Ma and Pa Kettle

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Ma and Pa Kettle
MaandPaKettle.jpg
CreatorBetty MacDonald
Original workThe Egg and I (book)
The Egg and I (film)
Films and television
FilmsMa and Pa Kettle
Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town
Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm
Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair
Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation
Ma and Pa Kettle at Home
Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki
The Kettles in the Ozarks
The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm
Miscellaneous
Portrayed byMarjorie Main (as Ma)
Percy Kilbride (as Pa)
DistributorUniversal International
 
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Ma and Pa Kettle
MaandPaKettle.jpg
CreatorBetty MacDonald
Original workThe Egg and I (book)
The Egg and I (film)
Films and television
FilmsMa and Pa Kettle
Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town
Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm
Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair
Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation
Ma and Pa Kettle at Home
Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki
The Kettles in the Ozarks
The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm
Miscellaneous
Portrayed byMarjorie Main (as Ma)
Percy Kilbride (as Pa)
DistributorUniversal International

Ma and Pa Kettle are comic film characters of the successful film series of the same name, produced by Universal Studios, in the late '40s and '50s. They are a hillbilly couple with fifteen children whose lives turn upside-down when they win a model-home-of-the-future in a slogan-writing contest. At the verge of getting their farm condemned, the Kettles move into the prize home that is different from their country lifestyle. After that, they are subjected to more unusual situations.

Originally based on real-life farming neighbors in Washington state, United States,[1] Ma and Pa Kettle were created by Betty MacDonald in whose 1945 best-selling novel, The Egg and I, they appeared. The success of the novel spawned the 1947 film The Egg and I starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, also co-starring Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride as Ma and Pa Kettle. Main was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role.[2]

After the audiences' positive reaction to the Kettles in the film, Universal Studios produced nine more films with Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride reprising their roles. The films grossed an estimated $35 million altogether at the box office[3] and are said to have saved Universal from bankruptcy.[3]

Premise[edit]

In the first film of the series, Ma and Pa Kettle, the family moves into a modern home with numerous electronic gadgets that Pa has won in a tobacco slogan-writing contest.[1] As the series continued, various reasons were devised to have the family relocate to the "old place", sometimes for extended periods of time. Much of the comedy is cornball humor arising from preposterous situations, such as Pa being mistaken for a wealthy industrialist ("P.A. Kettle" in Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki, 1955)[4] or being jailed after he accidentally causes racehorses to eat feed laced with concrete (Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair, 1952).[4]

Recurring characters in the series[edit]

Animals on the Kettles' farm[edit]

Bossie: Bossie is the Kettles' red and white milk cow, who provides Ma, Pa, and their family of fifteen children with plenty of milk. Most of the time, it is the older Kettle boys or even Pa's Indian friends, Geoduck and Crowbar who milk her. In "Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town", Pa is seen milking Bossie while listening to the music playing on the radio.

The Chickens: The Kettles keep a flock of nearly a hundred chickens on their broken-down farm, who provide them with hundreds of eggs each day. Sometimes, one or two of the hens would cause mischief towards the Kettles or other characters in the movies. In "Ma and Pa Kettle At Home", Ma Kettle's prized speckled hen is seen a few times laying eggs on Mannering's head or in his bowler hat.

Pa Kettle's team: Pa Kettle's team is an old draft horse named Emma and a white donkey wearing a straw hat, who pull Pa's wagon around the county. In "Ma and Pa Kettle At The Fair", Pa bought Emma to win a horse race at the county fair.

Nick: Nick is the Kettles' prized black bull. He spends most of his time living on the Kettles' farm, which is his main home, but in "Ma and Pa Kettle At Home", he sneaks out of the farm and lumbers towards the Maddocks' farm to visit one of John Maddocks' prize cows Bessie. He is often seen wearing a derby hat on his head, similar to the same type of hat that Pa Kettle wears.

The Goats: A herd of four white Saanen goats that live on the Kettles' farm. In "Ma and Pa Kettle At Home", they used to belong to John Maddocks, but he sold them to Pa Kettle for $100. The goats spend most of their time grazing around the farm, but the largest of them, a large buck with massive curved horns, often causes everyone trouble. In "Ma and Pa Kettle At Home", he butts Ma, then Mannering, and lastly Pa after they turn their backs to him. In "Ma and Pa Kettle Back On The Farm", he starts chewing on several sticks of dynamite that Pa bought to make a new well for Ma, but Pa keeps snatching them from him.

Agnes: Agnes is the Kettles' family Bluetick Coonhound, who also lives on the farm. She is often seen wearing a sweater that Ma Kettle made for her. In "Ma and Pa Kettle At Home", she produced a litter of puppies for the Kettles and their friends at their Christmas Eve party.

Films[edit]

Ma and Pa Kettle first appeared in supporting roles as neighbors in The Egg and I, starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert as a refined city couple who move to a rural chicken farm. Marjorie Main, a veteran character actress, played a hardy country woman in dozens of films, and so was a natural for the role of Ma Kettle. Main was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.[5] After the success of The Egg and I, she and Percy Kilbride starred in their own series of Ma and Pa Kettle movies, which became box-office bonanzas for Universal Pictures, having earned an estimated $35 million for the entire series.[3][6]

Original film poster

Kilbride retired after making Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki due to an automobile accident,[4] and the Pa Kettle character did not appear in The Kettles in the Ozarks. Arthur Hunnicutt played Pa's brother Sedgewick Kettle in that movie and in The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm, the last Kettle movie, Parker Fennelly played Pa Kettle.

The ten Kettle films are:

  1. The Egg and I - 1947
  2. Ma and Pa Kettle - 1949[7]
  3. Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town - 1950
  4. Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm - 1951
  5. Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair - 1952
  6. Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation - 1953
  7. Ma and Pa Kettle at Home - 1954
  8. Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki - 1955
  9. The Kettles in the Ozarks - 1956
  10. The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm - 1957

Later revivals[edit]

Betty MacDonald's characters Ma and Pa Kettle also appeared in television's first comedy serial, The Egg and I, which aired on CBS (September 3, 1951-August 1, 1952).[8] Each episode was only 15 minutes long. Ma Kettle was played by Doris Rich and Pa Kettle was played by Frank Twedell. Betty Lynn (better known as Barney Fife's girlfriend Thelma Lou from The Andy Griffith Show) played Betty MacDonald in some episodes, including "Pa Turns Over A New Leaf" (which aired on May 21, 1952). The role was usually played by Pat Kirkland. Another episode "The Purloined Jacket" starred Mary Perry as Cammy, Richard Carlyle as Joe Kettle, and William A. Lee as Ed Peabody.

The 1980 satire film Loose Shoes (which also starred Bill Murray) included a sketch called "A Visit With Ma and Pa" where Ma Kettle was played by Ysabel MacCloskey and Pa Kettle was played by Walker Edmiston.

Animator Walter Lantz produced a short-lived cartoon series for Universal Pictures called "Maw and Paw," though only four cartoons were released between 1953 and 1955. The characters Maw and Paw (voiced by Grace Stafford and Dal McKennon) were based on the characters of Ma and Pa Kettle. The spellings of Maw and Paw Kettle appeared in the 1945 book The Egg and I. Another Walter Lantz cartoon "The Ostrich Egg And I" (from the Maggie & Sam series) in 1956 was a spoof of The Egg and I with Maggie voiced by Grace Stafford and Sam voiced by Daws Butler.

In The Munsters episode "Family Portrait", a magazine writer makes a reference to the Kettles when he sees the Munster home, he says: "Let's see if Ma and Pa Kettle are home," implying that the Munsters' home resembled the Kettle farmhouse.[9]

DVD releases[edit]

The Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle Volume 1 [10]

as the first part of Universal's Franchise Collection series.

The Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle Volume 2 [11]

as the second part of Universal's Franchise Collection series.

The Further Adventures of the Kettles [12]

as a TCM Vault Collection presented by Universal Studios.

The Ma and Pa Kettle Complete Comedy Collection [13]

as a TCM Vault Collection presented by Universal Studios.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Fitzgerald, Michael G. (1977), Universal Pictures: A Panoramic History in Words, Pictures, and Filmographies, New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House Publishers, p. 67, ISBN 0-87000-366-6 
  2. ^ "Awards for The Egg and I - Internet Movie Database". Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Harkins, Anthony (2005) [2003]. Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195189506.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-518950-6. OCLC 656796911. Retrieved November 26, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Fitzgerald, p. 69
  5. ^ The Egg and I, Awards at Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ Main and Kilbride also appeared together in the 1948 Universal film "Feudin', Fussin' And A-Fightin", costarring Donald O'Connor and Joe Besser. Many have mistaken this movie to be a Kettle film. Main played Maribel Matthews and Kilbride played Billy Caswell.
  7. ^ Also known as The Further Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle
  8. ^ McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television. New York, NY: Penguin Books. p. 254. ISBN 0-14-024916-8. 
  9. ^ "Family Portrait" episode - The Munsters 1964, Kayro-Vue Universal Studios.
  10. ^ TCM Shopping: The Adventures Of Ma And Pa Kettle, Vol. 1, Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  11. ^ TCM Shopping: The Adventures Of Ma And Pa Kettle, Vol. 2, Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  12. ^ TCM Vault Collection: The Further Adventures of the Kettle, Retrieved January 26, 2011.
  13. ^ TCM Vault Collection: The Ma and Pa Kettle Complete Comedy Collection, Retrieved October 6, 2011.

External links[edit]