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.