Marjorie Main

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Marjorie Main

as Ma Kettle in Ma and Pa Kettle On Vacation (1953)
BornMary Tomlinson
(1890-02-24)February 24, 1890
Acton, Indiana, U.S.
DiedApril 10, 1975(1975-04-10) (aged 85)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1916–1959
Spouse(s)Stanley LeFevre Krebs
(1921–1935; his death)
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Marjorie Main

as Ma Kettle in Ma and Pa Kettle On Vacation (1953)
BornMary Tomlinson
(1890-02-24)February 24, 1890
Acton, Indiana, U.S.
DiedApril 10, 1975(1975-04-10) (aged 85)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1916–1959
Spouse(s)Stanley LeFevre Krebs
(1921–1935; his death)

Marjorie Main (February 24, 1890 – April 10, 1975) was an American character actress, mainly at MGM, perhaps best known for her role as Ma Kettle in a series of ten Ma and Pa Kettle movies.[1]


Early life

Born Mary Tomlinson in Acton, Indiana, Main attended Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana, and adopted a stage name to avoid embarrassing her father, Samuel J. Tomlinson (married to Jennie L. McGaughey), who was a minister. She worked in vaudeville on the Chautauqua and Orpheum Circuits, and debuted on Broadway in 1916. Her first film was A House Divided in 1931.[2][3]


Main began playing upper class dowagers, but was ultimately typecast in abrasive, domineering, salty roles, for which her distinct voice was well suited. She repeated her stage role in Dead End in the 1937 film version, and was subsequently cast repeatedly as the mother of gangsters. She again transferred a strong stage performance, as a dude ranch operator in The Women, to film in 1939.

Main was signed to a MGM contract in 1940, and stayed with the studio until the mid-1950s. She made six films with Wallace Beery in the 1940s including Barnacle Bill (1941), Jackass Mail (1942), and Bad Bascomb (1946).[4] She played Sonora Cassidy, the chief cook, in The Harvey Girls (1945). The director, George Sidney, says in the comments on the film that Miss Main was a "great lady" as well as a great actress who donated most of her paychecks over the years to the support of a school.

Perhaps her most famous role is that of "Ma Kettle", which she first played in The Egg and I in 1947 opposite Percy Kilbride as "Pa Kettle". She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the part and portrayed the character in nine more Ma and Pa Kettle films.[4]

By the early 1950s, she had appeared in a majority of MGM musicals, including, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Belle of New York and It's a Big Country. In 1954, Marjorie Main played her last roles for the studio; Mrs. Hittaway in The Long, Long Trailer and Jane Dunstock in Rose Marie. In 1956, Main was well-received as The Widow Hudspeth in the hit film Friendly Persuasion.

In 1958, Main appeared twice as rugged frontierswoman Cassie Tanner in the episodes "The Cassie Tanner Story" and "The Sacramento Story" on NBC's western television series, Wagon Train. In the first segment, she joins the wagon train, casts her romantic interest on Ward Bond as Major Adams, and helps the train locate needed horses despite a Paiute threat. George Chandler guest stars as Cleveland McMasters in the first segment. In 1964, she appreared on an episode of Perry Mason.

Personal life and death

Main married Stanley LeFevre Krebs, who died in 1935.

In 1974, a year before her death, Main attended the Los Angeles premiere of the MGM compilation film, That's Entertainment. It was her first public appearance since she retired from films in 1958. At the post-premiere party, she was greeted with cheers of enthusiasm from the crowd of spectators. She died of lung cancer on April 10, 1975 at St. Vincent's Hospital in Los Angeles, where she had been admitted on April 3, at the age of 85.[5] She is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.[6]

Her name is listed on her headstone as Mrs. Mary Tomlinson Krebs, with her stage name Marjorie Main underneath.


Partial filmography

1932Hot SaturdayGossip in WindowUncredited
1933New Deal RhythmDelegate from ArizonaUncredited
1934Music in the AirAnna
1937Stella DallasMrs. Martin
1938Test PilotLandlady
1938Three ComradesOld Woman by PhoneUncredited
1938Girls' SchoolMiss Honore Armstrong
1938Little Tough GuyMrs. Boylan
1938Too Hot to HandleMiss Kitty Wayne
1939They Shall Have MusicMrs. Miller
1939The Angels Wash Their FacesMrs. Arkelian
1939Another Thin ManMrs. Dolley, Landlady Chestevere Apartments
1939The WomenLucy, Dude Ranch Owner
1940I Take This WomanGertie
1940Dark CommandMrs. Cantrell, aka Mrs. Adams
1940TurnaboutNora - the Cook
1940Susan and GodMary MaloneyAlternative title: The Gay Mrs. Trexel
1941The Trial of Mary DuganMrs. Collins
1941A Woman's FaceEmma Kristiansdotter
1941The Shepherd of the HillsGranny Becky
1941Honky TonkMrs. Varner
1942The Bugle SoundsSusie "Suz"
1942The Affairs of MarthaMrs. McKessic
1942Tennessee JohnsonMrs. Maude FisherAlternative title: The Man on America's Conscience
1942We Were DancingThe Judge
1943Heaven Can WaitMrs. Strable
1944Meet Me in St. LouisKatie
1944Gentle AnnieAnnie Goss
1945Murder, He SaysMamie Fleagle Smithers Johnson
1946The Harvey GirlsSonora Cassidy
1947The Wistful Widow of Wagon GapWidow HawkinsAlternative title: The Wistful Widow
1947The Egg and IMa KettleNominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1948Feudin', Fussin' and A-Fightin'Maribel Mathews
1949Ma and Pa KettleMa Kettle
1949Big JackFlapjack Kate
1950Ma and Pa Kettle Go to TownMa Kettle
1950Summer StockEsmeAlternative title: If You Feel Like Singing
1950Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. MaloneHarriet "Hattie" O'Malley
1951Mr. ImperiumMrs. CabotAlternative title: You Belong to My Heart
1951Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the FarmMa Kettle
1951The Law and the Lady
1951It's a Big CountryMrs. Wrenley
1952The Belle of New YorkMrs. Phineas Hill
1952Ma and Pa Kettle at the FairMa Kettle
1953Ma and Pa Kettle on VacationMa Kettle
1953Fast CompanyMa Parkson
1954The Long, Long TrailerMrs. Hittaway
1954Rose MarieLady Jane Dunstock
1955Ma and Pa Kettle at WaikikiMa Kettle
1956The Kettles in the OzarksMa Kettle
1956Friendly PersuasionThe Widow HudspethNominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress
1956December BrideHerselfEpisode: "The Marjorie Main Show"
1957The Kettles on Old MacDonald's FarmMa Kettle
1958Wagon TrainCassie Tanner2 episodes


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, April 16, 1975, page 95.
  2. ^ Price, Nelson (1997). Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman (3 ed.). Emmis Books. pp. 130. ISBN 1-57860-006-5.
  3. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 458. ISBN 1-55783-551-9.
  4. ^ a b "Marjorie Main Biography (1890-1975)". Retrieved 2009-08-03.
  5. ^ United Press International, "Marjorie Main Dead at 85", Playground Daily News, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Friday 11 April 1975, Volume 30, Number 55, page 3A.
  6. ^ Nissen, Axel (2006). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces From the Thirties To the Fifties. McFarland. pp. 117. ISBN 0-7864-2746-9.

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