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I've always enjoyed stories about a couple moving to the country to either fix up an old house or deal with a house that turns out to be haunted, etc. Along these lines I think of films like 'Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House' and/or the suspenseful 'The Uninvited'. But, of course, with Jack Benny as the star you know you're in for comedy when he and his attractive wife (Ann Sheridan) decide to shed city dweller status and move to a more rural setting. Sheridan has her heart set on a ramshackle old house in Connecticut that seems to be falling apart--but with the help of movie magic she fixes it up and--presto--looks like something out of a House Beautiful catalog. The comedy is outdated and some of it falls short of the mark, but not when neighbor Percy Kilbride is around. Reportedly, Jack and Ann found it hard to keep a straight face when Kilbride cracked some of his dryly humorous observations (in Pa Kettle style). Benny ruined many a take when he was unable to stifle a laugh. Some of the slapstick he and others are subjected to is painful, but all in all this is diverting enough entertainment. Ann Sheridan is a sheer pleasure to watch and Charles Coburn shows up as a story-telling uncle who turns out to be a real phony. Hattie McDaniel and Franklin Pangborn add to the fun, making it worth a peek. One of Benny's better films.
George S. Kauffman & Moss Hart's GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE was one
of Broadway's most successful comedies of the early 1940s, a bright and
witty tale with a slightly Americana tone that World War II audiences
found particularly appealing. The film version, sparked up by the
completely unexpected chemistry of dry-humored Jack Benny and "Oomph
Girl" Ann Sheridan, is every bit as charming.
When New Yorkers Bill and Connie Fuller (Benny and Sheridan) are evicted from their apartment (their third change of address in less than a year), wife Connie decides what they need is a place in the country... and buys an incredibly dilapidated house where George Washington is said to have once slept. Needless to say, husband Bill is horrified--and keeps on being horrified as the price of renovation skyrockets.
Benny was most popular when he played himself in roles tailored to his talents, but although this role is a bit atypical his talents are well suited to the constantly harried Bill Fuller--and he has remarkable rapport with co-star Ann Sheridan, an underestimated actress who shows tremendous flair for comedy as his determinedly optimistic wife. Both are well supported by a cast that includes Charles Coburn, Joyce Reynolds, and Percy Kilbride, and Hattie McDaniel (best remembered as Mammy in GONE WITH THE WIND) really shines as Hester, their long-suffering domestic who finds herself with a hole in the kitchen wall big enough for a horse to walk through--and one does! The pace is snappy, the script is witty, and every one is sure to have a good time. Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
George Washington Slept Here is a tour-de-force for the great Jack
Benny. He is given the opportunity to fully display his comedic acting
skills here, as the movie is written and directed with class and style.
He's ably assisted in the hilarity by the equally great Ann Sheridan,
and supporting cast members Percy Kilbride and Charles Coburn add even
more comic class to the movie.
This is the kind of movie you can watch with your kids where you find that the entire family enjoys it equally. While some cynics may not enjoy this movie as much as I do (it is clearly a product of it's time), if you find that you enjoy classic comedies then you should give this one a chance.
Hopefully it will be released on DVD soon. (As of this writing, 2/05/05, it is not yet on DVD.)
This is one of the funniest films I've ever seen. A local station in Houston used to run this show on new year's eve and I would watch it every year. Few comics can top Benny and his deadpan delivery but Pa Kettle came close in this one as he played the slow motion yard man.
The classic of the "ramshackle house in the country" genre is without doubt "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House", and although this predecessor by 6 years does not attain its succesor's high comic level, it is still amusing and worth a see. I must admit I feel ancient when a viewer here writes "Remember Jack Benny?" For those of us who grew up in the fifties he was a titan of early television. Although he and Ann Sheridan cannot match the chemistry of Cary Grant and Myrna Loy in the later flick, they still work well together, and the whole project is abetted by a marvelous script from the unmatched talents of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, whose best lines go to Benny's Bill Fuller. Also notable are a contribution from Charles Coburn and a cameo from the inimitable Franklin Pangborn. Worthwhile comic viewing.
This is a better comedy than many reviewers indicate. To appreciate it
you have to remember two things - firstly, it was made in 1942, and
thus there are quite a few patriotic themes in the movie, since that
was the kind of film being made at the beginning of World War II, when
the U.S. didn't yet know if it would be successful fighting a two front
war in which everything was at stake. The second thing to remember is
that Jack Benny did all of his scenes with Percy Kilbride (later known
as Pa Kettle) on days in which he had gotten no sleep the night before.
He did this deliberately, because Jack had insisted Kilbride play the
part when Jack Warner just wanted to insert one of his contract
players. Jack Benny insisted that Kilbride made the play and was thus
essential for the movie. Jack Benny got his way, but every time Jack
Benny looked at Percy Kilbride when he was shooting the movie he broke
into hysterical laughter. When the director threatened to remove Benny
if he continued this, then Benny decided to stay up all night before he
had any scenes with Kilbride because then he was so exhausted that he
just didn't care.
If you're in the mood for a light sweet movie from the 40's with Benny's brand of understated comedy, this certainly fits the bill. Just don't expect Benny the miser of Jack's radio and TV days. This film takes advantage of Benny's comic timing and deadpan delivery of comic observations when confronted by outrageous behavior and situations on all sides, but it is just not a role for a cheapskate.
Percy Kilbride shows up often on Jack Benny's radio show, particular those broadcast during World War II. His deadpan delivery always had the cast and audience in stitches and it is a real treat to encounter Kilbride in roles as a postal official or delivery man, bent on enforcing the "rules" much to the chagrin of Benny, and his sidekicks. Later, as Pa Kettle, Kilbride enjoyed his greatest success. Any fan of Jack Benny and anyone who has access to Benny's radio shows can benefit from "George Washington Slept Here" because you not only get a good look at the man himself, but in this case you get the extra benefit of seeing Benny and Kilbride reprise, so to speak, their wonderfully workable comedy.
Ann Sheridan buys a dilapidated house believing that "George Washington
Slept Here" in this 1942 film also starring Jack Benny, Percy Kilbride,
Charles Coburn and Hattie McDaniel. Sheridan and Benny are husband and
wife Bill and Connie Fuller, about to be evicted from their apartment
because of their dog shredding the hall rug. Wanting to plant roots,
Connie has fallen in love with an old house and purchased it, possibly
without thinking it through. There's no water, the roof leaks, and Bill
falls through the floor and continually falls down the stairs. Their
budget triples as their hired handyman (Kilbride) needs to buy more
gravel, more this, more that, all the time drilling for water (and
finding the neighbor's) - until the couple is nearly out of money.
After putting everything they have into the house, they can't pay the
$5000 note on it. Hope is in the form of Connie's annoying Uncle
Stanley (Coburn), who's come for a visit.
Based on the play by Moss Hart, "George Washington Slept Here" makes a good transition to the screen, thanks to the fabulous delivery of Jack Benny, who is a riot, the charm of the lovely Ann Sheridan, and the deadpan affect of "Pa Kettle," Percy Kilbride. He gives Benny a run for his money in the comedy department. You won't want to miss his rendition of "I'll Never Smile Again" and the one different facial expression he uses in the entire film.
All of the cast is good, including Hattie McDaniel, who watches the dinner table with the dinner on it float away and Charles Coburn as an uncle who only gives gifts of his photo.
Typical chaotic, warm, funny Moss Hart play that he wrote so well. Definitely worth seeing.
I actually prefer this version of the "Home restoration from Hell" concept
to the more famous "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House", despite the
presence of the ubiquitous Cary Grant in the latter. Perhaps it's because
saw this one first, or because it came first. Whatever the reason, I
Jack Benny to be quite humorous in this starring turn, although the old
caretaker nearly stole the show from under him.
8 out of 10.
Funny movie whose comedy premise was picked up several years later by
the better known Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). Here
Benny and wife Sheridan exit the city for a rural shack supposedly
slept in by our first president. Of course the new digs turn out to be
a bottomless money pit and source of irritation for the city-bred
Benny. Add grouchy neighbor Charles Dingle, a nasty little nephew, a
free-loading Charles Coburn, and a slow- talking handy-man and you've
got a madcap mix of comedy antics.
It is an entertaining movie, but with all these promising ingredients why isn't the 90 minutes better than I think it is. For one, there's simply too much going on for director Kheighley to adroitly manage. The situations are inherently amusing, but lack the snap and polish needed to put them over. When Benny falls into the old well, for example, there's neither the reassuring dialog nor comedic reaction that would separate comedy from tragedy. Surprisingly, the scene closes with Benny down the well and viewers in doubt.
Jack Benny was one of the funniest guys around. But his humor was subtle and grew out of character. Radio and TV were perfect since he could play versions of his familiar tightwad personality. As good as he was in those venues, he was not a comedic actor. Here he's permanently flustered with a lot of dialog-- not the strongest suit for a comedian whose specialty were moments of quiet exasperation. He does well enough, but truth be told, the part could have been handled just as well by a dozen other actors. The role was perfect for a Cary Grant-type tizzy as Blandings would prove.
It's Percy Kilbride who walks off with the movie. There's been no one like him before or since. Drop a bomb on him and his deadpan expression wouldn't change. He's totally unflappable with a meat cleaver nose that could slice a side of beef. And what a moment of comedic inspiration when his crackling down-home voice slides into I'll Never Smile Again; it's like a head on Mt. Rushmore suddenly breaking into song. So out of character, it's a total crack up. The movie may not be front-rank, yet it does have its moments.
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