27 August 2008 | blanche-2
I saw "Emma" as a child over 50 years ago. I only remembered three scenes in it and never knew the names of the stars or the name of the film, for that matter. Thanks to IMDb, I was able to go on one of the message boards and find out the name of the film and that the star "who was a Marie Dressler type" as I recalled was indeed Marie Dressler (what instincts I had, even in childhood). I was just able to actually see the film on TCM. I'd love to know why it is we remember certain phrases and scenes growing up - the parts I remembered in "Emma" were exactly as I recalled them.
"Emma" is the story of a housekeeper who cares for a motherless family, actually raising the youngest, Ronnie (Richard Cromwell) when his mother dies in childbirth. The entire family is very dependent upon her. Mr. Smith (Jean Hersholt) over the years becomes very wealthy as an inventor, so his kids grow up in wealth and, with the exception of Ronnie, become horrific, ungrateful brats. Emma, of course, thinks they're wonderful and is blind to their faults. When Emma leaves for her first vacation, Mr. Smith accompanies her to the station, buys an extra ticket for Niagara Falls and proposes. The two enjoy their time there, but it's to be their only time as man and wife. Mr. Smith's chronically bad heart gives out, and he dies. All of his money is left to Emma with the proviso that she take care of the children, who would squander every cent unsupervised. The children (Myrna Loy, Kathryn Crawford and George Meeker) assume Emma is going to take all of the money for herself. To break the will, they accuse her of murdering their father. Emma is put on trial for murder. Ronnie is away in the wilds of Canada and doesn't learn about this until the trial is underway.
This is such a sweet story, buoyed by the magnificent performance of Marie Dressler. What an actress! Warm, strong and honest, she pulls at your heart. The very handsome Richard Cromwell, Angela Lansbury's first husband, is the adorable and adored Ronnie, and he gives an energetic performance. Cromwell had an interesting life. Not only did he enjoy some years as an actor in A productions, but he was a successful artist his entire life. Eventually, he opened his own studio. After years out of films, he was scheduled to make one, but withdrew when he was diagnosed with cancer. Jean Hersholt is excellent as Mr. Smith. Myrna Loy as one of the brat kids is absolutely stunning, though she doesn't have much to do except to act stuck-up.
Highly recommended. Any movie that can stay in your mind and heart for over 50 years has something going for it. Emma had several things, the best being Marie Dressler.