Though it's largely overlooked today, The Egg and I helped spawn two separate pop-culture phenomena a decade and a half apart. Its most obvious direction offshoot manifestation is the Ma and Pa Kettle movies, which were built around two characters (played by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride) from the movie and the original book by Betty MacDonald. It was also the distant precursor to the 1960s television series Green Acres, if not its direct inspiration. The whole notion of transplanting otherwise level-headed city-dweller Fred MacMurray and his genteel, sophisticated (and quietly skeptical) wife Claudette Colbert to a broken-down farm is close enough, but the entire scene in which the pair examine their newly acquired home -- all she sees is a wreck, while he enthuses, goofily smiling and eagerly anticipating the country life ahead of them -- are practically the storyboard for the first half of the first season of Green Acres. Indeed, most of the cast of supporting characters from that series are here in embryonic form, along with the essentials of the marriage: the serious husband with that one nutsy flaw -- he wants to be a farmer -- and the overly dignified, ladylike wife, both learning to cope with rustic neighbors. MacMurray is especially fascinating to watch here, playing a role that's a complete reversal of the part he played in Murder, He Says (1945), a rural comedy in which he is the big-city fellow who is totally flabbergasted at the habits of the country folks he encounters. Here, he's the calm, dopily enthusiastic visitor and Colbert is the one who is bewildered by all she finds around her. She also shows a knack for style that anticipates Lucille Ball's comedic art, and the setup of the would-be macho husband and the sophisticated, sharp-tongued, slightly goofy wife prefigures any number of I Love Lucy episodes, as well as her role in Vincente Minnelli's 1954 feature The Long, Long Trailer.
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Based on the humorous autobiographical book by Betty McDonald, The Egg & I casts Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray as Manhattan-dwelling newlyweds. When MacMurray enthusiastically purchases an upstate farm in the hopes of cleaning up in the egg business, Colbert cautiously goes along. The film's humor is derived from the efforts of these two hopelessly citified slickers to adapt themselves to the rigors of rural life. In a plot complication added to the film, pretty neighbor Louise Allbritton upsets the equilibrium of MacMurray and Colbert's union, but both husband and wife are happily reunited at the finale (in real life, Betty McDonald and her husband were splitsville before the book even hit the stands). Retained from the novel, though heavily laundered, were the earthy characters of farmers Ma and Pa Kettle and their huge brood of children. Marjorie Main as Ma and Percy Kilbride as Pa struck so responsive a chord with filmgoers that Universal headlined them in their own "Kettle" series of B pictures, which endured until 1956. The Egg & I would be adapted into a live TV comedy serial in 1952, with Pat Kirkland and John Craven in the leading roles.
All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder