I saw The Egg and I for the first time when I was just ten years old. That was the year we got a TV. In those days the Saturday morning programing included family friendly films. The movies shown were of the barely talking variety mixed in with the more recent Abbott and Costello and Ma and Pa Kettle comedies, which included their first appearance in The Egg and I.
Originally, I found the film a bit of a disappointment in the first viewing. After all, having seen many of the other installments of the series (apparently out of order) I was expecting the focus to be on Ma and Pa Kettle and their gaggle of children and inane problems, and I wound up with Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray in a rather sweet story of cultural surprise and romantic misdirection.
Of course, I was hooked the minute our hero had to knock down the door (albeit, awkwardly) to gain entry to a house sadly in need of repair, paint, and décor. The eventual transformation of the abandoned house to a cozy home entranced me. I was so taken with the film that I made it my quest to go to the library and take out the book by Betty MacDonald on which the film was based. As it turns out, it is a very charming read and the subsequent film production is a pleasure to experience every time I sit down to do so.
Over the years I’ve watched intently as Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, as Tom Hanks poured money hand over fist into The Money Pit, as David Niven witnessed the transformation of a ramshackle eyesore in Don’t Eat the Daisies, as Rosalind Russell flip flopped from one interior decoration to another in Auntie Mame, as the Swiss Family Robinson created the ultimate tree house, and as a backwoods shack fantastically transformed to a bungalow while Doris Day sings “A Woman’s Touch” in Calamity Jane. Each home make over had my rapt attention.
Fantastic homes and apartments that play settings for a vast number of films are all well and good but to see the transformation of simple, plain, even derelict or partly destroyed abodes have always intrigued me. So, when a man - or woman - walks up on the porch of a fixer upper and falls through the rotted floorboards the situation attracts my full attention.
That brings us to my current project of the remodeling and enlarging of my 1952 cottage by the sea. I am having the time of my life and I have the memories of The Egg and I and all the other remodeling, renovation films to thank for my enjoyment. That is why the film was a welcome “must see” on the big screen for me at the recent TCM Film Festival. I could enjoy the nostalgic feeling of watching a childhood favorite, while simultaneously relating to the excitement, wonder and terror the homeowners were going through. It will help to remember the comedy when I’m experiencing the inevitable set backs that come with such a project.
Of course, with today’s inundation of remodeling shows, reality or otherwise, it’s sad to note that Betty MacDonald’s delightful story wouldn’t likely make it to the bestseller list, let alone the big screen. The simplicity of the tale just can’t compete with the eye-popping spectacle of CGI special effects expected at your usual mega plex, and is therefore relegated to little screen. Unless of course you’re a fan of old movies who attends a festival that celebrates those kind of wonderful little films. I am, and the TCMFF does. Lucky me.