Friday, April 10, 2009

Tonight's Movie: The Egg and I (1947)

THE EGG AND I is the amusing story of Bob and Betty MacDonald (Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert), city slickers who marry and buy a dilapidated chicken farm.

The chicken farm was Bob's dream when he was fighting during the war, and Betty gamely jumps into the hard work of fixing up the place out of her love for Bob. Life on the farm isn't easy, but Betty is a good sport, and charmingly accepting of their neighbors, the slovenly but friendly Kettles (Percy Kilbride, Marjorie Main), who have a brood of a dozen or so children. Betty takes a particular interest in the eldest Kettle son, Tom (Richard Long), and encourages him to go to college.

Colbert and MacMurray appeared in several films together (including 1943's NO TIME FOR LOVE) and have excellent chemistry. In one of my favorite scenes, they dress up in their wedding clothes for a romantic dinner.

The strains on Bob and Betty's marriage become tedious -- Louise Allbritton plays their man-hungry neighbor -- but otherwise it's an entertaining film. Marjorie Main was Oscar-nominated for her role as Ma Kettle.

The supporting cast is filled with recognizable faces, including Esther Dale, Samuel S. Hinds, and Elisabeth Risdon.

The film was based on a best-selling book which is still in print today. (Author Betty MacDonald also wrote the classic MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE children's series.) In turn, the movie spawned the long-running film series, the Ma and Pa Kettle films. A Kettle film was released every year between 1949 and 1957.

Three years after THE EGG AND I, MacMurray made a very similar movie, NEVER A DULL MOMENT (reviewed here). In that movie MacMurray played an experienced rancher who introduces his "city" wife (Irene Dunne) to rural life and instant motherhood.

I've been enjoying becoming better acquainted with Fred MacMurray's film work over the last couple years. I've found that I quite underestimated him in years past and have grown to like him very much. If you missed it last summer, Moira Finnie had an excellent interview with MacMurray biographer Charles Tranberg at TCM's Movie Morlocks website.

THE EGG AND I was directed by Chester Erskine. It was shot in black and white and runs an hour and 48 minutes.

THE EGG AND I is available on VHS and DVD. The DVD is part of the four-film collection THE ADVENTURES OF MA AND PA KETTLE, VOLUME 1.

November 2009 Update: This movie is also part of the new Claudette Colbert Collection.

April 2017 Update: I had the opportunity to see this film introduced by Kate MacMurray at the TCM Classic Film Festival.


Blogger Irene said...

I remember this movie. I'll have to check the library system when I come home (the system is not available 24 hours and it's too early yet) and see if they have a copy.

I'm off to WDW this morning :) !!!!

5:41 AM  
Blogger Craig Clarke said...

The Egg and I doesn't take much thought to follow, and it's a good little time-killer.

Plus, those Kettle films passed many a Sunday afternoon in my teens, so I think of them fondly.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Happy WDW trip, Irene!

Best wishes,

10:01 AM  
Blogger Moira Finnie said...

Fred MacMurray does seem to be enjoying a bit of a well-deserved renaissance as his delicious pre-Disney comedic and adventure movies become available on dvd and come to the fore again on tv. This development is one that I'm happy to see.

While I wouldn't put The Egg and I in the same league as Claudette Colbert and MacMurray's deft comedic forays under Mitchell Leisen's and Claude Binyon's guidance, it has quite a bit of charm and tends to remind me of stories of my parents mismatched early life together. I particularly like the scene at the dance with the shoe, which makes me laugh.

I used to see The Egg and I all the time on tv schedules, but for some reason it has disappeared from broadcast. As I recall the introduction of the Kettles in this film had a poignant quality that was lightly touched on in The Egg and I, but the family's stories became outright farce when developed as a series. It's funny that most people remember Marjorie Main solely for her comedic work, but not surprising. In several films, notably Dead End, the lovely The Shepherd of the Hills, A Woman's Face and the short, A Letter From a Soldier, her dramatic skills are quite memorable.

Thanks for writing this reminder of an entertainment that deserves to be enjoyed again.

12:14 PM  
Blogger NoirGirl said...

Thanks so much for writing this, Laura! I remember The Egg and I with great fondness. When I saw what you wrote about the DVD availability, I was astounded. I ran and got out my Ma and Pa Kettle sets and low and behold, you were right! Somehow I forgot or never realized The Egg and I was on that first collection. So, thanks much for the reminder! I'm going to watch it right now. :)

1:21 PM  
Blogger Missy said...

It's funny that you would mention THE EGG AND I now, I just saw it listed on the marquee of a local theater! We were discussing whether the theater was showing this movie or if there was something new using the same title. I got home and checked on the Internet and discovered the theater and the local library were showing MacMurray and Colbert's THE EGG AND I on Wednesday. Funny to "see" it twice in such a short time.

I think you and I previously discussed the similarity between this movie and NEVER A DULL MOMENT.

Take care,


3:12 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Moira, thanks much for your thoughts! I agree, there is an unexpected poignance to the Kettles...Main gave a much more rounded performance than I was expecting based on childhood memories.

Casey, so glad I provided a reminder of a movie in your collection. :)

Missy, when I went back and looked at NEVER A DULL MOMENT I found our conversation in the comments -- Glad that there are places in your area showing old movies!

Best wishes,

8:48 AM  
Blogger Betty MacDonald Fan Club said...

Thank you so much for this very interesting info about The egg and I movie and the Ma and Pa Kettle series.
Betty MacDonald, the author of The egg and I has so many fans all over the world.
Did you know that Betty had very serious problems with the real Kettles in her life?
She is the most popular writer in some countries.
Betty MacDonald is a wonderful writer.

5:32 PM  

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