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|Index||29 reviews in total|
Having not seen this picture in years, I wondered if it would still be enjoyable. It is. Claudette Colbert is superb as Betty MacDonald, the author of the best selling book of what this is based upon, uprooting herself from the big city to accompany her husband (Fred MacMurray) on a farming dream. Their trials and tribulations are amusing and cute; MacMurray is well-cast. The film introduced the zany characters of Ma and Pa Kettle (Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride), parents of 15 children, who were a huge hit and spawned their own series of 9 films (2 without Percy). However, my favorite character is Harriet Putnam, deliciously portrayed by Louise Allbritton, a slim, slinky, aristocratic, velvety voiced blonde beauty, with a yen for the burly MacMurray. She owns a very modern farm down the road, replete with farmhands, technology, conveniences, but "no Man." Her scenes with the jealous Colbert are priceless, and Allbritton shows a great flair for comic timing. This classic can be seen as an inspiration for two popular 1960s television comedy series, "Green Acres" and "The Beverly Hillbillies." Enjoy!
The book on which this film was based upon was a phenomenal best-seller in the mid-forties: readers loved the earthy tang and hilariously funny situations of Betty Smith's novel of the same name. Although this film version is rather a tame adaptation of the wonderful book, it definitely provides enough warmth, charm & chuckles to please viewers who aren't too discriminating. Claudette Colbert - in her last great film role - plays Betty with her particular warmth & charm: she and Fred MacMurray have an undeniable chemistry. Although they weren't youngsters here, they make you believe them youthful (Claudette was 44 & Fred was 39 here). For reasons which are unclear, Colbert never cared for this film, but the movie-going public just loved it! The film is perhaps most notable in introducing the characters of Ma & Pa Kettle as played by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride respectively. The public howled at the personalities and antics of this loveable country bumpkins, and they were on the road to a hugely popular series of their own which spanned from 1949-1957. It is really Main's AA-nominated performance of Ma which lingers in the memory: she was born to play the no-nonsense, down-to-earth but loveable Ms Kettle! Note that the Kettle's oldest son, Tom is played by none other than Richard Long, who would star as Jarrod Barkley in the beloved TV western series THE BIG VALLEY eighteen years later. Birdie Hicks is played to hilarious perfection by the acid- tongued Esther Dale.
I found this to be a very cute and charming little movie. Claudette Colbert was a hoot as the long suffering Betty, and Fred MacMurray was equally as good as Bob, trying so hard to achieve success but neglecting Betty in the process. Ma and Pa Kettle steal the whole film out from under them, so it's no big surprise they got their own film series after this. A warm and funny movie all around.
The Egg and I is based on a best selling book by Betty McDonald
concerning the happenings around an urban city dwelling woman,
Claudette Colbert playing Betty McDonald, whose husband, Fred
MacMurray, gets an agricultural urge after service in World War II.
Back to nature so to speak. They both adapt, he a great deal easier
than she did and that's part of the plot.
Doing a little research on the movie and book, I found that Betty McDonald was a resident of Seattle and where they moved was not anywhere near hillbilly country, but to a rural part of Washington state. But of course what Universal was doing was giving in to stereotypes. They couldn't make Ma and Pa Kettle and the rest of the characters convincing without transferring The Egg and I to an Ozark/Appalachian background.
Knowing that it does make me curious as to how the Kettles and the rest of the rustic neighbors were portrayed in the book.
Still somebody apparently knew what they were doing because The Egg and I with a built in audience of those who had already bought Betty McDonald's book cleaned up at the box office. And Percy Kilbride and Marjorie Main as Ma and Pa Kettle and their growing family became such a hit it spawned a series of money making films for Universal Studios for the next decade.
How popular were the Kettles? I remember back as a lad watching an episode of Gomer Pyle who when he got a pass to go into town took in a revival film of the Ma and Pa Kettle series. In places like Mayberry, North Carolina the Kettles attained a cult status. Marjorie Main got a Best Supporting Actress nomination, but lost to Celeste Holm for Gentlemen's Agreement. She and Percy Kilbride played variations on their Kettle characters in most of the remaining films in their respective careers.
Still it's Fred and Claudette's film despite the Kettles and both settle into roles very comfortable for both of them. Next to the Kettles, the supporting player who comes off best is Louise Allbritton, the mantrap neighbor who's got her eye on Fred MacMurray. You will also like Billy House as the rotund peddler with everything, even himself for the needy housewife.
Rural Washington state had to wait until the Nineties for a film set in that part of the country. It was hardly a flattering picture that Tobias Wolff painted of where he grew up in This Boy's Life. No rustics like the Kettles in that Leonardo DiCaprio/Robert DeNiro film.
Probably the most successful imitator of The Egg and I had to be the CBS classic series Green Acres. Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor were even more out of place in the Ozarks than Colbert and MacMurray were. They too dealt with a collection of rustics that looked like they stepped from the cast of The Egg and I.
They even made Green Acres a success without the Kettles.
This charming, lively and atmospheric sojourn into the country is one of the most famous and influential of all "rustic" films. Like "Mr. Blandings Builds His dream House" and "George Washington Slept Here", Betty MacDonald's "The Egg and I" tells the cautionary tale of a city dweller and his wife trying to establish a new life form themselves far from the city's amenities. Usually one partner is more enthusiastic about the relocation than is the other--in this case, a young wife played by Claudette Colbert--while the mate is hell-bent on leaving the city's inconveniences behind--in this case Fred MacMurray. The film has a deceptively simple plot-line. In pursuit of the goal of running an egg-producing farm, MacMurray drags his new wife into the country; the remainder of the film comprises three plot lines: 1. The way they are rooked, helped, charmed and appalled by their bucolic neighbors, especially Ma and pa kettle played for the first time on the screen my Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride; 2. Involvements with a gorgeous neighbor (Louise Allbritton) whom Colbert thinks is a rival for her husband's affections; and 3. Difficulties with a very old and run-down physical property owing to long-term prior neglect, bad weather, etc. This bare summary of events I suggest captures the essence of the storyline rather succinctly; but it also omits the hysteria of Colbert's reactions, her distaste at first for the entire project, and the genial atmosphere of "what next" that permeates all the couple's dealings with nature, their neighbors and their own negotiations about their new marriage and the terms on which it is to be lived. Unlike many incompetent later so-called comedies, this is a true comedy--something that cannot end badly for the participants if they physically persevere; and it is quite realistic, if broadly mounted. How many other films can you the viewer recall which introduces Ma and Pa Kettle, a slinky blond egg-ranch owner, a 300 pound ladies man, a run-down chicken ranch, a college-trained hillbilly engineer and a succession of incompetent workmen? Frank Skinner provided suitable comedic music; the film was directed by veteran Chester Erskine, from a story and screenplay he adopted from the Macdonald novel along with Fred F. Finkelhoffe. The two produced also along with Leonard Goldstein, and they produced an instant classic and a box-office smash. Milton Krasner supplied a consistent cinematography, helped along by a very fine production design by Bernard Herzbrun and inventive set decorations by Oliver Emert and Russell A. Gausman. The fine cast is headed by Fred MacMurray as a believable Bob Macdonald, and Claudette Colbert, very powerful as always and only a bit too old for the part. As the rival egg rancher, Louise Allbritton is cultured, and brilliant as usual. Billy House as the amorous Mr. Reed, Elisabeth Risdon as Betty's mother, Marjorie Main, Percy Kilbride and Richard Long as the Kettles are all very much up to their parts, which in lesser hands might have turned into caricatures. others in the well-chosen cast include Samuel S. Hinds as the Sheriff, Ida Moore, Fuzzy Knight, Isabel O'Madigan, Esther Dale, Donald MacBride and John Berkes. It is hard to say enough nice things about the consistent style of this B/W treasure. What makes it work apart from the straightforward direction and the sincere professional actors I suggest is the categorical theme--Betty (Colbert) finally wanting her marriage to work, rather than her husband's equally legitimate desire to make a go of the egg ranch project he has always wanted to head, even if it means making his wife uncomfortable for a while. This is a film many admire, myself among them, and many more like even better that they admire it. It is a fine autumn film any night you want some genuinely-earned laughter.
I first watched this movie about 5 years ago, and I enjoyed it then. I wanted to watch it again, because I'd since seen a few movies with Marjorie Main. I enjoyed her performance, but it was the role played by Claudette Colbert that blew me away. I thought she was better here than in "It Happened One Night", when she won an Oscar. Ma and Pa Kettle stole the show the last time I watched it, but this time around, I was more interested in the lives of Betty and Bob MacDonald. Ms. Colbert and Fred MacMurray had such an easy-going, natural interaction, which I overlooked on first viewing. Isn't that the sign of good acting? When you don't even notice they're acting?
I stumbled upon 'The Egg and I' while trying to find some of the old 'Ma & Pa Kettle' movies. It was great to find out that 'The Egg and I' was the first movie that used Ma and Pa Kettle as characters. Of coarse the Kettles were excellent in this movie. They were such a hit with audiences viewing 'The Egg and I' that it hatched the Ma and Pa Kettle film series. Although the Kettles are an integral part of the movie, don't be misled and watch this with the intentions of watching a Ma and Pa Kettle movie. This is a romantic comedy with Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray playing a young couple from the city that buy a run down farm. The entire movie revolves around this couple and their experiences. Most likely the 'Green Acres' TV series predecessor. Around this couple come a very interesting cast of characters of which the Kettles are a part. This movie is a simple, good old fashioned, clean cut, comedy. Sit back and enjoy the great acting and cast of characters. You'll be glad you did.
If you loved the TV series Green Acres then you will love this film which served as the incubator for the TV series. Betty & Bob MacDonald played wonderfully by Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray live in the city but Bob desires the laid back country life. They move into a house which looks like a shack that must be fixed up. Neighbors like Ma & Pa Kettle and their many children and Billy Reed the Mr. Haney lookalike. Betty hates the country, pigs and chickens. A good comedy and display of just what could happen to city folk that what to become country folk.
Claudette Colbert & Fred MacMurray star in this screwball comedy; a film
that had to be a precursor to "Green Acres"...there's even a Mr. Haney.
Although adequate, who steals the show are Ma & Pa Kettle. Marjorie Main is
a natural, and because of this, their debut film, The Kettles became a
This movie was based on a book of the same title. The woman who wrote
the book, Betty MacDonald, wrote it with her experiences as a young
wife living on a chicken farm in the Pacific Northwest. It is worth
noting that in the film, Claudette Colbert's character's name is Betty
and Fred MacMurray's character's name is Bob (her husband's name). As
for the film, we are not told exactly where the characters are supposed
to be living although it is safe to say they are far away in the
country. What we do know is that Fred MacMurray plays a recent war
veteran who tells Claudette Colbert, his wife, that he has just
purchased a chicken farm and that he intends for them to live out there
so they can raise chickens. This is the beginning of what is a riot
because they are both city people trying to get used to life on the
farm. Bob (Fred MacMurray's character) is overly enthusiastic about the
whole move but one can tell right away that much as Betty (Claudette
Colbert's character) tries to be supportive, she is not as taken by it.
First of all, the farm house is decrepit, they have to deal with the
Kettle clan (especially Pa Kettle who is always asking for things but
never returning favors) as well as a seductive woman who has a
mechanical farm next door and has eyes for Bob.
The movie is a riot as we see the couple dealing with everything I have mentioned. I have watched the movie a number of times and even have the video tape of it. I sometimes try to imagine what it would be like if someone said to me one day, "You're moving on a farm tomorrow. Now go to work!" Well, I guess it would probably not be much different from this film!
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