Percy Kilbride and Marjorie Main in Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town (1950)


(director: Charles Lamont; screenwriters: story by Leonard Stern/Leonard Stern/Martin Ragaway/Betty MacDonald; cinematographer: Charles Van Enger; editor: Russell Schoengarth; music: Milton Schwarzwald; cast: Marjorie Main (Ma Kettle), Percy Kilbride (Pa Kettle), Richard Long (Tom Kettle), Meg Randall (Kim Parker), Gregg Martell (Louie), Charles McGraw (Shotgun Mike Munger), Kathryn Givney (Mrs. Victoria Masterson), Jim Backus (Joseph ‘Little Joe’ Rogers), Elliott Lewis (Detective Sam Boxer), Paul McVey (Harold Masterson), Bert Freed (Dutch, Third New York Henchman), Hal March (Det. Mike Eskow), Larry Keating (Police Lt. Klein), Willard Waterman (J.J. Schumacher), Douglas Kennedy (George Donahue); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Leonard Goldstein; Universal-International; 1950)
“The second and best comedy in the series.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The second and best comedy in the series, a big winner at the box office, is directed by the Russian-born prolific filmmaker Charles Lamont (“Bowery to Broadway”/”Bagdad”/”Palooka from Paducah”). It’s based on a story by Leonard Stern and is written by Stern, Martin Ragaway and Betty MacDonald. Percy Kilbride is a master of deadpan hillbilly humor and Marjorie Main gives a robust performance as a feisty hayseed, as the stars make this old-fashioned comedy zip along with plenty of snap.

Rural Cape Flattery, Washington resident Pa Kettle (Percy Kilbride) wins a radio letter-writing contest from Bubble-ola beverage and gets a ten year supply of the product he really hates and an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City, where the derby, with badges pinned on, wearing Pa and his loyal wife Ma Kettle (Marjorie Main) will stay at the Waldorf-Astoria and look forward to visiting their oldest son Tom (Richard Long) who lives in the city with his high-society wife Kim (Meg Randall). They almost can’t go because they can’t find a babysitter for their rowdy brood of 15 children, but luck out when a guy calling himself a poet named Jones suddenly shows up on their doorsteps and volunteers to baby sit if they’ll just deliver his empty black bag to brother Louie (Gregg Martell) in the city. They don’t realize that Jones is really the wanted dangerous bank robber Shotgun Munger (Charles McGraw) and the bag contains $100,000 in stolen loot.

The fish-out-of-water yokels misplace the bag at a taxi stand while exiting from the Grand Central Station, that’s mistakenly picked up by the chauffeur of a wealthy investment broker named Masterson (Paul McVey). Whenever Pa or his businessman son Tom (Richard Long) buy a new bag, a thug working for the gang named Little Joe (Jim Backus) steals it.

The Kettles have fun sightseeing, having Ma get a fancy makeover, taking a moonlight ride through Central Park in a horse and buggy and helping the city cops nab the baddies while back at home the kids take care of Shotgun.The viewer should delight in the many sight-gags, clever storytelling and the pleasantly droll good-natured comic antics dished out in big dollops.