Today we take a look at a Reel Classic com­e­dy that may at this time be under the radar.  The Egg And I was released in 1947 and was the eighth largest box office hit of that year.  The film was based on a semi-auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal book of the same name by Betty MacDonald, who wrote of her per­son­al adven­tures in run­ning a chick­en farm. This was one of sev­en films that Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert starred in together. 

The sto­ry opens with Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert as the new­ly mar­ried cou­ple Bob and Betty MacDonald.  It is their wed­ding night and Bob sur­pris­es Betty with news that he has giv­en up his white-col­lar job and has bought a chick­en farm out in the coun­try.  As a mat­ter of fact, it is an aban­doned chick­en farm with a run-down house and a need for a new chick­en coop.  He is excit­ed and full of glee and she is more like “Um, okay.” However, she loves him and so they pile into an over­loaded truck filled with lug­gage, chick­ens, a cow, and a pig to take them to the country. 

While Bob upon arrival sees what could be, Betty sees a house falling apart and the farm in need of much atten­tion.  On their first night, they are greet­ed with a heavy storm and a leaky roof and Bob gets out the cal­en­dar and starts plan­ning for the arrival of new baby chicks (oh yes, and pos­si­bly a child of their own). 

Bob and Betty expe­ri­ence the ups and downs of farm­ing and meet a num­ber of inter­est­ing neigh­bors along the way.  One cou­ple includes the infa­mous Ma and Pa Kettle (Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride).  They were such a hit in this movie that there was a series of Ma and Pa Kettle adven­tures (nine more after this) that ran from 1949 to 1957.  Marjorie Main was nom­i­nat­ed for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Ma Kettle (she also appeared as the maid in Meet Me In St. Louis).

Maw and Paw

Other inter­est­ing neigh­bors include Richard Long as Ma and Pa’s old­est son Tom Kettle (you may remem­ber him from The Big Valley and 77 Sunset Strip TV series),  Billy House (The Stranger, Bedlam) as the trav­el­ing sales­man Billy Reed, and Fuzzy Knight (side­kick to sev­er­al west­ern cow­boys includ­ing Johnny Mack Brown) as the cab dri­ver.  Louise Albritton plays the rich, sin­gle woman (Harriet Putnam) who owns a mod­ern chick­en farm and finds her­self flirt­ing with her neigh­bor Bob.  Let’s just say that Betty (Claudette Colbert) does not find this amusing. 

There is an inter­est­ing vehi­cle dri­ven by Harriet Putnam—a 1946 Mercury Eight sta­tion wag­on known as a “woody” as there were wood­en pan­els on the car.  Some of you may remem­ber see­ing those cars in years past.  One of the most touch­ing scenes is after the MacDonalds expe­ri­ence a cri­sis that puts their future as farm­ers at risk.  The neigh­bors gath­er to assist them in what­ev­er way they can—be it dona­tions or labor.  A won­der­ful exam­ple of how com­mu­ni­ties ral­ly in a cri­sis to assist each other.

As men­tioned above, The Egg And I  was very pop­u­lar when released and was adapt­ed to radio pro­duc­tions that starred Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert.  In 1951 CBS-TV aired a tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion that was a day­time ser­i­al (air­ing with such pro­grams as Search For Tomorrow and Love Of Life) but it only ran for one year.  The year it ran it was the high­est-rat­ed after­noon ser­i­al on CBS.  More of you may remem­ber anoth­er TV show that was pat­terned after The Egg And I  that aired in the ’60s and is still seen on TV today—Green Acres.  And final­ly, Walter Lantz cre­at­ed a series of car­toons pat­terned after Ma and Pa Kettle named Maw and Paw.  The first car­toon appeared in 1953 (Maw and Paw) and the last in 1968 (Feudin’ Fightin’ N Fussin’.)

The Internet Movie Database (IMBD) rates this film as a 7 out of 10, and Rotten Tomatoes has an Audience Score of 78%.  I think it is a pleas­ant, enter­tain­ing com­e­dy and worth a watch.  That may be a bit dif­fi­cult how­ev­er as I found it on stream­ing ser­vices but none for free.  Also, it appears that the library does­n’t have a copy of this film on the shelves.  It can be found in a DVD col­lec­tion called Ma & Pa Kettle Complete Comedy Collection which has this film and the oth­er nine films fea­tur­ing the Kettle family.

The trail­er can be seen below. Keep watch­ing for the next Reel Classic

  • Ron grew up in Southeast Baltimore, spent three and a half years liv­ing in the High Desert in California, and came to Winchester when his VW Beetle broke down here on a cross-coun­try dri­ve to Vermont. He has lived here and worked as a social work­er since 1973. Though he retired in 2013, he remains active as a com­mu­ni­ty vol­un­teer on var­i­ous boards, coali­tions, and com­mit­tees. His pas­sions include the woods and nature, music, books, and clas­sic movies (espe­cial­ly Laurel & Hardy).