Friday, October 14, 2016

THINGS I LEARNED FROM THE MOVIES BLOGATHON: The Domestic Arts as Practiced in The Egg and I

Kristina of Speakeasy and Ruth of Silver Screenings are hosting the clever blogathon Things I Learned from the Movies which runs from October 14 to 17. A cornucopia of movie fans/bloggers are on board with some fun and interesting reading.  Day 1 recap.  Day 2 recap.  Day 3 recap.  Wrap-up.

Author Betty MacDonald's (Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series) first and greatest success was the humorous semi-autobiographical novel The Egg and I published in 1945. In 1947 Universal brought the book to the screen starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray as a couple transported from city life to a chicken farm in the mountains of Washington state.

Apparently, time spent in a foxhole in Okinawa gets a guy to thinking about the real things in life. For Bob (Fred MacMurray) these real things include his own little chicken ranch. Presumably, one of the other real things he thought about were love and marriage. Probably expecting his intended, Betty (Claudette Colbert) to understand him through telepathy, he waits until after they are married to announce that he has purchased the chicken ranch of his dreams and she's going to love it.


Betty, whose hands are used to twice weekly manicures and have never done anything rougher than play the piano, is a good sport and truly supportive of Bob, so off they go to live in the country. The ranch is nothing more than a ramshackle group of buildings in desperate need of repair. Bob views the whole thing through possibilities and rose-colored glasses. Betty is not so optimistic, especially when she first meets the resident stove.

"I don't think it likes me."

"There! I bet you never looked better in your life."


The victory of a well scrubbed floor.

You follow the instructions, it should work.

Maybe Betty should talk to her friend Ma Kettle. Ma, Pa and their census taker's delight of a brood live down the road in a place no one would mistake for a photo spread in House Beautiful.


"When I was first married, Dearie, I was as neat as the next one. I tried to keep my house and kids clean. But Pa was an awful lazy so-and-so and it was fight, fight, fight all the time. So I finally give it up. I says I can't make Pa change and be neat so I'll have to change and be dirty. Been peace in this house ever since."




"Just a drop of this and a drop of that, mix it together and shove it in the oven."


"I made one of these here quilts every year since we was married. Got 'em in the closet in the spare room. I figure it will be somethin' real nice to leave the kids when I die."


Don't worry, folks. Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray co-starred in seven films. They have the happy ending bit down pat.

Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride would play Ma and Pa Kettle in seven welcome sequels. Marjorie would star as Ma in two more Kettle pictures after Kilbride's retirement. Breakout stars!

What did I learn from the examples of housewifery set before me in this movie? Well ... let's just say that I'm not as neat as Betty nor as messy as Ma, but I tend toward the casual line when it comes to tending to the old homestead and its occupants. Yes indeed, very casual.


  1. Semi-autobiographical? So when her husband sprang this chicken ranch on her in real life she took it on the chin with a wink and a smile and not as grounds for divorce? Wow!

    Actually, I'm curious about this movie. It sounds silly, even for Fred MacMurray.

    1. Eventually, the real-life couple was divorced, but Betty certainly mined her experience for success. Just as Universal mined the Kettle characters. Both book and movie were phenomenally successful in their day.

  2. This I love: "You follow the instructions, it should work." Priceless!

    The Egg & I is a terrific film due to a great script and brilliant casting – not to mention all the life lessons it offers!

    As far as Ma Kettle goes, I can see why she'd give up on the cleanliness aspect if it was always a fight. It would wear a person down.

    Thanks so much for joining the blogathon with this charming and delightful look at The Egg & I!

    1. The movie is a favourite of mine and I'm crazy about the Kettles.

      Thank you and K. for coming up with such a charming and unique idea for a blogathon.

      It is my pleasure to participate. Going to put the kettle on and settle down to some great reading.

  3. Love these lessons! Perhaps I should try Ma's philosophy on how to cook.

    You know, I used to drive by the Egg and I road - near where their farm used to be - on my way to piano lessons when I was a child. People would point it out and I had no idea what they were talking about. It was only later that I finally saw the movie and read the book. :)

    Somehow, I never realized she wrote Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, either. I loved those books!

    1. I think Ma got a lot of things right.

      It's funny. Grown-ups always say things to kids expecting them to understand. I tend to do that with my daughter (or used to). She finally put her foot down and said "I haven't been around forever, you know. Explain!

  4. Love The Egg & I! and hope memory serves but I love the pedal operated sink that I'm sure I saw in one of the Kettle movies! Anyway, the best bakers follow Ma's recipe there. Great lessons here, thanks for joining in!

    1. My pleasure. Great blogathon.

      Oh yes, the sink. That was the first Kettle flick, Ma and Pa Kettle. Pa wins a slogan contest and they get an ultra modern house. All those movies are great Sunday afternoon memories.

  5. Green acres is the place to be. Hard living is the life for me. Land spreading out so far and wide. Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

    And if I could still access the internet from there, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

    1. Heck, you wouldn't need the internet. You would be surrounded by the wackiest characters ever. You'd be too busy trying to retain your sanity.

  6. The Egg and I is one of those films I've been just waiting for TCM to show. I've heard so many good things about it, and reading your post has only whetted my appetite even more. Plus, you can't go wrong with Claudette and Fred, right?

    1. Truly, you can't go wrong with those two pros at the top of their game. They make it look so easy.

      I hope TCM makes your wish come true soon.

  7. I loved "Betty thanks stove. STOVE THANKS BETTY." I laughed out loud. This looks like a real riot. I also have to confess that I've only seen Fred MacMurray play jerks, so it'll be nice to see him in his nicer roles.

    1. I'm glad I made you laugh out loud.

      Fred MacMurray is one of those actors who seems to fit seamlessly into whatever role he is playing - jerk, buffoon, romantic swain or two-faced creep. I think it comes from his beginnings as a musician. He plays the notes on the page.

  8. Like Rich, I'm now curious about this movie! Is it a bit like Cheaper by the Dozen?
    I loved the captions for the images, they were very humorous!
    Thanks for the kind comment!

    1. I wouldn't say it has the same nostalgic feel as "Cheaper by the Dozen", but those good-natured qualities might be close. I hope you get a chance to check it out soon. Have you seen any of the Ma and Pa Kettle movies?

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