Weatherford Democrat

Viewpoints

March 30, 2014

Idle American: Marjorie Main, In Love and War...

By Dr. DON NEWBURY

Folks with dim memories of World War II recall the “coming home” of troops, and attendant triumphal celebrations that reverberated around the globe.  Believers in democracy-- weary of Movietone newsreels’ gory war scenes at movie theaters, dismal commentaries on radio and troubling newspaper accounts--were ready for news of loved ones returning home—a place, someone said, where when you go there, they have to let you in.

In the homeland, folk bought war bonds, accepted rationing and endured ultimate sacrifices in a unified effort requiring wide participation. For more than any other American military engagement, we stood stoically united. As a third-grader when the US prevailed, I have faint memories of President Franklin Roosevelt’s bolstering radio speeches. I regret that his death occurred mere weeks before declaration of victory.

Perhaps no one splashed wider smiles in this dark era than actress Marjorie Main (1890-1975), a well-known movie character who never thought of herself as a “pin-up.”…

*****

When we had little reason to smile during America’s half-decade of war years, she teamed up with Wallace Beery on the silver screen as a crusty, “rough and ready,” pipe-smoking actress who made us laugh.

Later, the laughs became guffaws as she partnered with Percy Kilbride in 10 Ma and Pa Kettle movies (forerunners of TV’s All in the Family). Her homeliness in each movie moved her ever lower on the “pin-up beauty scale.” Marjorie’s name never appeared on the glamour list headed by Hedy Lamarr, Yvonne DeCarlo, Joan Leslie and Rita Hayworth.

These stars’ images, outfitted in swimsuits considered dowdy by fashionistas today, appeared on many fighter planes. Had Main been a “fuselage feature,” she’d have been shown in a high-necked dress and a “don’t-you-dare” scowl, her rolling pin raised high….

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