When I watch films like “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” (1948) and “The Egg and I,” (1947), I’m reminded of a lost world where there once existed a major difference between people from the city and people from the country. Hollywood made many films like these in the old days. Sophisticated met unsophisticated and Hollywood made comedy from it. In the years since the 1950s, American farmers still till the land, but they put their feet up in front of the TV set after a hard days work. Cowboys know all the songs on the radio, and humble fisherman rely on the latest technology to find their schools of fish.
Judy Holiday came to New York in “It Should Happen to You” (1954) to flummox Madison Avenue, whose admen are powerless to her logic. In Billy Wilder’s “The Major and the Minor” from 1942, Ginger Rogers leaves New York in disgust and impersonates a 12 year old girl to get a cheap ticket on the train. I can’t imagine modern audiences suspending disbelief to this extent now, unless of course a movie involves either fantasy or absurdity.
Ma and Pa Kettle, as played by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride, appeared in ten films, starting with The Egg and I. In the Ma and Pa Kettle series, Main and Kilbride play country bumpkins who often deal with conniving politicians or gangsters. Their uniquely hayseed point of view makes them eccentric even on their own rural turf.
Everyone’s instant access to each other makes it harder to tell the fish out of water story. I fondly remember the classic film “My Man Godfrey” (1936), starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. Powell plays a hobo who gets hired by Lombard as a butler. I like how decrepit he is as a hobo, but how sophisticated he becomes once he puts on the butler’s outfit. Powell’s charm and wit give this movie great appeal, but it made me wonder why a guy like that would live on a trash heap.