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Mother Carey's Chickens (1938)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 29 July 1938 (USA)
An 1890s widow has two daughters and two sons. The daughters fall in love with the same gentleman.


Rowland V. Lee


Kate Douglas Wiggin (novel), Kate Douglas Wiggin (play) | 3 more credits »
1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Anne Shirley ... Nancy Carey
Ruby Keeler ... Katherine 'Kitty' Carey
James Ellison ... Ralph Thurston
Fay Bainter ... Mrs. Margaret Carey
Walter Brennan ... Mr. Ossian Popham
Donnie Dunagan Donnie Dunagan ... Peter Carey
Frank Albertson ... Tom Hamilton Jr.
Alma Kruger ... Aunt Bertha
Jackie Moran ... Gilbert Carey
Margaret Hamilton ... Mrs. Pauline Fuller
Virginia Weidler ... Lally Joy Popham
Ralph Morgan ... Captain John Carey
Phyllis Kennedy ... Annabelle, the Careys' maid
Harvey Clark Harvey Clark ... Mr. Clarence Fuller
Lucille Ward Lucille Ward ... Mrs. Martha Popham


An 1890s widow has two daughters and two sons. The daughters fall in love with the same gentleman.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Kate Douglas Wiggin's Memorable Novel


Drama | Romance








Release Date:

29 July 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Aves Sem Rumo See more »


Box Office


$358,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Originally, RKO slated Katharine Hepburn to star in this picture. She refused to do it, and bought out her contract so that she wouldn't have to. See more »


Referenced in The John Garfield Story (2003) See more »


Sailing, Sailing (Over the Bounding Main)
(1880) (uncredited)
Written by Godfrey Marks
Sung a cappella by the Carey family on the way to their picnic
See more »

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User Reviews

Nothing to Crow About
15 December 2013 | by wes-connorsSee all my reviews

"Mother Carey's Chickens are friendly little sea-birds, who never seem to have a home and are always on the wing. This story is about one of the countless families, who, like these restless birds, move from place to place, always seeking and longing for a settled home," according to the introduction...

In 1898 Newport, Rhode Island, "Mother Carey" is Fay Bainter (as Margaret). Her four friendly "chickens" are Anne Shirley (as Nancy), Ruby Keeler (as Kitty), Jackie Moran (as Gilbert) and Donnie Dunagan (as Peter). While on a drive before their father leaves to join the Spanish-American War, the family finds a charming old mansion and declares it their "dream house." Since nobody seems to wants the house, the rent is low. They move in and fix the place up. The daughters are attracted to handsome schoolteacher James Ellison (as Ralph Thurston). General store owner Walter Brennan (as Ossian Popham) helps the family. All goes relatively well until scheming Margaret Hamilton (as Pauline Fuller) decides she wants to buy the house...

When presented with this film project, Katharine Hepburn bought out her contract and left the studio (RKO). Based on Kate Douglas Wiggin's successful novel and play, this story really should have been done as a "silent" film, preferably with Mary Pickford and director Maurice Tourneur. The play and Ms. Pickford's hit version of the author's "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" both appeared in 1917. While nothing special, "Mother Carey's Chickens" is much better than Disney's musical re-make "Summer Magic" (1963). This version might have played better in color, with some more work on the script and with a couple members of the cast.

**** Mother Carey's Chickens (7/29/38) Rowland V. Lee ~ Anne Shirley, Ruby Keeler, James Ellison, Fay Bainter

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