dropped out at 16 to help support his family when his father died. He was soon writing comedy for radio personalities such as Red Skelton.

By 1940, Freedman was a writer at MGM Studios when he met Nancy, an aspiring actress. When they married in 1941, she was not expected to live long due to a weak heart. Nancy, who also penned novels on her own, died at 90 in 2010.

During World War II, Freedman was a stress analyst for Hughes Aircraft and later regularly wrote for television. His final credits were for the 1960s show “My Favorite Martian.”

In his late 40s, he enrolled at UCLA to pursue his lifelong goal of becoming a mathematician, earning a bachelor’s in 1968 and a doctorate in 1970. He joined Occidental’s mathematics department that same year and for several years ran the school’s general studies program.

After retiring in 1995, he moved from Malibu to Greenbrae, Calif., with his wife to be near family.

The year he turned 91, Freedman published “Rescuing the Future,” a tome of political philosophy that he considered his major lifework, his family said.

Freedman is survived by two daughters, Johanna Shapiro, director of the program in medical humanities at UC Irvine’s medical school, and Deborah Jackson, a UC Berkeley music professor; a son, Michael, a noted mathematician who works at Microsoft; eight grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and a sister.