Emma Tansey was in her mid 40s when she began her film career as a character actress in 1914. She was still at it when she died in 1942 in her 70s. Most of her time spent on film was as “Old Woman” or “Sweet Old Lady” or most often just “Old Lady.”
She played Mrs. Delaney in “Meet John Doe” (1941) and kisses Gary Cooper’s hand in gratitude. She was a peasant woman in “Les Miserables” (1935), and bought a bus ticket for the incognito Claudette Colbert in “It Happened One Night” (1934). In “The Bank Dick” (1940) she was Old Woman on Bench.
Mrs. Tansey’s three sons also became film actors, and writers and directors, mostly in B-westerns. She played in a fair amount of westerns herself, but went on to appear in modern films as well. She was one of the many character actresses who took the crumbs from the opulent table of Hollywood’s dream factory. One imagines her few scenes in these films paid some bills and kept her alive. One hopes her work gave her pleasure as well. Hers is a face I love picking out in a crowd scene.
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