(NOTE: This biography is based on the 1945 version of the film; variations in subsequent versions of the film are noted in parenthesis. Also, information given in the book has been used to flesh out the biography, unless such information directly contradicts information given in the film.)
Emily Caroline Brent is born in England sometime in the 1870s and brought up in a very strict Church of England household. Most of her life is unrecorded, but it is known that she never marries. Emily's sister, however, does marry and produce a son, Peter (for some reason, Peter's last name is also Brent).
Peter is a wild youth, undisciplined and callous. Emily eventually has him committed to a reformatory, where he hangs himself some time later.
Some four or five years after Peter's death, Emily spends her summer holiday at the Bellhaven Guest House, where she meets a Miss Ogden and a Mrs. Oliver. Two years after that, Emily receives an invitation with a signature that is difficult to read, asking her to join a house party on Indian Island. Emily takes the signature to be that of Mrs. Oliver.
Upon arriving on Indian Island, Emily falls into conversation with Vera Claythorne, who introduces herself as their hostess' secretary. When Emily mentions Mrs. Oliver, Vera corrects her and names their hosts as Mr. and Mrs. Owen. Emily, surprised, states that she has never met anyone named Owen in her life.
Less than an hour later, a disembodied voice accuses all the guests, including Emily, of murder, and specifically names her nephew.
(The 1945 version of the film is the only full-length, English-language feature film in which Miss Brent appears. In later English-language versions of the film, the character is replaced with an actress. For more information, see the pages for characters Ilona Bergen, Ilona Morgan, and Marion Marshall.
The 1945 film also changes Emily Brent's "crime" from that of the novel. Originally, Emily Brent discharges a servant girl, Beatrice Taylor, who has become pregnant, and who subsequently drowns herself. Social mores of the 1940s kept this from the screen.)
In the 2005 version, she is the first victim of "Mr. Owen" (even before Morris), who did away with her and posed as her for most of the events on the island. Gabrielle Steele was an American actress who owned "Shipwreck Island" (as it is called in this version) after Mrs. Robson demanded to move back to the mainland; she bought the island after a well-publicized nervous breakdown forced her out of Hollywood. While in England, she fell in love with playwright Edward Seton, who committed suicide three days after being imprisoned by Wargrave and sentenced to death. Steele targeted Brent first for driving Beatrice Taylor to suicide as Wargrave did Seton, and used her attorney, Archibald Morris, to find information on more murderers never charged with their crimes, Wargrave included. Mirroring Seton's three days in prison, Steele spread the murders over three days to humiliate and rattle Wargrave, before bludgeoning him to death with the law book he had written. She is accidentally hanged when forced over the second floor railing into the noose she had prepared for Vera Claythorne.