George Washington Slept Here (1942) w/Jack Benny

In this farce, an urban couple buys a farmhouse reputed to have housed a former U.S. president.

In George Washington Slept Here (1942), an antiques collector (Ann Sheridan) convinces her husband (Jack Benny) that they need a famous, dilapidated New England farmhouse in their lives. The husband is skeptical. The wife busily sets up house, while everything threatens to make the husband suffer - weak floors that he falls through, rude neighbors, livestock in the house.

Based on a Play with Mixed Reviews

Kaufman and Hart

The farcical George Washington Slept Here started as a Broadway play written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart in 1940. The pair had written many plays together, including, You Can't Take it With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner - successful plays that became hit films.

From those plays and films, audiences had come to expect something erudite, witty and unexpectedly probing. In this comedy about a farmhouse, audiences received exactly what the story seemed to be - a comedy about a farmhouse. Nothing deeper.

"The wellsprings of creativity had obviously run dry with George Washington Slept Here," says the author of Moss Hart: A Prince of the Theatre, Jared Brown. "Every other play written by Kaufman and Hart had been adventurous, an attempt to explore new territory.
"George Washington Slept Here, on the other hand, was little more than formulaic, warmed-over material...." 

This would be the final Kaufman and Hart collaboration.

Popular as a Film

Though George Washington Slept Here is not the most lauded play, it fared decently in public opinion as a film.
The leading lady of the film, Ann Sheridan, thinks the narrative is a stinker too, but she had fun. From The Women of Warner Brothers by Daniel Bubbeo, Ann Sheridan says,

"If the script's bad, I can put up with that. I won't like it and I may beef, but I've got to have fun working with the people on the set. I don't like dissension at all.... Everybody should get in there and pull their load as far as I'm concerned. I could fight with the front office, but I never wanted to do that either. I didn't beef about George Washington Slept Here because it was Jack Benny."

The magazines praised comedian Jack Benny's performance. One rag in particular.
Life Magazine dubbed the comedy a "highly amusing farce"  where "Jack Benny proves again that he can forget his mugging and play a straight comedy role successfully." The magazine named the film its movie of the week in November 30, 1942.

Bosley Crowther, The New York Times critic, is uncharacteristically generous with the compliments. He can usually tear apart a light comedy for its shallowness. But here he seems to appreciate the film for what it is, "purely machine-made comedy. But laughs pop out of it quite generously."

Though George Washington Slept Here has a history of promises unfulfilled as a play, in its film form, it is a lightweight comedy meant to showcase Jack Benny's legendary double takes and one-liners.
Have you seen George Washington Slept Here? What did you think?


  1. I'll have to agree with Crowther, I find George Washington Slept Here highly amusing. Our family has seen it over six or seven times and the laughs don't diminish with each subsequent viewing. I wonder why author Jared Brown said the film was's odd considering that George Washington is the film that launched so many remakes ( Mr. Blandings; The Money Tray, etc ).

    1. I think Jared Brown wants another YOU CAN"T TAKE IT WITH YOU, not realizing that Moss and Hart had a range beyond that kind of play.


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