Oscar Actors: Emerson, Hope–Background, Career, Awards, Cumulative Advantage

June 13, 2020

Hope Emerson Career Summary

Occup Inheritance: Yes; mother character actress

Social class:

Formal Education: West High School in Des Moines, Iowa

Stage Debut: age 33

Broadway Debut: 1930; age

Feature Debut: 1932; age 35

Oscar Nomination: Caged, 1950. age 53

Other Awards: Emmy nom

Screen Image: Physicality; strong butchy woman

Memorable Roles; Adam’s Rib; Cary and the City

Career Span:

Career Output:

Marriage: Never


Death: 1860; aged 62

An American actress, vaudeville and nightclub performer, Emerson was a giant of a woman, an imposing person physically, she weighed between 190 and 230 pounds (86 to 104kg) and stood six-feet-two-inches (188cm) tall in her prime.

Emerson was born October 29, 1897 in Hawarden, Iowa, to John Alvin and Josie L. (née Washburn) Emerson, the middle and only surviving child of three (her two siblings died in infancy).

She began her career at age 3, touring Iowa with her mother, a character actress.

After graduation from West High School in Des Moines in 1916, she moved to New York City, where she performed in vaudeville.

Broadway Debut:

Emerson made her Broadway debut in Lysistrata in 1930, when producer Norman Bel Geddes cast her for the role of Lamputo, an Amazon. She made her film début in Smiling Faces (1932) but then returned to the theater.

Film Debut:

In 1947, critic Brooks Atkinson praised her performance in “Street Scene.”

In the 1940s, Emerson was also known as the voice of “Elsie the Cow” in radio commercials for Borden Milk.

Some of Emerson’s more memorable roles were as a circus strongwoman in the film “Adam’s Rib” (1949), lifting actor Spencer Tracy up in the air; as a nefarious masseuse-conspirator in the noir “Cry of the City” (1948); and as a mail-order bride in “Westward the Women” (1952).

Her most famous character, however, was the sadistic prison matron Evelyn Harper in “Caged” (1950), a role that garnered her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.

On TV, Emerson guest-starred in “Housekeeper,” the final episode of the series It’s a Great Life, in which she plays a bossy housekeeper who temporarily takes charge while Amy Morgan (Frances Bavier) is away on vacation.

Emmy Nomination

She had a regular role as “Mother” on the detective series “Peter Gunn” (1958), for which she received an Emmy nomination.  She appeared on the CBS sitcom The Dennis O’Keefe Show (1959), starring with Dennis O’Keefe and Ricky Kelman.

She died during the run of “Peter Gunn” and was succeeded by Minerva Urecal, who bore strong resemblance to Emerson but was shorter.

Emerson died of liver disease at age 62 in Hollywood on April 24, 1960.

She never married or had children.

Oscar Alert:

In 1950, Emerson competed for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar with Celeste Holme and Thelma Ritter, both nominated for “All About Eve,” Josephine Hull (who won) in “Harvey,” and Nancy Olson in “Sunset Boulevard.”