Saturday, February 13, 2010

George Washington Slept Here

George Washington Slept Here (1942) is a comedy based on the Broadway hit directed by William Keighley starring Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan.

The film costars Charles Coburn, Percy Kilbride, Hattie McDaniel, William Tracy, Joyce Reynolds, John Emery, Charles Dingle, Harvey Stephens and Terry the dog.

Bill and Connie Fuller (Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan) are forced to move from their New York City apartment because their small dog (Terry) has damaged the carpets.

Antique loving Connie secretly purchases a run down farmhouse in which rumors state that George Washington once slept there.

Bill hates everything about the house. Added to the fact that there are rotten floors, no bathroom, no water, a roof that leaks, walls missing and trains that depart at odd hours making commuting almost impossible.

Despite Bill's objections, the Fullers, together with Connie's young sister Madge (Joyce Reynolds), move into the house and begin renovations with the help of local handyman Mr. Kimber (Percy Kilbride).

The Fullers encounter several obstacles and Jack Benny as Bill is hilarious dealing with his new home.

Mr. Prescott (Charles Dingle) announces that the road to the house is his road and the Fuller's cannot use it. So Bill Fuller most drive over the country dodging cows.

Kimber finally finds water only to learn that he has dug on Mr. Prescott's land and tapped into Prescott's well. So Kimber continues to dig for water.

One rainy day, Hester (Hattie McDaniel), the couple's maid, announces the kitchen table has floated away with dinner.

To make matters worse, everything is costing more than the couple budgeted.

By the end of summer, the house is remodeled but there is still no water.

Uncle Stanley (Charles Coburn) arrives for a visit. Uncle Stanley is the family's rich uncle that everyone is kind to hoping he will leave them money. However, Uncle Stanley is a windbag and full of himself, always bringing framed portraits of himself.

Then Connie's bratty nephew Raymond (Douglas Croft) comes to live with them.

The Fullers then learn that, contrary to the legend, Benedict Arnold, not George Washington, slept in their house.

Meanwhile, Madge has become smitted with local actor Clayton Evans (John Emery) who is performing in the local production of The Man Who Came to Dinner. Steve (William Tracy) does not realize Madge is also now performing in the local play and believes Madge is about to run off with Clayton. Steve tells Bill and he grabs a shotgun and rushes to rescue his niece. To Bill's suprise, he bursts on stage in the middle of a performance and the audience erupts in laughter.

Jeff Douglas (Harvey Stephens) a local antique dealer and president of the local historical society has been helping Connie on a secret project. Bill becomes convinced they are having an affair. The secret project is Jeff locates an original map of the area which reveals the well and road are not on Prescott's land but actually the Fueller's land.

When Bill gleefully tells this news to Prescott, he responds by pointing out that the Fullers are facing foreclosure and that he intends to buy their newly remodeled house and land when that happens. To Bill's dismay, Connie had failed to tell him about the foreclosure letter she received because she didn't want to bother him with minor things.

Desperate to save their home, Bill and Connie ask Stanley for the necessary money, but he turns them down, confessing that he went broke in 1929 and has been lying about his fortune in order to ensure that his relatives will treat him well.

Things look hopeless, but then the Fuller's small dog finds an old letter in a boot that Kimber discovered while digging for a well. It is a letter from George Washington which is valuable enough to pay the mortgage, thus saving the house just in time for the arrival of a swarm of seventeen-year locusts.

George Washington Slept Here moves at a snappy pace and is full of ample moments for classic Benny reactions and classic Benny gags.

For example, one classic gag occurs at a train station. Bill Fuller is holding a bunch of garden supplies and keeps accidently tapping a train passenger (Gertrude Carr) on the butt with a rake. She turns around and slaps an innoscent passenger (Jack Mower) thinking he is grabbing her butt.

Percy Kilbride is wonderful as Mr. Kimble, never cracking a smile and delivering his lines with a calm nonchalant way. At one point in the movie he breaks into song out of nowhere singing "I'll Never Smile Again" which brings the house down in laughter.

The Fuller's dog (Terry) is delightful and is better known for her role as Toto in The Wizard of Oz.

A very pleasant and amusing "house from Hell" comedy with a wonderful cast. With its fast pace, this a movie you can watch again and again and always find something new and amusing in the performances.

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