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Marjorie Main

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Title: Marjorie Main  
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Subject: Wallace Beery, Ma and Pa Kettle, Barnacle Bill (1941 film), The Egg and I (film), Bad Bascomb (film)
Collection: 1890 Births, 1975 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Actresses, Actresses from Indiana, American Film Actresses, American Radio Actresses, American Stage Actresses, American Television Actresses, Burials at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Cancer Deaths in California, Deaths from Lung Cancer, Franklin College (Indiana) Alumni, Lgbt Entertainers from the United States, Ma and Pa Kettle, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Contract Players, People from Franklin, Indiana, People from Marion County, Indiana, Vaudeville Performers
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Marjorie Main

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 (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.[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Death 4
  • Theatre 5
  • Partial filmography 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

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.


She worked in vaudeville on the Chautauqua and Orpheum Circuits, and debuted on Broadway in 1916. Her first film was A House Divided in 1931.[2][3]

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[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

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 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.

In 1964, she appeared on an episode of Perry Mason.

Personal life

Main married Stanley LeFevre Krebs, who died in 1935. Despite her many claims of having had a happy marriage, Main's 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] 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 .[6]


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]


Partial filmography

Year Title Role Notes
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 Penitentiary Katie Matthews
1938 Test Pilot Landlady
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
1944 Rationing Iris Tuttle
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
1946 Undercurrent Lucy
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"


  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.  
  3. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors: From the Silent Era to 1965. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 458.  
  4. ^ John, Dunning (1998), On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, Oxford University Press, p. 166,  
  5. ^ a b "Marjorie Main Biography (1890–1975)". Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  6. ^ a b Vogel, Michelle (2006). Marjorie Main: The Life and Films of Hollywood's "Ma Kettle". Jefferson NC: McFarland. pp. 109–110.  
  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".  
  9. ^ Nissen, Axel (2006). Actresses of a Certain Character: Forty Familiar Hollywood Faces From the Thirties To the Fifties. McFarland. pp. 110–116.  
  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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