While shaving one morning, World War II veteran Bob MacDonald (Fred MacMurray) ecstatically informs his new bride Betty (Claudette Colbert) that he has quit his mundane job in the city for the idyllic life of raising chickens in the country.

Driving a decrepit truck crammed with livestock, the newlyweds soon venture into the mountains and arrive at their new home, a dilapidated old shack. As Bob bubbles on about their wonderful new life, Betty contends with a leaky roof and recalcitrant stove. On their first night, Bob plots a timetable for breeding livestock over the next year, including the birth of the couple's first baby. Rising before sunrise the following day, Bob and Betty are visited by their neighbor, Pa Kettle (Percy Kilbride), who promptly borrows the load of wood and bucket of nails that Bob has just purchased to build a chicken coop. That afternoon, Betty is terrified when she looks up from her stove and sees two Indians, Geoduck (John Berkes) and Crowbar (Victor Potel), who have come to sell fish, peering through her kitchen window.

Reluctant to deprive the chickens of their eggs, Betty decides instead to lead Cleopatra, the pig, into her pen. Just as Cleopatra pitches Betty into the mud, Harriet Putnam (Louise Allbritton), the glamorous divorcee who owns the neighboring Bella Vista Farm, arrives and effortlessly coaxes the pig. Betty's next visitor is Billy Reed (Billy House), a persistent traveling salesman who unsuccessfully pesters her to buy his wares. When Tom Kettle (Richard Long), Pa's son, who has come to help out at the farm, confides his dreams of attending college, Betty decides to visit Tom's family to plead his case.

As Betty saunters down the road to the Kettle farm, she is offered a ride by Mrs. Hicks (Esther Dale) and her eccentric mother (Isabel O’Madigan), who tactlessly predict the failure of the newlyweds' farm. At the Kettles', Betty is greeted by a boisterous brood of children and livestock. When Betty relates Tom's dream of going to college, the big-hearted, but slovenly Ma Kettle (Marjorie Main) replies that the entire family is dependent upon his earnings.

At Harriet's invitation, Bob and Betty visit her luxurious Bella Vista Farm, where Betty becomes jealous when Harriet begins to flirt with her husband. To rekindle Bob's ardor, Betty dons her wedding dress and in response, Bob dresses in his tuxedo. As the couple dances, Mr. Henty (Donald MacBride), a taciturn egg buyer, appears in their living room. Unimpressed by their finery, Henty leaves without agreeing to buy any eggs.

When Betty, who has become friends with Ma, makes her a new dress for the big dance, Ma gives her a quilt she has just finished sewing. On the night of the party, Betty is asked to dance by a string of idiosyncratic partners while Harriet monopolizes Bob, thus infuriating Betty. The party comes to an abrupt end when the Sheriff (Samuel Hinds) announces that the Kettles' barn has caught fire and the flames are spreading throughout the valley. Bob and Betty struggle to save their farm, but when the wind shifts, the blaze destroys their outbuildings and crops. The next morning, their neighbors rally to help them rebuild the farm, and Henty offers them a two-year egg contract.

To earn money for Tom's tuition, Betty decides to enter Ma's quilt in the county fair. Upon learning that all the judges are cousins of the Hicks and consequently award prizes only to members of their family, Betty bribes Billy Reed, who is charge of the fair, to give the quilting prize to Ma.

As Betty and Ma enjoy the rides at the fair, Harriet lures Bob to her farm by offering to sell him the property. After Ma's quilt is awarded first prize, Betty faints and Ma declares that she must be pregnant. That night, Betty prepares a celebratory dinner, and as she eagerly awaits Bob's arrival. Emily (Ida Moore), an old neighbor lady, comes to the door, introduces Betty to her invisible husband and regales her with stories about vicious giant chickens. Soon after, the sheriff comes to claim Emily and explains that she used to live at the farm before going insane after her husband ran off with another woman.

Late that night, a messenger delivers a note from Bob, notifying Betty that he has been delayed. In a jealous rage, Betty packs her suitcases and returns to the city to live with her mother. Over the months, Betty refuses to open the outpouring of letters that Bob has mailed her. After giving birth to a baby girl, however, she decides to reconcile with him and boards a train headed for the country. At the station, Betty hails a cab and instructs the driver to take her to Bob's house. When the driver stops at Bella Vista Farm, Betty is furious until she discovers that Bob is the property's new owner.

After Bob informs Betty that he was delayed the night of the fair because he was busy cajoling Harriet into selling him the farm, they embrace and Betty produces their daughter, reminding him that they are right on schedule. Bob then dashes off to resolve another crisis at the chicken house.

Oscar
1 Nomination
0 Awards

Golden Globes
0 Nominations
0 Awards
“The Egg & I” is based on the autobiographical book by Betty McDonald. While the book is anecdotal, liberties were taken with the stories that MacDonald wrote about. During her years on the chicken ranch, MacDonald was married to Robert Heskett, whom she divorced in 1931. In the book, MacDonald's husband was simply referred to as "Bob". For the movie, studio executives decided that the character would be named "Bob MacDonald" to avoid the specter of Betty MacDonald's divorce, and tie better into the public's perception of the author. Although it's largely overlooked today, “The Egg and I” helped spawn two separate pop-culture phenomena a decade and a half apart. Its most obvious direction offshoot manifestation is the Ma and Pa Kettle movies, which were built around two characters played by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride from the movie and the original book. It was also the distant precursor to the 1960s television series “Green Acres”, if not its direct inspiration.

The whole notion of transplanting otherwise level-headed city-dweller Fred MacMurray and his genteel, sophisticated (and quietly skeptical) wife Claudette Colbert to a broken-down farm is close enough, but the entire scene in which the pair examine their newly acquired home -- all she sees is a wreck, while he enthuses, goofily smiling and eagerly anticipating the country life ahead of them -- are practically the storyboard for the first half of the first season of “Green Acres”.

The film is well paced – nothing goes on too long and every scene contains a funny or touching quality. Colbert makes you care about her character; you're rooting for her all the way as the demands of the farm are far more challenging to her than to her husband. MacMurray is especially fascinating to watch here, playing a role that's a complete reversal of the part he played in “Double Indemnity” three years earlier. Throughout the film is a parade of colorful rural characters, the Kettles being the most spectacular. The Kettle family was created here and became a series of films starting in 1949. Marjorie Main, a wonderful, well sought after character actress was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Ma Kettle.

This family became dear to a lot of the film publics heart because it is the depression type big old farm family. This movie won't change you, however, it is a lot of fun and a welcome change of pace. It's also a great movie for the entire family.