Jack Benny brings his own distinctive touch to Brandon Thomas' venerable (and oft-filmed) stage farce Charley's Aunt. Utilizing a gloriously unconvincing broad-A English accent, Benny is cast as Lord Fancourt Babberly, a somewhat overaged undergraduate at Oxford University. Babbs' roommates Jack Chesney (James Ellison) and Charley Wyckeham (Richard Haydn, in his film debut) are desirous of inviting their lady friends Kitty Verdun (Arleen Whelan) and Amy Spettigue (Anne Baxter) to their quarters, but first they must secure the services of a proper escort. When Charley's aunt Donna Lucia D'Alvadorez (Kay Francis) is detained, Jack and Charley coerce Babbs, who has dressed up as an old lady for a school play, to pose as the absent Donna Lucia. The fun really begins when, for reasons far too complicated to detail here, both Jack's father Sir Francis Chesney (Laird Cregar) and Amy's uncle Stephen Spettigue (Edmund Gwenn) romantically pursue the bogus aunt. The third-act arrival of the real Donna Lucia only adds to the comic confusion-but at least poor Babbs has finally found a lady friend closer to his own age. The female-impersonation angle in Charley's Aunt has been known to descend into vulgarity, but Jack Benny remains both hilarious and tasteful throughout. Understandably, the film was one of Benny's favorites.
by Hal Erickson synopsis