Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tonight's Movie: George Washington Slept Here (1942)

Bill and Connie Fuller (Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan) are contented New York apartment dwellers...until Connie decides they should buy their own home. Connie surprises Bill when she purchases a ramshackle place in the country, charmed by the notion that GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE.

The Fullers immediately move into their new home, accompanied by Connie's kid sister Madge (Joyce Reynolds) and their maid Hester (Hattie McDaniel). The house is an absolute disaster, but they set out to fix it up with the help of the local handyman, Mr. Kimber (Percy Kilbride). The Fullers also contend with a visit from cantankerous but wealthy Uncle Stanley (Charles Coburn) and Connie's obnoxious young nephew, Raymond (Douglas Croft).

This amusing movie is based on a Kaufman & Hart play. 1942 was a good movie year for Kaufman and Hart, as another of their hits, THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, was also released that year. An interesting tidbit is that the casting of Jack Benny necessitated that the roles of the husband and wife be flip-flopped from the play; in the play the husband is the straight man, so the script was rewritten so that Benny could be the one reacting with dismay to each new problem with the house.

Benny and Sheridan have nice chemistry, particularly in the early scenes. It's a good thing that the first part of the film establishes their loving relationship, as Benny's Bill spends much of the movie carping about Connie's boondoggle of a house. However, when things get serious late in the film, it's clear once more how much Bill cares for Connie...and the house.

Percy Kilbride, who became famous as "Pa Kettle" a few years later, had his first major film role in GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE, recreating the role he had played in the original Broadway play. Kilbride's vacant-brained handyman surely must have helped inspire the part of George the handyman played by Tom Poston on NEWHART. Kilbride is very funny; it's hard to imagine the film without him.

The movie almost has more characters than it can use; for instance, Joyce Reynolds' Madge doesn't have much to do, although her final scene with Benny is fun. Charles Coburn has a relatively small amount of screen time; it would have been nice if the pointless character of bratty nephew Raymond had been eliminated so that Coburn and Reynolds' roles could have been expanded.

The supporting cast includes Franklin Pangborn as a fussy (what else?) landlord, William Tracy as Madge's boyfriend, Harvey Stephens as a local historian, and Lee Patrick as an actress.

GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE was directed by William Keighley. It was shot in black and white by Ernie Haller. The running time is 93 minutes.

This film has had a release on VHS. It has not been released on DVD.

GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, where it next airs February 9 and March 28, 2010.

The trailer can be seen here.

November 2013 Update: This film has now been released on DVD-R by the Warner Archive.

5 Comments:

Blogger Ed South said...

I only wish I could set my TiVo now to record this in February. I love Jack Benny and have been wanting to see this film for a long time! Thanks for the heads up!

9:35 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Ed!

If you go to this page at TCM, click on "Remind Me" at the righthand margin. TCM will email you two different reminders during the week preceding the February airdate, so you can make sure to set your TiVo.

Hope you enjoy it too! I always get a kick out of Jack Benny. I love him in TO BE OR NOT TO BE. I recently recorded THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT which I've never seen.

Happy New Year,
Laura

11:11 PM  
Blogger Cliff Aliperti said...

I agree that the nephew was irritating, really irritating, but that made his knock-out blow pretty funny. Thought Coburn was a blast here. I don't usually like so much physical comedy, but Benny pulled everything back enough to make this one of the most hilarious classic comedies I've seen. Love the movie, great write-up ... wish I got here a couple of years ago to comment on it!

2:14 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for your feedback, Cliff, I enjoyed it! I agree, physical comedy's not so much my "thing" but I really enjoyed this. Jack Benny cracks me up. :)

Best wishes,
Laura

2:37 PM  
Blogger darlene said...

Was searching info on tonight's TCM presentation, and found your site. From Orange County myself (but now living several years in Wisconsin)I am happy to have found one who blogs on old movies--a love for old movies is something my dad passed on to me. Actually an infatuation with movies like "George Washington Slept Here" and "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse" and (of course the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of books)precipitated my eventual trek to reside in an old farmhouse in the country, not too far from where the author was born. If interested my own blog lessisplenty tells about this--in any event happy to have found this blog! Darlene

6:45 PM  

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