Zasu Pitts, another prolific character actor from Hollywood’s golden age, had a career that lasted from the silent era to television of the early 1960s. She estimated that she appeared in 500 films, and I’m sure she forgot quite a few of the titles. But when one appeared in my mailbox, courtesy of Netflix, I appreciated the chance to see her do a star turn. In “So’s Your Aunt Emma” from 1942, she plays a the title character, who gets involved with a young boxer (as a mentor) and some gangsters in Chicago.
This low-budget entry from Monogram Pictures, a B-Movie studio, reminded me of the original Superman TV series, with lots of stilted dialogue and thug violence. It’s hard to imagine now how much Zasu Pitts had audiences rolling in the aisles, but she’s playing a clever country bumpkin type and that really played well in the 1940s. Back then, I’m told, there really was a big difference between urban and rural areas.
I wonder what Quentin Tarantino would think of this film. He likes formula or genre pictures. This film fits nicely into the low budget, boxing, country bumpkin, fish out of water genre — and it has violence and gunfire. Tarantino said he decided to get into filmmaking when he saw “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein” from Universal International Pictures in 1948. Although Abbot and Costello played it for laughs, the monster really does commit horrific acts of violence. But So’s Your Aunt Emma is not campy horror, it’s a film about double-crossing gangsters and a fearless old lady. Thankfully, it lasts only about an hour.