Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ma Kettle and The Happy Home Circa 1910

Give us a healthy home full of intellectual activity where the homely virtues prevail. Where complete honesty and frankness have free expression. Where the lungs expand with pure air, and the brain quivers with wholesome aspiration and sincere inquiry. Where souls bask in contentment and the sunshine of purity and peace.            
This above, is from Food and Cookery Magazine 1911. It summed up a prevailing belief, or propaganda, that clean homes were happy homes.  

Well, last night I got a bit bored with The Egg and I Movie, which was facile and just a series of silly vignettes, unlike the book which was witty and informative and wise.

As everyone knows, Marjorie Main, as Ma Kettle, stole the show, and she really had no material to work with.

She brought a powerful humanity to her rather slapstick role. I especially liked her hair. She has exactly the same hair-do that Margaret Nicholson of Tighsolas wore in the Edwardian Era, just a bit dishevelled.

And if you think about it, she is the anti-Margaret, or the antidote to all the pressure put on middle class women of the Edwardian era (and post Edwardian) to be neat and clean housewives.

Yes, the Egg and I takes place later, but Ma is Edwardian. Just look at her messy coif.

Ma Kettle has so many children she can’t remember their names, and she has given up on housework, (Why bother?)yet she has a happy home, indeed her first born is a charming and brilliant boy. She feeds her brood what looks like great quantities of healthy food, clearing the kitchen table with one powerful sweep of her arm (as she scratches the underside of her rather feral bosom with her free hand).

I must go back and see the other 9, yes, nine movies about Ma and Pa Kettle.

There is more to this Ma and Pa Kettle phenomenon than mere slapstick.

Margaret Nicholson, of my historical e-book Threshold Girl, born 1853, was a crack housekeeper and proud of it, but it did not in the least fulfill her.