Charley Wyckham and Jack Chesney pressure fellow student Fancourt Babberly to pose as Charley's Brazilian Aunt Donna Lucia. Their purpose is to have a chaperone for their amorous visits with Amy and Kitty, niece and ward of crusty Stephen Spettigue. Complications begin when Fancourt, in drag, becomes the love object of old Spettigue and Sir Francis Chesney. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Richard Haydn did not use his did not use his usual 'timid professor' voice when playing "Charley"; however, he did use that voice when dubbing the opening line of the movie ("Good afternoon, Mr. Redcliff") for what is presumably an uncredited extra. See more »
Good afternoon, Mr. Redcliff.
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CHARLEY'S AUNT (Archie L. Mayo, 1941) *** and THREE OF A KIND (N/A, 1941) ***
Once one accepts the archaically broad comedy conventions at play, this is a very funny film adaptation of the celebrated cross-dressing farce (Joshua Logan's contemporaneous stage version had starred Jose' Ferrer!). Legendary comedian Jack Benny stars as a British lord and longtime Oxford student(!) who is forced by his best friends (James Ellison and a debuting Richard Haydn) to pose as the latter's wealthy Brazilian aunt in order to act as chaperon when meeting their girlfriends. Initially, the uncle (Edmund Gwenn) of one of the girls (a thankless role for Anne Baxter) is contrary to their union but soon changes his tune when he realizes whom Haydn is related to; however, he has to contend with the amorous rivalry of Ellison's own penniless father (Laird Cregar who, at 25, was younger than his on screen son but, nevertheless, convincingly plays a 51-year old roué)! The fine cast is rounded up by Kay Francis (quite lovely as Charley's real aunt), Reginald Owen (amusing as the hapless Dean) and Claud Allister (hilariously appearing at the start as one of two unperturbed gentlemen spectators at an accident-prone cricket match). Not everything works, alas: Gwenn's character arch from stern guardian to undignified fortune hunter is as hard to take as the bland romance between Baxter and Haydn but, ultimately, Jack Benny's frenzied comic antics triumph over such hurdles.
An interesting extra on the CHARLEY'S AUNT DVD is this fun promotional short which is very rare for films of its era. It finds star Jack Benny taking time off for lunch at the Fox studio mess hall, when he runs first into Tyrone Power and then Randolph Scott. Naturally, they all start talking about their current action-packed projects with Power enthusiastic about his latest romantic flagwaver A YANK IN THE R.A.F. (1941) and Scott ditto about the Technicolored Western BELLE STARR (1941). However, Benny makes things up in an effort to avoid discussing his current gender-bending role though he's not helped by the fact that, from time to time, a bellboy turns up with various parts of his feminine outfit seeking the star's approval! When he eventually confesses, it's Power and Scott's turn to sulk as they bemoan their typecasting as rugged action stars and admit to craving juicy parts such as Benny always gets; indeed, for the latter (and the audience's) benefit, they provide background detail about the "Charley's Aunt" play including the fact that it's one of the most popular (and hilarious) pieces ever written.
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