Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Stix nix hick pix

TCM's prime time lineup tonight starts with four of the Ma and Pa Kettle series, beginning at 8:00 PM with the first film in the series, appropriately titled Ma and Pa Kettle.

The Kettles actually showed up on screen before they had their own series. In the movie The Egg and I, Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray play a married couple who leave the rat race of the big city to go live on a farm. Their farm is right next to the Kettles' and the characters of the Kettles turned out to be so popular that Universal decided to put them in a series of their own. Marjorie Main plays Ma Kettle, the mother to 15 (or is it 16?) children, married to Pa (Percy Kilbride) who seems to have the basic desire of getting through life as easily as possible. Along the way they're presented as the stereotypical yokels, even if they, especially Ma, have no less common sense than those city sophisticates. But it's OK to laugh at those backward yokels, don'tcha know. Main's performance even earned her an Oscar nomination.

Anyhow, this first movie in the series involves Pa writing in to a slogan-writing contest run by the compnay of the chewing tobacco that he uses; he does it to win a new pouch for his tobacco. However, he wins the grand prize, which is an ultra-modern automatic house with all the latest conveniences that make the push-button drapes from Joan Crawford's Torch Song a few years later seem quaint. Of course, a lot of the humor involves laughing at the Kettles for not being able to navigate such modern conveniences. Meanwhile, their eldest son Tom (Richard Long) has returned from ag school where he's studying more modern farming techniques. On the way home from school he meets Kim (Meg Randall), a journalist doing a story on the Kettles. He falls for her, but she's horrified by the fact that the Kettles live a lifestyle that she doesn't approve of.

After the four Ma and Pa Kettle movies, TCM will be showing four movies in the Five Little Peppers series from a decade earlier, starting with Five Little Peppers and How they Grew at 2:00 AM. The series involves a family with five children in which the father died and Mom, along with help from the eldest daughter, is trying to raise the family. In this first entry, they've inherited a 50% share in a non-working mine after Dad dies, and the man who owns the other 50% tries to take it off of them for a song. But when he tries to do so and his grandson goes to see the Peppers, all sorts of complications ensue.

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