Old movie challenges ‘Wonderful Life’s’ throne
By Angie Bicker – Lifestyle Editor
CLINTON — My favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is facing some pretty tough competition these days. Mary Hatch and George Bailey have taken a backseat to some new faces — Bob and Betty MacDonald along with their colorful neighbors, Ma and Pa Kettle. The MacDonalds and Kettles star in a movie that I swear was tailor made just for me, “The Egg and I.” The movie focuses on newlyweds, Bob and Betty, who embark on a chicken farming adventure and the many wild and crazy people they meet along the way while trying to get into the egg business.
In the opening scene, which also happens to be one of my favorites, we find Betty MacDonald riding on a train. The porter opens the door with her breakfast, a soft-boiled egg. Unfortunately, he trips and breaks the egg on the floor. Betty says, “Now, look what you’ve done.” The porter replies, “It’s only an egg.” She fires back: “I suppose it’s never occurred to you that this egg was somebody’s child. That it once had a mother and a father. You’re one of those people no doubt who thinks a chicken lays an egg all by herself. Well, she doesn’t. She lays it with help. And I ought to know because I helped her.” Betty then turns to the camera and says: “Now, I bet you think an egg is something you casually order for breakfast when you can’t think of anything else. Well, so did I once. But, that was before the egg and I.” See what I mean about perfect. I love this 1947 movie.
It’s a shame Frank Capra didn’t include any chicken farmers in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I think I could have identified with Mary Bailey more if she had sold eggs to the residents of Bedford Falls.
I get the biggest kick out of Ma and Pa Kettle, played by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride. Ma, who is housework and hygiene challenged, and Pa, who is just plain lazy, are the proud parents of 15 children. I love the sign that greets visitors to their farm: Be-ware of Childrun. I think I should have a sign like that too. You know how ferocious chickens can be.
The Kettles also raise chickens; however, their chickens take up residence in their dilapidated farm house. When Ma gets ready to set the table, she just swats her hens out of the way and that goes for anything else that happens to be in her line of fire. Ma isn’t mean; she’s just plain Ma — a little rough on the outside, but a heart of gold on the inside. I wouldn’t mind having a person like Ma in my corner. To me, Ma Kettle is one of those overlooked heroines of cinematic history. Now, I think I may have been out in the coop too long. What do you think?
After “The Egg and I,” Ma and Pa Kettle became very popular and because of this many more movies were made starring the famous duo. On Saturday, for example, I watched “Ma and Pa Kettle,” which was made in 1949. I laughed and laughed. In the opening credits, Ma is shown pulling some baby chicks out of her oven instead of keeping them in a brooder house. I thought that was pretty creative; however, I don’t think I’d ever want to try it.
As you can see, I don’t need special effects or color movies to have an enjoyable Saturday night. The only thing missing was a bowl of Whitey’s ice cream to make my evening complete.
I think it’s a shame that movies like “The Egg and I” are no longer made today. I wish the golden age of movies and characters like Ma and Pa Kettle would make a comeback.