Family & Companions
Raspy-voiced actress Marjorie Main found the bulk of her success at an age when most actresses witness their careers waning--most memorably as the comedic hillbilly Ma Kettle. Born Mary Tomlinson, Main changed her name to protect her family from embarrassment as she embarked upon the vaudeville circuits, performing her way to Broadway by 1916. She made her film debut in 1931, but made her real mark a few years later, taking her stage character to the big screen in "Dead End," as the mother of gangster Baby Face Martin (Humphrey Bogart). Her distinct voice contributed to Main's being typecast as tough, abrasive women like the ranch manager in George Cukor's "The Women." But Main would soon gain fame as a comedic actress starring in a series of films beginning with "Barnacle Bill," as the sparring love interest to Wallace Beery. Yet her most defining character would come as the hilarious hick Ma Kettle opposite Percy Kilbride as Pa Kettle, beginning in "The Egg and I." The duo would pair up for eight more films in the popular Kettle series, with two final pictures without Kilbride. Such significant success may come as a surprise, given Main's intense fear of germs--an aversion that frequently drove her to wear long gloves and surgical masks.
Cast (Feature Film)
Acted in the Broadway production of "Dead End"
Appeared in "The Women"
Brought to Hollywood to recreate her stage role in the film version of "Dead End"
Cast as Barbara Stanwyck's mother in "Stella Dallas"
Offered a fine comic turn as the landlady in "Test Pilot"
Recreated her stage role as the proprietress of a ranch in the film adaptation of "The Women"
Played a lady blacksmith opposite Wallace Beery in "Wyoming"
Was signed to an exclusive, long-term contract by MGM
Starred with Frank Morgan in "The Wild Man of Borneo"
Reteamed with Wallace Beery for "Barnacle Bill"
Portrayed a minister's wife in "Honky Tonk"
On loanout to Fox, cast as a nouveau riche society doyenne in "Heaven Can Wait", directed by Ernst Lubitsch
Had a featured role as the cook in "Meet Me in St. Louis," the first of three films she did with Judy Garland
Loaned to Paramount and cast as a hillbilly matriarch opposite Fred MacMurray in "Murder, He Says"
Once again played a cook in a Garland musical in "The Harvey Girls"
On loanout to Universal, earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination playing Ma Kettle in the film adaptation of "The Egg and I", starring MacMurray and Claudette Colbert
Had a rare lead role in Universal's "The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap" opposite Abbott and Costello
Second film with Percy Kilbride, "Feudin', Fussin' and A-Fightin'"
Last of a total of seven films with Beery, "Big Jack"
Reunited with Percy Kilbride for "Ma and Pa Kettle" and subsequently made six additional Kettle films
Final feature with Garland, "Summer Stock"
Cast as the mother of a soldier killed in action in "It's a Big Country"
Contract with MGM ended
Final Kettle film with Kilbride, "Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki"
Provided some comic relief in "Friendly Persuasion," playing a widow with three unmarried daughters
Last Kettle film, "The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm"
Final acting role, a guest appearance on TV's "Wagon Train"