Hope Emerson


Actor
Hope Emerson

About

Birth Place
Hawarden, Iowa, USA
Born
October 29, 1897
Died
April 24, 1960
Cause of Death
Liver Ailment

Biography

The 6'2" tall, 230-pound Hope Emerson, with her dark, curly hair, trademarked sidelong stares and grimly set mouth, may be primarily remembered for her unique and unforgettable physical presence. Most often cast in villainous roles in both comedy and drama, this giant and imposing figure could strike fear into any woman or man. Such memories, however, unjustly obscure the highly talented...

Biography

The 6'2" tall, 230-pound Hope Emerson, with her dark, curly hair, trademarked sidelong stares and grimly set mouth, may be primarily remembered for her unique and unforgettable physical presence. Most often cast in villainous roles in both comedy and drama, this giant and imposing figure could strike fear into any woman or man. Such memories, however, unjustly obscure the highly talented and surprisingly versatile actress inside.

Emerson began in vaudeville and on Broadway in the 1920s, and though some sources cite film credits from the 30s, the stage was her primary outlet through the Depression and WWII years. Given how starkly dramatic much of her screen work would be makes it all the more impressive that her specialty for this stage of her career was comedy. Emerson did not regularly work in films until the late 40s, first making her mark with a powerful performance as a crafty and murderous masseuse in Robert Siodmark's superb and unjustly overlooked film noir, "Cry of the City" (1948). After appearing in several other noteworthy noirs (e.g., "House of Strangers" and "Thieves' Highway," both 1949), she first really scored in film comedy as an hilarious circus strongwoman, tossing attorney Spencer Tracy about a courtroom in the fine battle-of-the-sexes romance, "Adam's Rib" (1949). Emerson reached another screen peak with her controlled, simmering yet terrifying performance as a sadistic prison matron in the cult classic, "Caged" (1950), which earned her an Oscar nod as Best Supporting Actress. As in "Cry of the City" and several other films, her roles did carry stereotypical lesbian connotations based on what was perceived as her "mannish" assertiveness and strength, but to her immense credit, Emerson neither avoided such suggestions nor did she indulge them to the point of caricature.

The 50s gradually represented a bit of a decline for Emerson in features, partly because of standardized casting in routine films ("Double Crossbones" 1951, as pirate Ann Bonney; "The Lady Wants Mink" 1953; "The Guns of Fort Petticoat" 1957) but also because of her considerable work in TV during that time. One remaining standout, though, was William Wellman's splendidly entertaining and remarkably pro-feminist Western, "Westward the Women" (1951), with Emerson excellent as one of a diverse group of women making an arduous cross-country journey to join their future husbands. She also seemed to be having a good time as an Italian duchess in a typical Bob Hope farce, "Casanova's Big Night" (1954).

On TV, Emerson appeared as one of the panelists on an early game show, "Quizzing the News" (ABC, 1948-49) and as Maw Shufflebottom, hillbilly host of the variety series, "Kobb's Corner" (CBS, 1948-49). One of her best remembered TV stints came as Minerva, fellow mischief maker and friendly neighbor to a scatterbrained Joan Davis in the first season of the hit sitcom, "I Married Joan" (NBC, 1952-53). Another sitcom Emerson tried at the same time, "Doc Corkle" (NBC, 1952), however, lasted less than a month. Guest appearances kept Emerson busy until she won an Emmy nomination for playing savvy night club owner 'Mother' for the first season of NBC's slick detective drama, "Peter Gunn" (1958-59). She left the series, though, and moved on to playing the hero's housekeeper, Sarge, on another sitcom "The Dennis O'Keefe Show" (CBS, 1959-60) just before her death.

Life Events

1948

Began working regularly in films beginning with her role in "Cry of the City"

1948

Appeared as a panelist on the ABC game show, "Quizzing the News"

1950

Received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her work in the film, "Caged"

1952

Played Nellie Corkle on the short-lived NBC sitcom, "Doc Corkle"

1958

Last films include "Rock-a-Bye Baby"

Photo Collections

The Guns of Fort Petticoat - Movie Posters
Here are a variety of movie posters for Columbia Pictures' The Guns of Fort Petticoat (1957), starring Audie Murphy and Kathryn Grant.

Videos

Movie Clip

All Mine To Give (1957) -- (Movie Clip) I'm Scottish! Immigrant frontiersman Eunson (Cameron Mitchell) awakened (by Hope Emerson) at the birth of his first child, mother Marnie (Glynis Johns) glowing, the grown boy (Rex Thompson narrating) then describing the first meeting with Cullen (Alan Hale Jr.), in RKO's All Mine To Give, 1957.
Caged (1950) -- (Movie Clip) Open, Pile Out You Tramps! Opening sequence is in the wagon carrying Marie (Eleanor Parker), Emma (Ellen Corby) and friends to prison, from director John Cromwell's seminal women-in-prison drama Caged, 1950.
Caged (1950) -- (Movie Clip) Presents For My Girls Fellow inmate Ann (Lynn Sherman) introduces new girl Marie (Eleanor Parker) to the all-kinds-of-scary matron Harper (Hope Emerson), in John Cromwell's prison drama Caged, 1950.
Guns Of Fort Petticoat -- (Movie Clip) Use Your Muscles Hewitt (Audie Murphy) stops rowdy Kettle (Sean McClory) fooling around, then organizes his Texan women-folk (Kathryn Grant, Hope Emerson, Patricia Livingston, Jeanette Nolan et al) against Indian attacks, in The Guns Of Fort Petticoat, 1957.
Guns Of Fort Petticoat -- (Movie Clip) Strongest Woman Of Them All Texan and Union cavalry deserter Frank Hewitt (Audie Murphy) tries to warn first Hanna (Hope Emerson) then boyish Ann (Kathryn Grant) about Indian revenge raids, in The Guns Of Fort Petticoat, 1957.
Westward The Women -- (Movie Clip) Weigh Anchor On Your Toes Life on the wagon train, Patience (Hope Emerson) with Rose (Beverly Dennis), Mrs. Maroni (Renata Vanni) with son Tony (Guido Martufi), guide Wyatt (Robert Taylor) with boss Whitman (John McIntire) and Ito (Henry Nakamura), in Westward The Women, 1952.

Trailer

Bibliography