as Ma Kettle in Ma and Pa Kettle On Vacation (1953)
February 24, 1890
Acton, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||April 10, 1975
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)|
|Spouse(s)||Stanley LeFevre Krebs
(1921–1935; his death)
Marjorie Main (February 24, 1890 – April 10, 1975) was an American character actress, best known as a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract player and for her role as Ma Kettle in a series of ten Ma and Pa Kettle movies.
Born Mary Tomlinson in Acton, Indiana, Main attended Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana, and adopted a stage name to avoid embarrassing her father, Samuel J. Tomlinson (married to Jennie L. McGaughey), who was a church minister.
Main began playing upper class dowagers, but was ultimately typecast in abrasive, domineering, salty roles, for which her distinctive voice was well suited. She repeated her stage role in Dead End in the 1937 film version, and was subsequently cast repeatedly as the mother of gangsters. She again transferred a strong stage performance, as a dude ranch operator in The Women, to film in 1939. It was at this time that she guest starred on radio programs such as Columbia Presents Corwin and The Goldbergs.
Main was signed to a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract in 1940, and stayed with the studio until the mid-1950s. She made six films with Wallace Beery in the 1940s including Barnacle Bill (1941), Jackass Mail (1942), and Bad Bascomb (1946). She played Sonora Cassidy, the chief cook, in The Harvey Girls (1945). The director, George Sidney, remarked in the commentary for the film that Miss Main was a "great lady" as well as a great actress who donated most of her paychecks over the years to the support of a school.
Perhaps her most famous role is that of "Ma Kettle", which she first played in The Egg and I in 1947 opposite Percy Kilbride as "Pa Kettle". She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the part and portrayed the character in nine more Ma and Pa Kettle films.
By the early 1950s, she had appeared in several MGM musicals, including, Meet Me in St. Louis and The Belle of New York. She played Mrs. Wrenley in the studio's all-star film It's a Big Country (1951). In 1954, Marjorie Main played her last roles for the studio: Mrs. Hittaway in The Long, Long Trailer and Jane Dunstock in Rose Marie. In 1956, Main's performance as The Widow Hudspeth in the hit film Friendly Persuasion was well-received, earning her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
In 1958, Main appeared twice as rugged frontierswoman Cassie Tanner in the episodes "The Cassie Tanner Story" and "The Sacramento Story" on NBC's western television series, Wagon Train. In the first segment, she joins the wagon train, casts her romantic interest on Ward Bond as Major Adams, and helps the train locate needed horses despite a Paiute threat.
Main married Stanley LeFevre Krebs, who died in 1935. Despite Main's many claims of having had a happy marriage, her biographer Michelle Vogel quotes a late interview in which the actress related: "Dr. Krebs wasn't a very practical man. I didn't figure on having to run the show, I kinda tired of it after a few years. We pretty much went our own ways but we was still in the eyes of the law, man and wife". During that same interview, Main confided that she had conducted at least two lesbian affairs during her lifetime, which Vogel believes referred to long-term relationships with actress Spring Byington.
In 1974, a year before her death, Main attended the Los Angeles premiere of the MGM documentary film That's Entertainment. It was her first public appearance since she retired from films in 1958. At the televised post-premiere party, she was greeted with cheers of enthusiasm and applause from the crowd of spectators. She died of lung cancer on April 10, 1975 at St. Vincent's Hospital in Los Angeles, where she had been admitted on April 3, at the age of 85. She is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.
- Salvation (1928)
- Scarlet Sister Mary (1930)
- Ebb Tide (1931)
- Music in the Air (1932)
- Jackson White (1935)
- Dead End (1935)
- The Women (1936)
|1931||A House Divided||Woman at wedding||Uncredited|
|1932||Hot Saturday||Gossip in Window||Uncredited|
|1933||New Deal Rhythm||Delegate from Arizona||Uncredited|
|1934||Music in the Air||Anna|
|1934||Crime Without Passion||Backstage Wardrobe Woman||Uncredited|
|1935||Naughty Marietta||Casquette Girl||Uncredited|
|1937||Stella Dallas||Mrs. Martin|
|1937||Dead End||Mrs. Martin|
|1938||Three Comrades||Old Woman by Phone||Uncredited|
|1938||Girls' School||Miss Honore Armstrong|
|1938||Little Tough Guy||Mrs. Boylan|
|1938||Too Hot to Handle||Miss Kitty Wayne|
|1939||They Shall Have Music||Mrs. Miller|
|1939||The Angels Wash Their Faces||Mrs. Arkelian|
|1939||Another Thin Man||Mrs. Dolley, Landlady Chestevere Apartments|
|1939||The Women||Lucy, Dude Ranch Owner|
|1940||I Take This Woman||Gertie|
|1940||Dark Command||Mrs. Cantrell, aka Mrs. Adams|
|1940||Turnabout||Nora - the Cook|
|1940||Susan and God||Mary Maloney||Alternative title: The Gay Mrs. Trexel|
|1941||The Trial of Mary Dugan||Mrs. Collins|
|1941||Barnacle Bill||Marge Cavendish|
|1941||A Woman's Face||Emma Kristiansdotter|
|1941||The Shepherd of the Hills||Granny Becky|
|1941||Honky Tonk||Mrs. Varner|
|1942||The Bugle Sounds||Susie "Suz"|
|1942||The Affairs of Martha||Mrs. McKessic|
|1942||Tennessee Johnson||Mrs. Maude Fisher||Alternative title: The Man on America's Conscience|
|1942||Tish||Letitia "Tish" Carberry|
|1942||We Were Dancing||The Judge|
|1943||Heaven Can Wait||Mrs. Strable|
|1944||Meet Me in St. Louis||Katie|
|1944||Gentle Annie||Annie Goss|
|1945||Murder, He Says||Mamie Fleagle Smithers Johnson|
|1946||The Show-Off||Mrs. Fisher|
|1946||Bad Bascomb||Abbey Hanks|
|1946||The Harvey Girls||Sonora Cassidy|
|1947||The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap||Widow Hawkins||Alternative title: The Wistful Widow|
|1947||The Egg and I||Ma Kettle||Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1948||Feudin', Fussin' and A-Fightin''||Maribel Mathews|
|1949||Ma and Pa Kettle||Ma Kettle|
|1949||Big Jack||Flapjack Kate|
|1950||Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town||Ma Kettle|
|1950||Summer Stock||Esme||Alternative title: If You Feel Like Singing|
|1950||Mrs. O'Malley and Mr. Malone||Harriet "Hattie" O'Malley||Alternative title: The Loco Motion|
|1951||Mr. Imperium||Mrs. Cabot||Alternative title: You Belong to My Heart|
|1951||Ma and Pa Kettle Back on the Farm||Ma Kettle|
|1951||The Law and the Lady||Julia Wortin|
|1951||It's a Big Country||Mrs. Wrenley|
|1952||The Belle of New York||Mrs. Phineas Hill|
|1952||Ma and Pa Kettle at the Fair||Ma Kettle|
|1953||Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation||Ma Kettle|
|1953||Fast Company||Ma Parkson|
|1954||The Long, Long Trailer||Mrs. Hittaway|
|1954||Rose Marie||Lady Jane Dunstock|
|1955||Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki||Ma Kettle|
|1956||The Kettles in the Ozarks||Ma Kettle|
|1956||Friendly Persuasion||The Widow Hudspeth||Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1956||December Bride||Herself||Episode: "The Marjorie Main Show"|
|1957||The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm||Ma Kettle|
|1958||Wagon Train||Cassie Tanner||Episode name: "The Cassie Tanner Story"
Episode name: "The Sacramento Story"
- Obituary Variety, April 16, 1975, page 95.
- Price, Nelson (1997). Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman (3 ed.). Emmis Books. p. 130. ISBN 1-57860-006-5.
- Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 458. ISBN 1-55783-551-9.
- John, Dunning (1998), On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, Oxford University Press, p. 166, ISBN 0-19507678-8
- "Marjorie Main Biography (1890–1975)". filmreference.com. Retrieved 2009-08-03.
- Vogel, Michelle (2006). Marjorie Main: The Life and Films of Hollywood's "Ma Kettle". Jefferson NC: McFarland. pp. 109–110. ISBN 978-0786464432.
- United Press International, "Marjorie Main Dead at 85", Playground Daily News, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Friday 11 April 1975, Volume 30, Number 55, page 3A.
- "Marjorie Main Dies at 85". Observer Reporter. April 11, 1975.
- Nissen, Axel (2006). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces From the Thirties To the Fifties. McFarland. pp. 110–116. ISBN 0-7864-2746-9.
- Her name is listed on her headstone as Mrs. Mary Tomlinson Krebs, with her stage name Marjorie Main underneath. Marjorie Main at Find a Grave
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