Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Marjorie Main (1890 - 1975)

Marjorie Main (February 24, 1890 – April 10, 1975) was an American character actress, perhaps best known for her role as Ma Kettle in a series of ten Ma and Pa Kettle movies. Born Mary Tomlinson in Acton, Indiana, Main adopted a stage name to avoid embarrassing her minister father, Samuel J. Tomlinson. 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. 

Main began playing upper class dowagers but was ultimately typecast in abrasive, domineering, salty roles, for which her distinct 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 played Sonora Cassidy, the chief cook, in The Harvey Girls (1945). The director, George Sidney, says in the comments on the film that Miss Main was a "great lady" as well as a great actress who donated most of her paychecks over the years to the support of a school. 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 Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the part and portrayed the character in nine more Ma and Pa Kettle films.

Marjorie Main was married to Stanley LeFevre Krebs from 1921 until his death in 1935. In 1974, a year before her death, she was invited to the Los Angeles premiere of the MGM compilation film,That's Entertainment. It was her first public appearance since she retired from films in 1957. At the post-premiere party, she was greeted with cheers of enthusiasm from the crowd of spectators. She died of lung cancer on April 10, 1975, in Los Angeles at the age of 85. She is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Her name is listed on her headstone as Mrs. Mary Tomlinson Krebs, with her stage name Marjorie Main underneath.

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