George Washington Slept Here (1942)

  • I love George Washington, I love movies, and I love sleeping – so I figure I’m destined to like this movie.

I mean – right?

  • The Fullers have a dog called Ronnie (or at least I think that’s his name – I can’t seem to find validation of that anywhere) who keeps eating bits of the expensive rugs that line their apartment building’s hallways. Franklin Pangborn, the eternal concierge/building manager (here he plays a man named Mr. Gibney) tells them that this is no longer acceptable, and Connie (Ann Sheridan) decides it’s time for them to move.
  • Connie wants to move to the country, but Bill (Jack Benny) is not enthusiastic about the idea. “Smell that air!” says Connie, smiling excitedly as they drive away from the city. “Smells like an old hat,” Bill flatly responds.
  • Connie pulls off the main road to look at a house in which George Washington supposedly once slept (!) and brightly comments on how beautifully historical the structure is. “It looks like a motel for buzzards,” says Bill.
  • Suffice it to say…Bill is NOT a happy camper when Connie surprises him with the news that the dilapidated old building is now theirs to keep for always. Connie has taken the initiative to spend most of the contents of their bank account on it. Woohoo!

(I mean…I’m an American History lover, y’all – but I’m kind of with Bill on this one. The house looks like shit, and there’s no way repairing & restoring it will be anything short of a rickety, debris-filled nightmare.)

  • During the initial surprise tour of the house, Bill falls through the floorboards of the second story into the open-air (as in, it’s missing a back wall) kitchen. I’d say this is is not a hopeful occurrence, structural integrity-wise.
  • A week later, when they’re back to move in, Hester (the Fullers’ maid, played by the ever wonderful Hattie McDaniel) sums up the situation perfectly when she says “George Washington should have chopped this house down, instead of the cherry tree.”
  • So…a neighbor called Mr. Douglas (Harvey Stephens) drops by, and he kindly informs Connie & Bill that the George Washington story is merely a legend. Really, it was Benedict Arnold who slept in their home.

Haha. Benedict Arnold! Sad day.

  •  All Jack Benny does for the first 50 minutes of the movie is half-yell unfunny sarcastic comments about how awful his life is & how awful the house is & what awful decision-making skills his wife has. It gets real old. It’s like…come on, man! Say your next comment in a whisper, or something!
  • Madge (Joyce Reynolds) is Connie’s sister, and there’s no point to her. She’s just there. I mean – she lives with Connie & Bill, and she dates Pepi from THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940)…while also maintaining non-secret romantic fascinations with older, unattainable men on the side – and that’s about it. She has no influence on the plot, whatsoever.
  • Halfway through the movie, Connie & Madge’s nephew (a boy named Raymond, played by Douglas Croft) shows up, and Bill hates him just as much (if not more than) he hates everything else.

(Connie probably should have married Mr. Blandings, you guys.)

  • By the time Raymond arrives on the scene, the house looks mostly fixed up & decorated with lots of fine furnishings – it’s pretty impressive! (Bill still hates it, though.)
  • As if they needed more people in the house, Connie’s rich uncle Stanley arrives to stay for a few days. This is unlucky for Bill (because – surprise! – he hates him), but lucky for us, because Uncle Stanley is played by Charles Coburn.

Woo!

  • Uncle Stanley’s trademarks are telling the same unexciting stories over & over again, and also bringing framed pictures of himself as gifts. Stellar.
  • Jack Benny’s voice in this is so loud & tiresome. I wish he’d become a mute in protest of the house, or something. That’d make this film loads more enjoyable.
  • (Thoroughly unsurprising) Plot twist! After all of these dramatic home improvements, the Fullers are broke and their house is set to be foreclosed on.
  • (What do you bet Uncle Stanley’s money comes into play here, very shortly?)
  • Right on cue! There’s a really bad splice (?) of film where Bill is sitting on the arm of the couch, comforting Connie…when the film cuts & immediately resumes, at a slightly different angle, at which point Bill exclaims “Uncle Stanley!”…then the scene really ends, and the next one opens up on a shot of the two of them begging Uncle Stanley for his money. (They need $5000 by Tuesday.)
  • Jokes on them, though – apparently rich Uncle Stanley “went broke in 1929.”

“Whaaat?!” Bill and Connie say, stunned out of their goddamn minds.

  • Hahaha! When Uncle Stanley went broke, he figured that as long as everyone still thought he was rich, he could probably put together a wonderful life for himself, purely by being hosted by various relatives who anticipated him leaving large sums of money to them in his will, as a reward for their kind behavior & generous hosting skills. What a prankster Uncle Stanley has turned out to be! I love it!
  • …What. the fuck. just happened.
  • So, at the very last hour, Mr. Kimber the Handyman (Percy Kilbride) finds an old boot buried in the yard while he’s drilling for water – and inside, there’s an antique, folded document featuring some massively patriotic words written by George Washington. Everyone’s like, ‘Woo! The house is saved! This letter will fetch way more than $5000 at auction! Hooray!’

When all of the sudden…Mr. Kimber (Kimbie, for short) looks out the window and says, “Mr. Fuller! Here they come! Here come the 17-year locusts, three months ahead of schedule!”

And there is a swarm of locusts that blows through, taking up about 30 seconds of screen time – during which they (the locusts) manage to eat the clothes of Bill & Kimbie, leaving them – after the “17-year locusts” have passed – standing in the yard in their chewed-up underclothes.

???????

  • The movie ends with Bill saying, “Well, at least nothing can happen for another 17 years!” – and then he & Connie promptly fall into a hole in the ground, causing Kimbie to raise his fist victoriously in the air & announce:

“Mr. & Mrs. Fuller struck water! Whoopee!”

  • And that’s that.
  • This was a strange little movie, that’s for sure. Although I know that the script & story were based on a Moss Hart & George S. Kaufman play…they felt a little discombobulated at times. Again, though I know this is not the case – it seemed quite  like the screenwriters came up with this idea for a movie, then kept tacking on little parts to the end of whatever idea they’d come up with previously, until there was an hour & a half of movie, at which point they were like, ‘Great! I guess we’re done.’ It feels almost like…the first draft of a story that was immediately slapped onto a screen, without any editing or tweaking of lines or tone or anything. It wasn’t bad, per say…but I wouldn’t describe it as particularly outstanding, either.
  • *Shrugs shoulders.* Weird.
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