Saturday, October 10, 2020

Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm ( 1951 )

Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride made their fifth film appearance as country yokels Ma & Pa Kettle in Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm ( 1951 ).  This delightful comedy had the pair returning to their old ramshackle home in the country and discovering uranium on the property. 

The characters of Ma and Pa Kettle first appeared in The Egg and I ( 1947 ) as farm neighbors to Betty and Bob MacDonald ( Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray ). They were then given their own film - Ma and Pa Kettle ( 1949 ) which in turn launched a ten-film series. Each of the movies could easily be watched on their own, but to understand the characters better, it is best to see them in order. 

Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm was the fourth film in the series and had their eldest son Tom and his wife Kim expecting their first child. Ma struggles to get along with Kim's Bostonian parents, especially Kim's mother Barbara whose notions of proper child-rearing clash with Ma's. In order to stay clear of them for a spell, Ma and Pa Kettle move from their new suburban house back into their old farm. While there, Pa decides to dig a well and thinks he has discovered uranium when he finds he carries an electric charge on him.

This movie isn't the best in the series but it still provides a number of chuckles, especially Ma fussing over wearing a face mask ( apropos for the pandemic today ) and the conclusion with Pa Kettle driving madly in a jalopy to outrace a train. The script features a number of small dramas happening to the various characters, all of which intersect and conclude by the end of the film. Tom's mother-in-law Barbara Parker ( Barbara Brown ) clearly does approve of the Kettles but it is good to see her have a change of heart by the finale. Jonathan ( Ray Collins ) and Barbara Parker would later travel to Paris with the Kettles in the next film, Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation ( 1952 ).

"Ma, I bet you once had an hour-glass figure" - Barbara

"Yeah...but the sand sure shifted!" - Ma

All of the Kettle films featured recurring characters from the first film and, in this installment, we see Pa's Indian friends Crowbar and Geoduck ( Teddy Hart and Oliver Blake ), shopowner Billy Reed ( Emory Parnell ), and Sheriff John ( Rex Lease ). Sadly missing is Birdie Hicks ( Esther Dale ), the Kettles arch-nemesis. 

The homespun humor of the Kettle series was box-office gold for Universal Pictures and this film alone raked in over $2 million dollars in ticket sales. 

1 comment:

  1. Seeing Ma Kettle in that face mask made my day! You're right that this film wasn't among the best in the series, but I enjoyed them all (except the two without Percy Kilbride). They're the equivalent of comfort food!