Playhouse 90: Charley's Aunt (1957)

Run Time - 90 min.  |  
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Art Carney plays the title role, so to speak, in this live, 90-minute Playhouse 90 adaptation of Brandon Thomas' classic stage farce Charley's Aunt. The play's basic premise--Oxford undergrad Lord Fancourt Babberly (Carney) must pose as the elderly aunt of his roommate Charley Wyckeham so that Charley and his friend Jack Chesney will have a proper escort for their two girlfriends--is merely the springboard for a whole new batch of complications cooked up by the author of the TV version, the redoubtable Leslie Stevens. For starters, Babberly is now forced to don old-ladies' garb for an amateur theatrical production or else he'll lose his standing in the Oxford shot-putt team, necessitating the creation of a character not found in the original play, athletics coach Sandeford (played by former child star Jackie Coogan). Additionally, the character of Babberly's sweetheart Ela Delahey is eliminated, and a conspicuous duck pond figures largely in the slapstick proceedings. One of the few Playhouse 90 installments to be performed before a studio audience, Charley's Aunt boasts an astonishingly stellar supporting cast, including former MGM songbird Jeanette MacDonald as Donna Lucia (the real Aunt), MacDonald's husband Gene Raymond as Sir Francis Chesney, humorist Orson Bean as Jack, future novelist Tom Tryon as Charley, waspish Richard Haydn ("Uncle Max" in The Sound of Music) as Stephen Spettigue, and Sue Randall, later to achieve fame as "Miss Landers" on Leave It to Beaver, as Kitty Verdun. Charley's Aunt is one of several Playhouse 90 episodes currently available in kinescope form on home video.