Charley's Aunt (1941)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Farce, Comedy of Errors  |   Run Time - 80 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

The 1941 version of Charley's Aunt would be notable if only because it's one of the rare films in which Jack Benny is playing a real character, rather than a mere extension of his well-developed and recognizable personality. Oh, the trademarks are still there, but they're employed in the service of a character and a story -- and without the self-referentiality that so often accompanies them in other films. But Aunt has more going for it than this novelty, for Benny's performance is a delight. Sure, no one will buy him as English for half a second, and his American-ness sometimes is at odds with the style of the material. But he's so much fun (and so surprisingly energetic) that most will be willing to overlook these flaws. Benny understands that no one will for a minute would really accept him as a woman, and so doesn't go in for any real impersonation -- which of course makes him that much more amusing. He's excellent throughout, though perhaps his finest moment occurs when, disguised as the aunt, he gets the chance to give "motherly" kisses to the two women he is supposed to guard. The rest of of the cast is good, if clearly in his shadow; the one exception being, oddly, Kay Francis, who just doesn't seem to be giving the part her all. Many will find the screenplay creaky and the set-ups obvious, but the mechanics don't really get in the way too much as long as Benny is around.