Ma and Pa Kettle (1949)

The Kettles and their fifteen children are about to be evicted from their rundown rustic home when Pa wins the grand prize by coming up with a new tobacco slogan. Birdie Hicks is jealous of the family’s new wealth, which includes a completely automated modern home, and accuses Pa of stealing the slogan. Reporter Kim Parker proves Birdie wrong and marries Tom Kettle.

The Further Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle almost seamlessly picks up where The Egg and I left off. For the first solo adventure of the Kettles a new writing team and director is introduced. Leonard Goldstein, associate producer of The Egg and I, was producer of The Further Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle. With many of the characters played by the same actors and actresses the focus from the MacDonalds to the Kettles works very well. There is a reference to Ma beating Birdie Hicks for first prize at the fair for her quilt, an import scene in The Egg and I. The prize money from the quilt contest was to be used to send Tom Kettle to college. In this movie Tom is returning home as a college graduate.

There are two plots intertwined in this movie. One is the comedy of the simple mountain family moving into a state of the art modern house. The other is a light morality play on how environment affects children as they grow up.

Pa Kettle (Percy Kilbride) wanted a free tobacco pouch for entering a contest, and ended up winning a house. His disappointment at not getting the free tobacco pouch is played for laughs quite a bit. When Pa plays with dynamite he is totally oblivious to the explosion. Kilbride never flinched in the scene as the debris from the explosion fell around him. He played the part to perfection. In his autobiography, Jack Benny mentioned how impressed he was with Percy Kilbride’s deadpan delivery. Kilbride took that comedic device to a high level of perfection.

Ma (Marjorie Main) and Pa move into the new house with modern conveniences that confuse Ma and Pa almost as much as they help them. Ma adapts far more quickly than Pa. Included with the modern conveniences is a television, a very new household item in 1949. Moving walls, hidden beds, and plumbing fixtures are used as comic props, but the attention is on Ma and Pa, never the props themselves.

Tom Kettle (Richard Long) meets Kim Parker (Meg Randall), a magazine writer who feels that hygiene and environment are essential for children to realize success as adults. Tom is a bright, self-made man who contradicts the theory that success can only come from a pristine environment. This subject is briefly discussed in a couple of scenes, but left to subside. It was also the only serious discussion in this otherwise whimsical movie.

Seeing the Kettles moving out of their run-down old house to move to a new house would almost be a disaster if it were not for the characters staying true to themselves. Ma was the practical one, just as she had been in the The Egg and I. Pa was the fish out of water that provided the best comedy. He never felt at home in the new house, but the actual location of a comfortable bed would never be of concern to him.