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Iowa History Daily: October 29 - Hope Emerson of Hawarden

Iowa History Daily: On October 29, 1897, actress, vaudevillian, nightclub performer, and strongwoman Hope Emerson was born in Hawarden. An imposing person physically, she stood 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed in at over 200 pounds.

After a childhood in northwestern Iowa, Emerson made her Broadway debut in “Lysistrata” in 1930 when theatrical producer Norman Bel Geddes cast her for the role of Lamputo, an Amazon. She made her film debut in “Smiling Faces” (1932) before returning to the theater briefly and voicing "Elsie the Cow" in radio commercials for Borden Milk.

One of Emerson's more memorable roles came as a circus strongwoman in the film “Adam's Rib” (1949), where she lifted an actor in the air. She also shined as a nefarious masseuse-conspirator in the noirish “Cry of the City” (1948), and as a mail-order bride in Westward the Women (1952). Emerson excelled as the sadistic prison matron Evelyn Harper in “Caged” (1950), a role that garnered her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

On television, Emerson enjoyed a regular role as ‘Mother’ on the detective series “Peter Gunn” (1958–1961), and received an Emmy nomination. Emerson left Peter Gunn for a starring role on the CBS sitcom “The Dennis O'Keefe Show” (1959–60). She appeared in every episode of its single season run but died 16 days before the final episode aired. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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