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Emma
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Movie Review | Emma (1932) | February 6, 1932 | Miss Dressler at Her Best. | By MORDAUNT HALL. | Published: February 6, 1932 | New York Times

Marie Dressler, whose film work has earned for her the highest praise throughout the English-speaking world, contributes another sterling portrayal, possibly her best, in "Emma," the present feature at the Capitol. The story may be sentimental and somewhat implausible at times, but it is by all odds the outstanding one in which this clever actress has appeared. Never for an instant is it lacking in interest while Miss Dressier is on the screen.

As Emma, a housekeeper in a widower's family who subsequently marries her employer, Miss Dressler aroused both laughter and tears from an audience yesterday afternoon. It is very funny when Emma is whirled about in a practice flying apparatus and it is affecting when in a closing sequence she leaves the family, of which she had so many years been the foster mother, to seek a new position. But at the end there is a note of cheer, for Emma is happy in mothering a new family.

Miss Dressler's impersonation is one of the finest character studies that has come to the screen. This Emma is a good-natured, utterly unselfish woman, whose only thought is for Frederick Smith and his family. She is especially devoted to Ronnie, who owes his life to this kindly creature. His mother dies after his birth.

There is a lapse of many years after Ronnie comes into the world and Frederick Smith, played by Jean Hersholt, prospers. One daughter, however, has married a French Count and she and her sister and older brother begin to resent Emma's familiarity toward them. They even go so far as to suggest that Emma wear a cap, which this fine woman scoffs at good-naturedly. She continues to discuss Ronnie's penchant for flying, of which she takes a tolerant view, with Frederick Smith, and then comes the day when for the first time in thirty years or more she decides to take a holiday.

There are some amusing scenes in a railroad station, with Smith looking after Emma, buying her ticket and checking her baggage. She is bound for Niagara Falls and before she leaves Smith proposes marriage to Emma and forthwith accompanies her on her trip and they are married.

Emma is a devoted wife, who is constantly admonishing her husband to take his medicine. Eventually he succumbs to heart disease and bequeaths all his worldly goods to Emma. This antagonizes all Emma's stepchildren, except Ronnie, and the hostile trio go so far as to accuse Emma of causing their father's death. Emma is acquitted of the charge, but her gratification is overshadowed at hearing of the death of Ronnie in a flying machine accident as he was speeding to her assistance from a hunting trip.

The court room scenes and the closing stretches are most moving. This Emma is singularly human, particularly in her love for Ronnie. Miss Dressler never falters in the pathos or humor of this tale. Mr. Hersholt is splendid as Frederick Smith and one can pardon his slight foreign accent on the ground that he has changed his name. Richard Cromwell, who did so well in the talking edition of "Tol'able David," is capable and sympathetic as Ronnie. Myrna Loy, John Miljan and Kathryn Crawford make the most of their respective rles.

"Whirligigs," a stage production directed by Arthur Knorr, with Shaw and Lee and others, precedes the pictorial attraction.

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