She had a brief, but significant career. And she married into the First Family.
She is remembered today primarily because she was among the first Hollywood big screen actresses to make a big splash on early small-screen tv, becoming through a multitude of appearances one of the medium’s most popular and most glamorous hosts.
Among other things, Faye Emerson, born in 1917 in deep south Louisiana, was the first woman to host a late night tv talk show, The Faye Emerson Show, which ran for three seasons on CBS.
Her film career was not extensive by classic Hollywood standards — just 47 credits over a 20-year period. But Emerson made the most of her screen roles pleasing audiences with both her glamorous look and assured acting.
She spent five years at Warner Bros. were she costarred with the likes of John Garfield, Van Johnson, Gig Young, Dennis Morgan and Helmut Dantine. We like her in 1944’s Mask of Dimitrios opposite Zachary Scott, and that incomparable screen duo of Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet. Emerson nicely handles her role as an international woman of mystery.
We like her in a little-seen film featured on Eddie Muller’s film noir showcase on TCM. The picture is 1945’s Danger Signal, costarring Scott (again) and Mona Freeman. It’s a knockoff of sorts of Mildred Pierce combined with Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, about an itinerant cad who preys on unsuspecting women.
Emerson plays a somewhat mousy stenographer (although with obvious glamour potential) whom Scott romances while secretly arranging trysts with the woman’s younger sister (Freeman). Her character seriously considers poisoning the cad, but things work out differently in the movie’s abrupt ending.
One reason they did was that the Production Code at the time insisted that a movie murderess had to meet an unpleasant end to pay for her deed.
Complicating things when the movie was made was Emerson’s engagement to her second husband, Elliot Roosevelt, the fourth child of Eleanor and Franklin. It wouldn’t do to have the future wife of a Roosevelt depicted onscreen as a murderess. (See Danger Signal to find out how its plot was resolved.)
That’s Faye (above) with Roosevelt. The marriage lasted six years, produced two children and effectively ended Emerson’s Hollywood career. Her life was now centered on the East Coast — she and her husband lived at the White House for a time — where she over time gradually eased into a stage career that lasted until the late Fifties.
And then there was television. In addition to her own talk show, Emerson became almost a regular on such shows as Leave It To The Girls and Who Said That?
She also took on dramatic parts in Studio One, Ford Theater and Goodyear Playhouse. She is perhaps best remembered for her panelist stints on I’ve Got A Secret. For a time she also shared the spotlight with her third husband, bandleader Skitch Henderson, (whom she wed in 1950) on Faye and Skitch.
The marriage to Henderson lasted seven years, after which Emerson remained single. She died of stomach cancer in Mallorca, Spain in 1983 at the age of 65.
She had quite a career.