A TRIBUTE TO HOPE EMERSON
"I was very lucky to have been the recipient of this archive of memories and information. I have yet to find any other collection anywhere of Cousin Hope's life nearly so bountiful. So much about her is forgotten; only her portrayals on film, which ARE present out there and quite motivating for a ton of film fans from around the world who have contacted me with thanks for the page. I was especially surprised to find so very many film buffs in France who are quite taken by her. She deserves the recognition, albeit posthumous."
Cousin Hope was a BIG star!...REALLY!
Six foot-2 inches tall, 230 plus pounds of womanhood.
(At least, at one time. In later years, she trimmed it down to 190)
She had an imposing presence on stage, even with male co-stars.
She played quite a few roles on stage and film which utilized those size-assets, probably the most memorable and effective being as Evelyn Harper, the viciously corrupt, bullying guard at a women's prison in the 1950 movie "Caged".
Check out this review/synopsis of CAGED:
Director: John Cromwell
Cast: Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead, Ellen Corby, Hope Emerson
Caged, considered the best woman's prison film ever made, represents a union between realistic socially conscious drama and the more stylized world of film noir. Marie, (Eleanor Parker), is sentenced to prison for helping her husband in a small robbery. The prison is run by the sadistic matron Evelyn (Hope Emerson) who is secure in her position due to corrupt political influence. The film shows Marie's slow disillusionment with society and her eventual decision to become a prostitute in order to gain parole after observing her friend and fellow inmate Kitty (Betty Garde) lose her sanity and murder their oppressor Evelyn. With this uncompromisingly pessimistic statement on human nature, John Cromwell reaches his peak as a director. Under his expert direction, Eleanor Parker gives the best performance of her career and creates a convincing metamorphosis from a innocent young girl to a hardened criminal. Her performance is nuanced, low-keyed and emotionally charged. Equally impressive is Cromwell's visual realization of the claustrophobia of prison life, aided by the high-contrast photography of Carl Guthrie. This excellent, grim drama is uncompromising in its refusal to sentimentalize the plight of Marie as a victim or to absolve her of her role in her fate, nor does it absolve society as it shows the results of desperation and brutalization on human dignity. ~ Linda Rasmussen, All Movie Guide
A parenthetic moment:
I am rather certain that "Caged" was, at one point in it's development, originally to be entitled "Locked In".
Two bases for this; I have some photos that not many folks have.
These photos are 8x10 black and white "studio stills" from Warner Brother's Studios.
I ended up with these photos because Hope's mother (Josie) and my great-grandmother (Rose) were sisters. I got these photos from my "Gram". Several of the photos from "Caged", which you will see later on this page, have printed on the back, a reference to "The Warner Brother's movie 'Locked In' ".
They ARE set-shots from the movie we know as "Caged".
AND...an astute and knowledgeable fan of film was kind enough to write to me with some information, one bit of which is confirmation from several other sources that "Caged" WAS, in fact, originally intended to be "Locked In". [ Thank you, James! ]
("Studio stills" are photos taken during the filming of a movie, to be used for promos and other purposes, one of which was that they were often used as a reference for consistency and continuity of the film itself. It was an easier way to reference the previous day's shoot without having to develop the movie's film itself, to make sure that the movie set was set-up the same, costuming was the same, actors were in the same positions, which actors were in the scene...or that hair was set or brushed the same. Occasionally in movies, if these details aren't watched closely, the final product on that big silver screen might show some strange and often funny inconsistencies when we see two scenes transition to reveal something like a clock on the wall with the incorrect time or an actor with or without a jacket on...or wearing a different tie or hat)
Hope was born in Hawarden (pronounced: "Hay-warden") , Iowa, on October 29, 1897. Mother Josie coaxed Hope onstage at about three years of age to do a "cakewalk"; a promenade or march, of Black American origin, in which participants with the most intricate or eccentric steps received cakes as prizes...basically, a dance with a strutting step. Maybe a parallel in today's life would be a Break-Dance competition or such.
Before Hope was born, Josie was onstage in a troup called Angels Comedians. Hope appeared over the years with Josie.
In Hope's earliest years, Josie left the stage for a while selling needlework and dressmaking to pay for piano lessons for Hope, to ready Hope for performing. Dad worked for the railroad.
A schoolmate once reminded Hope that she really started a growth-spurt at about age eleven...eliciting comments from the boys such as, "Your ankles are having a party and they're inviting your skirt down.".
The family moved to Des Moines in Hope's senior year of High School, where she got a job playing piano at a ten-cent store to promote the sales of sheet music. In those years, a ten-cent store was about as close to a K-mart or Wal-Mart as you would find. Many retail operations would sell sheet music, which was the actual printed music, generally just for the piano. The public didn't have much in the way of recorded music. To enjoy the hits of the day, you would go out and buy the sheet music, take it home...or wherever....and read the music to play it on the piano. No i-Pods, folks.
Hope would often go to Sioux City to see shows, one performer being the musical comedy star Fred Stone. Little did she know at the time that she herself would, in several years, be playing opposite Stone on stage.
In speaking of the years when she played piano in bars and clubs, Hope said, "I not only played and sang blues, but I also had to toss the piano around a bit to amuse the patrons.".
...BIG girl, my Cousin Hope!
Producer Billy House, when he chanced upon her talents, hired her and wrote her first vaudeville act, JUNE AND BUCKEYE, which ran for three years.
She worked for a while with Professor Caruthers, a stage mystic and hypnotist. Hope would be given coded hand signals from her mother as to what to play when Caruthers would have a tune whispered to him by someone in the audience, convincing everyone that Caruthers had the mystical powers to mysteriously convey to his pianist, the tune secretly requested by that audience member. Ahh...the memorable experiences of stage work.
Also quite memorable was the time she ROWED TO THE THEATER to perform during the 1937 flood in Louisville, Kentucky.
And once, she stepped out of her door of her rooming house and stumbled over a murdered man.
Fellow actor Miriam Hopkins said of herself and Hope, "We were the littlest and the biggest!", referencing a production of Lysistrata, where Hope played Lampido the leader of the Amazon women. She would actually pick men up...over her head and spin them around.
Paula Stone, with whom she performed in "Smiling Faces", said that one of her biggest memories of Hope was that Hope was forever running late to catch trains. Paula vividly remembered Hope running down the railway platform, clutching her coat closed at the top over her pajamas, waving an alarm clock over her head....blaming the whole problem on the clock.
In 1935, her father passed away. About the same time, her mother's health diminished and Josie ended up in a wheelchair.
Always the devoted daughter, Hope always took her mother with her to keep her a part of her life.
Hope had her share of gentlemen trying for her affections and her hand in marriage, but she never married.
One particular moment in the various courtings, a young man invited her to come to dinner at his parent's home. A chicken was being stewed for the Sunday dinner. Hope went upstairs to the bathroom. She was not made aware of the fact that some work was being done on the floor in that smallest room in the house. She went through the floor.
Her feet were in the kitchen, over the stove... and her body was still upstairs...plaster all over her AND the chicken.
Her new boy friend then took her home.
Other performances by Hope were as a woman blacksmith in "Swing Your Lady", The Duchess of Castelbello in "Casanova"s Big Night", Roseanna McCoy in "House of Strangers" and playing opposite the likes of Victor Mature, Shelley Winters and Richard Conte in "Cry of The City".
She appeared in a wide variety of early sitcoms and dramas, which you can reference at the end of this page.
One short-lived part was as Minerva, a neighbor to Joan in "I Married Joan".
Click here to see it.
Edwards would, each week, throw the element of surprise at an unsuspecting celebrity who had been lured under false pretences to the theatre. They would be called to the stage, on LIVE T.V. and friends, family and associates would come out to reminisce.
That show was #72, aired on January 13, 1954.
There, Richard Conte spoke of how gentle and sweet Hope was in real life that when it came time, in the movie, for her to choke him....really throttle him good...she had trouble throwing herself into the part.... at first.
Hope's mother worked with the production staff for several months to flesh out details for her daughter's big surprise show but passed away before the show's realization.
Before "Gram" passed away, we contacted Ralph Edwards Productions to see if there were any tapes available of that show. After signing an affadavit attesting to the fact that Gram was Hope's closest living relative, they were kind enough to send us that tape.
It is a hoot! Aside from providing some valuable information presented herein, it was an educational scream to re-experience the comparitively horrendous level of TV production available in those early, Golden Years of television.
JOSIE died on March 21st, 1953, according to a "Remembrance Ceremony" note I have.
There IS the possibility that any information on this page might hold some inaccuracies.
I would NOT have applied it to this site if I did not BELIEVE it to be true.
I welcome any corrections if anyone knows some facts contrary to what I am presenting.
Additionally, if ANYONE out there knows ANYTHING about or related to my Cousin Hope, please let me know:
Family history, dates, additions to the filmography noted at the end of this page, interesting anecdotes...anything...
contact me through the email link at the end of this page. Hope was a very sweet and interesting lady, based on everything I know. I would like to be as comprehensive a possible.
The first two photos below are of Hope's mother, Josie Washburn. The photos appear to be when Josie was in her twenties...maybe even her late teens...dunno. Hope was born in 1897, so these photos were taken POSSIBLY as early as the 1880's, depending on several unknown facts.
Josie was a stage performer and Hope was with her on stage, as a child, during the vaudeville years.
Note the tambourine that Josie is holding.
In these next two photos, Josie is on the left and left rear, respectively.
Josie's sister Rose, my Great Grandmother, with Dr. Mann (whoever the heck HE was).
As I recall in the old stories, Rose spent SOME time out on stage, but just didn't pursue that direction as much as did Josie.
...and Hope, in the earliest photo I have of her.
Next, she's already coming off as showy.
Hope, in the rear, over Josie's left shoulder...and Clara, Burt Emerson's first wife.
I believe that Burt would have been a brother of Hopes father, John (Jack).
I have an old pocketwatch of Burt's...it is SO cool...runs great.
Hope...guess which one SHE is...with her friends of, pretty much, the same age.
She was a LONG drink of water!
"Hope and Jack, taken at the box office of tent", it says on the back of the photo.
Josie and Hope on stage
...and various individual shots of cousin Hope at various points in her life.
(photo courtesy of David)
From Kurt Weill's operatic version of Elmer Rice's "Street Scene" (1946)
...with Lee J. Cobb and Richard Conte in "Thieves Highway"
...with Richard Conte in "Cry of The City" (1948)
...with William Powell in "Dancing In The Dark" (1949)
As Levisa Hatfield in "Roseanna McCoy"
...from Westward The Women
...in her Academy Awards nominated role as Eveln Harper in "Caged" aka "Locked In" (1950)
Hope, as Miss Esther Flintridge, from the second episode of "The Bob Cummings Show" a/k/a "Love That Bob". With her are actor El Brendel and Ingrid Goude, Miss Sweden of 1956.
(Thanks again to James for this info)
...to my grandmother, Una at Christmas in 1954
...and with her Afghan Hound, Lisa, in 1958
...with Lisa on Hope's last Christmas
Hope died on April 25, 1960 at age 62 in Hollywood, California.
She was interred in Grace Hill Cemetery in her hometown, Hawarden, Iowa
A little additional pictorial insight into Cousin Hope's life:
Pictured below is Hope's grandfather, George Washburn.
One photo is notated on the back as George West and wife.
Another, is notated "George West" (with the 'West' crossed out and 'Washburn' written in.
Hmmmm! Why the name change? Was there some nefarious or questionable past?...or he just liked "Washburn" better?
On the backs of each of these:
"G.G. Washburn, Father of Josie, Rose & Ben"...
"Hope's Maternal grandparents Geo. West and Wife"...
Hope's Maternal Grandfather, George West (with the West crossed out) Washburn (written in)
And here is a real "Dandy" of the time...the distinguished B.E.Washburn, MD
Ben was Josie and Rose's brother.
I have done the beginnings of some research on him, the findings suggesting that Ben may have emigrated to the North Carolina area in the early 1900's, making his mark at least a little...with other suggestions of a presence in the State of New York.
At present, this info is inconclusive.
Below, a picture-postcard of Dr. Ben's car.
Then, the reverse, with a message to my maternal grandmother, Una.
HER mom, Rose, was the sister of Hope's mom, Josie...with Ben being THEIR brother.
Gram was or was becoming a nurse at that time, so I guess that is why Dr. Ben tells Una (Gram) that she could go with him to "make his calls".
And just because these shots are just...SO classic, two photos of Edith Rose, Josie's sister.
In the high school graduation photo, Rose is on the far right.
********Filmography of Hope Emerson********
"General Electric Theater" .... Ada (1 episode, 1959)
.. aka G.E. Theater (USA: informal short title)
.. aka G.E. True Theater (USA: new title)
- Night Club (1959) TV episode .... Ada
"Peter Gunn" .... Mother / ... (22 episodes, 1958-1959)
- Bullet for a Badge (1959) TV episode .... Mother
- The Family Affair (1959) TV episode .... Mother
- Love Me to Death (1959) TV episode .... Mother
- Skin Deep (1959) TV episode .... Mother
- Breakout (1959) TV episode .... Mother
"The Dennis O'Keefe Show" .... Amelia 'Sarge' Sargent (1 episode, 1959)
- The Marriage of Babette Benoit (1959) TV episode .... Amelia 'Sarge' Sargent
"Death Valley Days" (1 episode, 1958)
... aka Call of the West (USA: syndication title)
... aka The Pioneers (USA: syndication title)
... aka Trails West (USA: syndication title)
... aka Western Star Theater (USA: syndication title)
- Big Liz (1958) TV episode
Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958) .... Mrs. Rogers, the instructor at child care clinic
"Playhouse 90" .... Mrs. Downey (1 episode, 1958)
- The Innocent Sleep (1958) TV episode .... Mrs. Downey
"Studio One" .... Mrs. Bascomb / ... (3 episodes, 1955-1958)
... aka Studio One Summer Theatre (USA: summer title)
... aka Studio One in Hollywood (USA: new title)
... aka Summer Theatre (USA: summer title)
... aka Westinghouse Studio One (USA)
... aka Westinghouse Summer Theatre (USA: summer title)
- The McTaggart Succession (1958) TV episode .... Rosie McTaggart
- A Likely Story (1955) TV episode .... Mrs. Bascomb
- Millions of Georges (1955) TV episode .... Mrs. Flower
All Mine to Give (1957) .... Mrs. Pugmire
... aka The Day They Gave Babies Away (UK)
"Goodyear Television Playhouse" .... Caroline Barnes (1 episode, 1957)
... aka Goodyear Playhouse (USA: new title)
- The House (1957) TV episode .... Caroline Barnes
The Guns of Fort Petticoat (1957) .... Hannah Lacey
"The Kaiser Aluminum Hour" .... Mrs. Quincy (1 episode, 1957)
- So Short a Season (1957) TV episode .... Mrs. Quincy
"Medic" .... Clara Mary Gallagher (1 episode, 1956)
- The Glorious Red Gallagher (1956) TV episode .... Clara Mary Gallagher
"The 20th Century-Fox Hour" .... Ma Grier (1 episode, 1955)
.. aka Fox Hour of Stars (USA: rerun title)
- The Ox-Bow Incident (1955) TV episode .... Ma Grier
Untamed (1955) .... Maria DeGroot
"Schlitz Playhouse of Stars" .... Keziah Potter (1 episode, 1954)
... aka Herald Playhouse (USA: syndication title)
... aka Schlitz Playhouse (USA: new title)
... aka The Playhouse (USA: syndication title)
- The Whale on the Beach (1954) TV episode .... Keziah Potter
Casanova's Big Night (1954) .... Duchess of Castelbello
"Medallion Theatre" (1 episode, 1954)
- The Teacher (1954) TV episode
Champ for a Day (1953) .... Ma Karlsen
A Perilous Journey (1953) .... Olivia Schuyler
The Lady Wants Mink (1953) .... Mrs. Hoxie
"I Married Joan" .... Minerva Parker (1 episode, 1952-1953)
- Pilot (1952) TV episode .... Minerva Parker
"Doc Corkle" (1952) TV series
Westward the Women (1951) .... Patience Hawley
Belle Le Grand (1951) .... Emma McGee
Double Crossbones (1951) .... Mistress Ann Bonney
Copper Canyon (1950) .... Ma Tarbet
Caged (1950) .... Evelyn Harper
Dancing in the Dark (1949) .... Mrs. Schlaghammer
Adam's Rib (1949) .... Olympia La Pere
Roseanna McCoy (1949) .... Levisa Hatfield
Thieves' Highway (1949) .... Midge, a buyer
House of Strangers (1949) .... Helena Domenico
"Kobb's Corner" (1948) TV series .... Host (1948-49) (unknown episodes)
That Wonderful Urge (1948) (uncredited) .... Mrs. Riley, Tyler's Landlady
Cry of the City (1948) .... Rose Given
Object Not Matrimony (1935)
Challenge the Wilderness (1951) .... Herself
"Toast of the Town" .... Herself (1 episode, 1948)
... aka The Ed Sullivan Show (USA: new title)
- Episode #2.14 (1948) TV episode .... Herself
"Caged" (1950) with Eleanor Parker.
"Westward the Women" (1951)
"Smiling Faces" (1932)
"Cry of the City" (1948)
"That Wonderful Urge" (1948)
"House of Strangers" (1949)
"Thieve's Highway" (1949)
"Roseanna McCoy" (1949)
"Dancing in the Dark" (1949)
"Adam's Rib" (1949)
"Copper Canyon" (1950)
"Double Crossbones" (1951)
"Belle Le Grand" (1951)
"The Lady Wants Mink" (1953)
"A Perilous Journey" (1953)
"Champ for a Day" (1953)
"Casanova's Big Night" (1954)
"Guns of Fort Petticoat" (1957)
"All Mine to Give" (1957)
"Rock-a-Bye Baby" (1958)
On TV she appeared as Minerva Parker on "I Married Joan" (1952-53); as Sarge on "The Dennis O'Keefe Show" (1959-60) and as Mother on "Peter Gunn" (1958-59); she also hosted "Kobb's Corner" (1948-49)
Sumshee Urszula Kirken
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is Copyright © by Sumshee Kirken