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Monday, August 19, 2013

THE EGG AND I (1947)

This wildly popular little comedy about city-folk newlyweds who get into all sorts of trouble starting up a chicken farm should be all tuckered out after birthing two cornpone tv series and a run of 'Ma' & 'Pa' Kettle hayseed comedies. But it holds up pretty darn well, with good-natured laughs that feel like they came out of a real place and not Sit-Com Land. Claudette Colbert & Fred MacMurray are immensely likable as the tenderfoot farmers, and while Fred really is a lot like Eddie Albert in the old GREEN ACRES show, Colbert’s characterization is entirely her own. No la-di-da glamour-puss, a la Eva Gabor, she rolls up her sleeves, lands in pig slop and fights an ancient stove to make the best of things. Sure the neighbors seem a highly eccentric lot, but not to anyone who’s met the local yokel neighbors at a weekend country home. The plot turns mechanical in the third act, wasting a big sentimental Capra-esque climax, but you’ll see why this was one of the year’s top-ten pics.

DOUBLE-BILL: Percy Kilbridge made a career out of his ‘Pa’ Kettle character, first playing him on stage in Kaufman & Hart’s GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE/’42, then reprising it on film. A close cousin to EGG, with NY’ers Jack Benny & Ann Sheridan getting screwed by contractors after buying a fixer-upper house in the country, both the play & the film have a terrible rep. Yet the film earns a lot of laughs, with Benny & Sheridan radiating charm & neat comic timing. (William Keighley had just helmed a better Kaufman/Hart farce, THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER/’42, which co-starred Sheridan and could have used Benny.)

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