Marjorie Main: The Life and Films of Hollywood's "Ma Kettle"
By Michelle Vogel, McFarland, 2011
The Beautiful Foghorn
I am not a particular fan of the "Ma and Pa Kettle" series, or any of the "country folk are amusing idiots" genre of entertainment, but I do love Marjorie Main with all my heart. She called Ma Kettle "the grandest character role I ever played. She was frowzy, but not repulsive, tough, but never vicious, big-hearted, impulsive, maternal..." so perhaps I'll give more of the series a look.
Marjorie Main played dowagers, society matrons, maids, and slatterns, always with that raspy voice and, when called for, the bray of a fine mule. She was born on an Indiana farm in 1890 and attended drama school after a brief stint in college. Her father, a conservative minister, did not approve of drama, so out of respect to him, she used the stage name "Marjorie Main" lest someone link her vaudeville and Broadway work back to the name "Tomlinson."
She married Dr. Stanley Krebs (also a minister) in 1921, a man 25 years her senior, and briefly retired from the stage. Main took on character roles in film in the 1930s, then more visible, richer parts after her husband's death in 1935.
Main was a very private person and reportedly something of a germaphobe. I don't know if the latter is true, but I kind of hope it is. Another die hard Hollywood lore is that Marjorie Main and Spring Byington were long-time lovers, which would also be cool to confirm, because that partnership only makes sense the more you think about it; certainly not at first.
She must have been friendly with Dr. Krebs, though, as she was often "conversing" with him on movie sets, getting his opinion and so forth. Indeed, she had his remains moved to her adjacent burial plot at Forest Lawn Cemetery, saying "I've been lonely so much of my life, I'd like to be with him in death," which is terribly sweet and terribly sad.
I bet the book is a pretty good read, so I'm going to get right on that.
Marjorie Main died of lung cancer on April 10, 1975 at the age of 85, leaving behind a long list of excellent work in many classic motion pictures. Personally, I love her Lucy, the ranch owner in The Women most of all: "Dja ever see a horse laugh? Well, you're gonna."