Thursday, April 26, 2007

Do The Math!

This is a classic, and absolutely hilarious scene from a Ma & Pa Kettle film where Pa explains how 5 times 5 equals 14. One of my favorite bits of any comedy.

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Ma and Pa Kettle were the featured characters in a series of popular light comedic movies in the 1940s and 1950s. The movies revolved around the absurd misadventures of the Kettle clan, a large but loving family of country hicks.

Pa (Franklin Kettle) (Percy Kilbride) was a gentle but slow-speaking, slow-thinking and lazy man. His only talents appeared to be avoiding work and winning contests. Ma (Phoebe Kettle) (Marjorie Main) was larger, raucous, more ambitious and smarter than Pa, but not by much, and could easily be fooled. She was content with her role as mother to a small army of children on the Kettle's ramshackle farm. (Later in the series the Kettles moved into a modern home that Pa won.)

Much of the humor came from the preposterous situations the Kettles found themselves in, such as Pa being mistaken for a wealthy industrialist or being jailed after he accidentally set a series of events in motion that resulted in race horses at the fair eating feed laced with concrete.

The Kettles first appeared in supporting roles in The Egg and I, starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert. After that they starred in a series of their own movies. Main was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1948 for her role in The Egg and I.

Main and Kilbride also appeared together in the 1948 Universal film Feudin', Fussin' And A-Fightin'. The movie also starred Donald O'Connor and Joe Besser. Many mistaken this movie to be a Kettle film. Main played Maribel Matthews and Kilbride played Billy Caswell.

Kilbride retired after making the "Waikiki" movie; the Pa Kettle character did not appear in The Kettles in the Ozarks. Arthur Hunnicutt played Pa's brother Sedgewick Kettle in that movie. In The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm, the last Kettle movie, Parker Fennelly played Pa Kettle.

The eight Kettle films starting Kilbride and Main have been released on DVD, as part of Universal's Franchise Collection series. Volume 1 contains The Egg and I, The Further Adventures of Ma and Pa Kettle, Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town and Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm, while Volume 2 contains Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair, Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation, Ma and Pa Kettle at Home, Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki.

The characters of Ma and Pa Kettle also appeared in television's first comedy serial, The Egg and I, which aired on CBS (September 3, 1951-August 1, 1952). Each episode was only 15 minutes long. Ma Kettle was played by Doris Rich and Pa Kettle was played by Frank Twedell. Betty Lynn (better known as Barney Fife's girlfriend Thelma Lou from The Andy Griffith Show) played Betty in some episodes, including "Pa Turns Over A New Leaf" (which aired on May 21, 1952).

The 1980 satire film Loose Shoes (which also starred Bill Murray) included a sketch called "A Visit With Ma and Pa" where Ma Kettle was played by Ysabel MacCloskey and Pa Kettle was played by Walker Edmiston.

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