After decades of raising the motherless Smith children, housekeeper Emma Thatcher is faced with resentment when she marries their father.



(story), (adaptation) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Mr. Smith
District Attorney
Purnell Pratt ...
Haskins (as Purnell B. Pratt)
Leila Bennett ...
Wilfred Noy ...
André Cheron ...
Count Pierre (as Andre Cheron)


When their mother dies in childbirth, Emma Thatcher who has been the nanny to his 3 children but now has an infant to care for. The children grow up and Frederick becomes rich and successful. He and Emma marry, as it turns out right before his death, and his will becomes a source of trouble between the children and Emma. Written by Rebecca Fennig <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She makes you LAUGH, She makes you CRY, but always makes you HAPPY!


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

2 January 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Emma die Stütze der Familie  »

Box Office


$350,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film was first telecast in Los Angeles Monday 22 April 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), but its New York City television premiere did not take place until 6 October 1958 on WCBS (Channel 2). See more »


When Ronnie drives up to the Smith mansion with his dog, the dog can be seen about to follow him out of the car. Ronnie calls the dog, and we see the dog sitting in the back seat as if he hadn't budged and then walking toward him. See more »


Isabelle as a Child: [to her brother] Don't be silly, Bill, storks don't bring babies!
Emma: Oh, you don't know anything about it.
Isabelle as a Child: Oh, don't I?
Emma: [turns around and glares at Isabelle]
See more »


Featured in MGM: When the Lion Roars (1992) See more »


Wiegenlied, Op. 49, No. 4 (Lullaby)
(1868) (uncredited)
Written by Johannes Brahms
Played when the children leave and at the end
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Marie Dressler Is Beautiful
12 August 2008 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

Hefty housekeeper Marie Dressler (as Emma) becomes the surrogate mother to a wealthy Long Island family, after their mother dies, giving birth to Richard Cromwell (as Ronnie). While helping her prepare for a well-deserved Niagara Falls vacation, family father Jean Hersholt (as Smith) startles Ms. Dressler by proposing marriage; and, the trip becomes a honeymoon. Back home, only Mr. Cromwell, Dressler's favorite "son", celebrates the marriage. The three other Smith children (George Meeker, Myrna Loy, and Barbara Kent) are furious; they feel the ailing Mr. Hersholt married a mere "servant", who will steal the family fortune.

This is Marie Dressler at her sentimental best; assisted by an apt MGM team, including Clarence Brown (director), Oliver Marsh (photographer), and Frances Marion (writer). Dressler won a "Best Actress" Academy Award" for a previous effort, "Min and Bill" (1930); however, her "Emma" is a stronger characterization. This more deserved "Best Actress" nomination became the Academy Awards' #2 choice for the 1931/32 eligibility period; in the voting, Dressler was just behind winner Helen Hayes (in "The Sin of Madelon Claudet"). Dressler should have won for "Emma", rather than "Min and Bill".

Richard Cromwell and Jean Hersholt might have been nominated as "Best Supporting Actors"; but, the category was not introduced until 1936 (Dressler would have likely won the 1929/30 award, in this category, for "Anna Christie"). Parts of "Emma" have not aged well, especially some of the early, yet important, scenes. But, its strengths make up for these weaknesses. Watch for the scene in which Dressler throws her ungrateful step-children out of the house. This is followed by a scene with Dressler being "haunted" by the "ghosts" of the little Smith children; it's an extraordinarily touching "special effect". And, it all works so well due to Dressler.

Dressler is unfairly called a "scene stealer"; most of the time, she was just very good. If you were good, you kept up with her. With material to work with, Dressler's co-stars are just as memorable. Note, how, in lesser roles, Cromwell and Hersholt compliment Dressler's "Emma" perfectly. Both Hersholt and Dressler play his "death scene" beautifully. And, Cromwell's one-word description of "Emma" is the film's most lingering. You won't forget it.

********* Emma (1/2/32) Clarence Brown ~ Marie Dressler, Richard Cromwell, Jean Hersholt, Myrna Loy

8 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Please, a DVD release of this wonderful film danielj_old999
DVD now available directly from Warner's webpage! simonhowson
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