Kentucky Kernels is notable for showing what was considered funny -- and in some cases, socially acceptable -- in 1934. An actor credited as "Sleep n Eat" (actually Willie Best) shuffles his way through the film as a stereotypical wide-eyed, scared-of-his-shadow servant. And a gay subtext between the two male leads is watered down by some forced and unconvincing romance with a typical blonde Southern belle, but lots of the movie's humor is derived from the male/male "romance." In their first scene, for example, Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey are the picture of domestic bliss -- bickering as one sits at the dinner table while the other does dishes and complains about his dishpan hands. Though they mince their ways through the rest of the movie, even holding hands at times, the characters are presented as heterosexual. At another point, they're shown sleeping in the same bed -- in a plantation mansion that surely had plenty of bedrooms.
The plot, with the boys finding themselves in the middle of a Hatfileds and McCoys-style Kentucy feud, is a bit contrived. Lines like "You dance exactly like a heifer -- I mean a zephyr!" seem lifted from the Marx Brothers, and in fact one of the supporting players is best known for her appearances as the straight woman in some Marx classics. Margaret Dumont plays the manager of an adoption agency that places young Spanky, indirectly, in the care of the vaudeville performers played by Wheeler and Woolsey. It's a shame Dumont wasn't given a more substantial part; she would have been terrific as a befuddled Southern matriarch later in the film.
The paper-thin plot won't really hold your attention, but viewed as a "film history" lesson, it's worth watching. Director George Stevens went on to much bigger and better things (including the enormous classic, Giant, also set in the South), so it's interesting to see how he handled this dull script.