The Kettles on Old MacDonald’s Farm (1957)

O.K., I slightly accepted the fact in “The Kettles in the Ozarks” had Ma and the kids going out of town and Pa was unseen. Arthur Hunnicutt was acceptable as a distant cousin to bring in the “Pa” factor, and the movie had its amusing moments. But other than on occasion looking like Percy Kilbride in profile, Parker Fennelly was a weak substitution, and it is obvious why this series had to end when it did. Rural comedy could be gotten at home for free on that new fangled device called television, and while “The Real McCoys” had Walter Brennan (the only person who could possibly have been acceptable as a new “Pa”), audiences had only a few years before “The Beverly Hillbillies”, “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres” came in.

The plots of the original entry in the series (“The Egg and I”) and “Green Acres” are easily visible in this film which takes place in the new home Ma and Pa have bought from the MacDonalds (Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray in “The Egg and I”), a valentine to the movie that started it all. Like Ma did with Colbert, she shows a city slicker (Gloria Talbott) the ropes of country life, literally moving her into their old farm house while Pa shares the new home with her fiancĂ© (John Smith). Lorring’s father (Roy Barcroft) doesn’t approve of the marriage, not because he doesn’t like Smith, but because he thinks that Talbott is a spoiled brat. As Smith planned to buy the house from the Kettles, Ma agrees to take on “chaperone” in order to show the young Gloria the ways of being a farmer’s wife, and boy, does she have her work cut out for her.

Some of the kids of Ma and Pa seem as young as they were in the very first of the series, which gives question to continuity. Gone are the familiar characters of Birdie Hicks and Billy Reed who appeared throughout the series. A scene where elderly women gossip about whether it is Talbott or Main who is pregnant (“expecting”) could have utilized Birdie’s animosity towards Ma Kettle as actress Esther Dale was still working at the time.

Most of the movie has the cast chasing a bear nicknamed “three claw” who is supposed to be a menace but is obviously a trained bear and quite tame. This brings some slapstick into the film, particularly in a sequence where Main takes a shower with the bear in the stall next door and Ma believing it to be Talbott. Later on, the bear re-appears for a slapstick finale where Pa and Ma have separate traps for the bear in order to gain a prize to help the struggling Smith in his lumber business venture.

While harmless and on occasion funny, this lacks any real purpose for having been made without Kilbride on board. This was also Marjorie Main’s last film as she was obviously tiring, and after a few T.V. episodes, her only public appearances were at the Hollywood Christmas parade. Fans of the series won’t be offended by it, but they’ll still shake their heads at the lack of chemistry between Main and Fennelly. It should be noted that this is the only time after “The Egg and I” that there was any passing reference to the big city couple who once were neighbors to the classic movie couple who took over the series.