I am still on a never ending quest to watch as many Myrna Loy films as I can possibly find. Emma is one of a handful of films of Loy’s that are available on DVD… but it is more for the fact that Marie Dressler is the star. The story is a bit soapy but I have to admit it is one that touches my heart.
Emma (Dressler) has been working for the Smith family for many, many years. After the death of the children’s mother when the youngest son Ronnie was born she has taken care of the children like they were her own. As much as she loves all of them her favorite one is Ronnie. He shows her the most affection and always plays little, caring games with her.
The father Fred Smith becomes a famous inventor and makes a lot of money. All the children except for Ronnie have become bitter and spoiled. They all take advantage of Emma and treat her not very nicely. In the thirty-two years she has worked for the family Emma has never taken a vacation so she finally decides to take one. Fred takes her to the station. She is nervous about going but once Fred mixes up his pills he has to take she wants to throw away her whole plan. To calm her down Fred goes with her and on the train he proposes. The vacation turns into a honeymoon but quickly turns when Fred’s heart gets worse and he dies.
Fred does not trust his children so he gives all his money and his home to Emma telling her that if the children ever need money they are to go to her. Ronnie of course has no issue with this and neither does the lawyer but the three other children do. They get their own lawyer and they make it seem as if Emma killed their father by giving him an overdose of his medication.
Emma beats the murder charges and even after all the three children have put her through she still loves them. With their tails between their legs they cry as she leaves the house and they beg her to stay but she tells them it is time for her to move on.
At the end she finds a family with very little money to pay her but there are a lot of little kids and a brand new baby to take care of. Emma could not have asked for anything better.
I liked the story even though it was sad. I felt terrible that after so many years of lovingly taking care of the children like they were her own that three of them could be so selfish and cruel to accuse Emma of murder. I could never imagine myself taking advantage of someone I love so much, I never would do that because I would never want someone to do that to me. I guess because I have a very loving family I could never hurt anyone of them. That aspect of the story with the three older children turning their backs on their surrogate mother like that made me so upset but at the same time that is what is supposed to make you sympathize with Emma and the fact that no matter how cruel they were she still loved and defended them without question.
I have never seen Marie Dressler in a film before and I liked her. She was a good actress. She had some really funny parts in the film that she was fantastic in. Myrna Loy wrote in her autobiography about Dressler: “Emma was fun because of her. she was a delight, a lovely woman, high-spirited and caring. I was crazy about her. She inspired awe, too, with her robust presence and extraordinary achievements.”
Myrna Loy plays Isabelle the oldest of the Smith children. She marries a French aristocrat and pretty much demands that Emma be more like the French servants that her husband is used to. Emma comes back and says she will be doing nothing of the sort which makes Isabelle mad. In one scene Loy has her back to Dressler and Dressler is speaking to her; you can see the evilness in Loy’s eyes and face to the point where it gives you chills. Her character was just so nasty that if I did not adore Loy as much as I do or know who she was I would have hated her so much. She tells an interesting story in her autobiography that Emma saved her from having to do the film Freaks. At this point in her career she was still trying to shake off the vamp/Asian image that she had been playing and she says that Irving Thalberg brought her over to the studio to be in Freaks. But again she was cast as a snotty, spoiled brat that she had also played before. Knowing her mostly as Nora Charles and “the perfect wife” it is always a bit unsettling seeing Loy play a mean character. But at the end when the children are saying goodbye to Emma you can see her great dramatic talent and feel sympathy for her.
Emma is a very nice film. I do not have one bad thing to say about this film it was funny and heart breaking and the acting by the entire cast was great.