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Jackass Mail

Jackass Mail(1942)

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Jackass Mail (1942)

Having made a successful transition from silent to talking pictures, character actor Wallace Beery vaulted onto Hollywood's A-list with his performance in Min and Bill (1930), as an irascible fisherman who aids waterfront innkeeper Marie Dressler in her struggle to raise an orphan of the docks. The film's success led to additional Beery-Dressler team-ups, a profitable partnership that came to an end with Dressler's death in 1934. Seeking to put Beery back on the big screen with an equally outsized leading lady, MGM tapped strapping comedienne Marjorie Main as his costar in Wyoming (1940). Audiences loved the pairing and Beery and Main returned in six more films, among them the western comedy Jackass Mail (1942), in which they play, respectively, a bushwhacking owlhoot and the good woman dead set on making an honest man of him. A veteran of vaudeville and Broadway, Main found Beery a challenge to work with, due to his penchant for ad-libbing. Beery's pal Leo Carrillo offered Main this advice: "Just look at him and listen to him and when he stops talking, say your line." The trick worked and Main enjoyed several more onscreen partnerships with Beery until his death in 1949. A year earlier, Main had received an Oscar nomination for her peppery turn as hillbilly matriarch Ma Kettle in The Egg and I (1947) and went on to reprise the character as the star of Universal's popular and long-running "Ma and Pa Kettle" comedies.

By Richard Harland Smith

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