Marjorie Main

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Marjorie Main
as Ma Kettle in Ma and Pa Kettle On Vacation (1953)
Born Mary Tomlinson
(1890-02-24)February 24, 1890
Acton, Indiana, U.S.
Died April 10, 1975(1975-04-10) (aged 85)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting place Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
Occupation Actress, Singer
Years active 1916–1959
Spouse(s) Stanley LeFevre Krebs
(1921–1935; his death)

Marjorie Main (born Mary Tomlinson, February 24, 1890 – April 10, 1975) was an American 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.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Acton, Indiana at her grandfather's (Dr. Samuel McGaughey) home on Dix Rd, 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 worked in vaudeville on the Orpheum circuit and in Chautauqua presentations, and debuted on Broadway in 1916. Her first film was A House Divided in 1931.[2][3]

Main began playing upper class dowagers, but ultimately was 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. At this time, she guest-starred on radio programs such as Columbia Presents Corwin[4] 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).[5] She played Sonora Cassidy, the chief cook, in The Harvey Girls (1946). 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.[5]

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 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.

Personal life[edit]

Main married Stanley LeFevre Krebs, who died in 1935. By her accounts, the marriage was happy, but not particularly close. 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".[6] Other sources indicate Main was devoted to her husband long after his death in 1935.


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.[7][8] She is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.[9][10]


Complete filmography[edit]

Year Film Character Notes
1929 Harry Fox and His Six American Beauties Statler Hotel Beauty (uncredited) A short
1931 A House Divided Woman at wedding (uncredited)
1932 Broken Lullaby Frau Schmidt (uncredited)
1932 Hot Saturday Gossip in Window (uncredited)
1933 New Deal Rhythm Delegate from Arizona (uncredited) A short
1933 Close Relations Woman in Depot (uncredited) A short
1934 Art Trouble Woman Who Sits on Painting (uncredited) A short
1934 Crime Without Passion Backstage Wardrobe Woman (uncredited)
1934 Music in the Air Anna
1935 Naughty Marietta Casquette Girl (uncredited)
1937 Love in a Bungalow Miss Emma Bisbee
1937 Stella Dallas Mrs. Martin
1937 Dead End Mrs. Martin
1937 The Man Who Cried Wolf Amelia Bradley
1937 The Wrong Road Martha Foster
1937 Boy of the Streets Mrs. Mary Brennan
1937 The Shadow Hannah Gillespie
1938 City Girl Mrs. Ward (uncredited)
1938 Penitentiary Katie Matthews (uncredited)
1938 King of the Newsboys Mrs. Stephens (uncredited)
1938 Test Pilot Landlady
1938 Three Comrades Old Woman by Phone (uncredited)
1938 Romance of the Limberlost Nora
1938 Prison Farm Matron Brand
1938 Little Tough Guy Mrs. Boylan
1938 Under the Big Top Sara Post
1938 Too Hot to Handle Miss Kitty Wayne Alternative title: Let 'Em All Talk
1938 Girls' School Miss Honore Armstrong
1938 There Goes My Heart Fireless Cooker Customer (uncredited)
1939 Lucky Night Mrs. Briggs
1939 They Shall Have Music Mrs. Miller
1939 The Angels Wash Their Faces Mrs. Arkelian
1939 The Women Lucy, Dude Ranch Owner
1939 Another Thin Man Mrs. Dolley, Landlady Chestevere Apartments
1939 Two Thoroughbreds Hildegarde 'Hildy' Carey
1940 I Take This Woman Gertie
1940 Women Without Names Matron Lowery
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
1940 The Captain Is a Lady Sarah May Willett
1940 Wyoming Mehitabel
1941 The Wild Man of Borneo Irma
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 We Were Dancing The Judge
1942 The Affairs of Martha Mrs. McKessic
1942 Jackass Mail Clementine 'Tina' Tucker
1942 Tish Letitia "Tish" Carberry
1942 Tennessee Johnson Mrs. Maude Fisher Alternative title: The Man on America's Conscience
1943 Heaven Can Wait Mrs. Strable
1943 Johnny Come Lately "Gashouse" Mary
1944 Rationing Iris Tuttle
1944 Meet Me in St. Louis Katie
1944 Gentle Annie Annie Goss
1945 Murder, He Says Mamie Fleagle Smithers Johnson
1946 The Harvey Girls Sonora Cassidy
1946 Bad Bascomb Abbey Hanks
1946 Undercurrent Lucy
1946 The Show-Off Mrs. Fisher
1947 The Egg and I Ma Kettle Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1947 The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap Widow Hawkins Alternative title: The Wistful Widow
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
1951 A Letter from a Soldier Mrs. Wrenley A short
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
1954 Ma and Pa Kettle at Home Ma Kettle
1954 Ricochet Romance Pansy Jones Alternative title: The Matchmakers
1955 Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki Ma Kettle
1956 The Kettles in the Ozarks Ma Kettle
1956 Friendly Persuasion The Widow Hudspeth Nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress
1957 The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm Ma Kettle

Television credits[edit]

Year Show Character Episode(s)
1956 December Bride Herself "The Marjorie Main Show"
1958 Wagon Train Cassie Tanner "The Cassie Tanner Story", "The Sacramento Story"


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, April 16, 1975, page 95.
  2. ^ Price, Nelson (1997). Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman (3 ed.). Emmis Books. p. 130. ISBN 1-57860-006-5. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ John, Dunning (1998), On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, Oxford University Press, p. 166, ISBN 0-19507678-8 
  5. ^ a b "Marjorie Main Biography (1890–1975)". Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  6. ^ Vogel, Michelle (2006). Marjorie Main: The Life and Films of Hollywood's "Ma Kettle". Jefferson NC: McFarland. pp. 109–110. ISBN 978-0786464432. 
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Marjorie Main Dies at 85". Observer Reporter. April 11, 1975. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ 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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