Funny lady, Marjorie Main, born Mary Tomlinson, in Acton, Indiana, on Monday, February 24th, 1890, made her feature film debut in 1931 with A House Divided; she had 88 film credits and was nominated for 1 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, as Phoebe ‘Ma’ Kettle in The Egg and I, 1947. She also gained a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Friendly Persuasion, 1956 as The Widow Hudspeth. She made her mark in Tinsel-Town history by playing the sharp-tongued, gruff matriarch (the aforementioned Phoebe ‘Ma’ Kettle) of the Ma and Pa Kettle films (spawned from The Egg and I) co-starring with and sparring nicely with Percy Kilbride as Pa Kettle (together they were the best of that film series).
Besides her award nominated performances and the Kettle series, Main had turns in several Hollywood classics: Stella Dallas and Dead End, 1937; The Women, 1939; Heaven Can Wait, 1943 and Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944. Along the way she was blessed to be directed by Hollywood master craftsmen… William Wyler, King Vidor, Ernst Lubitsch, Vincente Minnelli, Henry Hathaway and George Cukor. Roaming through Main’s resume, one comes away with the idea of pigeon-holing her as a “one note actress”, that title may be correct for her; ah but what a note she played! Like Pachelbel’s Canon and the repetitive strains of the cello, for some of us Marjorie Main was a classic (Hollywood), pleasing to the ear, hers was a singular talent, and the likes of which have not been seen or heard since; each movie she appeared in was like a waiting game, filling us with anticipation for her scenes, to hear once more that unmistakable Main voice.
By C. S. Williams