Fictional Characters in Betty MacDonald
's book, The Egg & I
. After a movie starring Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray was made of the book in 1947, the Kettles, played by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride, became the main characters in a series of movies with titles like "Ma & Pa Kettle at Waikiki", "Ma & Pa Kettle Go to Town
", and "Ma & Pa Kettle Back on the Farm." They have a Fan Club at http://members.spree.com/entertainment/howdyfolks/main.html
According to MacDonald, Ma Kettle "had fifteen children and baked fourteen loaves of bread, twelve pans of rolls, and two coffee cakes every other day. She was a very kind neighbor, a long-suffering wife and mother, but she was earthy and to the point."
Of a visit to Ma Kettle' ramshackle homestead, MacDonald says:
"While I was getting my bearings and keeping track of the fleas, Mrs. Kettle waddled between the pantry and the table setting out thick white cups and saucers and plates. Mrs. Kettle had pretty light brown hair, only faintly streaked with gray and skinned back into a tight knot, clear blue eyes, a creamy skin which flushed exquisitely with the heat, a straight delicate nose, fine even white teeth, and a small rounded chin. From this dainty pretty head cascaded a series of busts and stomachs which made her look like a cooky jar shaped like a woman. Her whole front was dirty and spotted and she wiped her hands continually on one or the other of her stomachs. She had also a disconcerting habit of reaching up under her dress and adjusting something in the vicinity of her navel and of reaching down the front of her dress and adjusting her large breasts. These adjustments were not, I learned later, confined to either the privacy of the house or a female gathering-they were made anywhere-any time. "I itch-so I scratch-so what !" was Mrs. Kettle's motto."