In the late 1890s, an English university student impersonates his classmate's aunt so his friends can have a chaperone for their dates.
Genre: Feature Film-Comedy
Release Date: 12-JUN-2007
Media Type: DVD
""Charley's Aunt" is a famous British play which for many years was the staple offering of every English high school drama class. It is a rollicking farce about undergraduates at Oxford university, one of whom, Jack Benny, disguises himself as another's Aunt from Brazil "where the nuts come from". The plot is full of romantic misunderstandings all of which resolve themselves for a happy ending. Jack Benny is an improbable English student but it does not matter. This was one of Benny's best films because he is hilarious in drag and all scenes with Edmund Gwenn, the enamoured professor determined to win his hand in marriage, are priceless. The other standout performers are Laird Cregar, at the time in his twenties and easily immitating a man twice his age and Kay Francis, a model of class and sophistication as Charley's real aunt. The film is simply directed, maintaining its stage bound roots. The print is immaculate preserving the crystal clear Fox photography and very bright lighting. Only the accents of some of the players betray that this is an American production, released in 1941.
The DVD is a neat package. It includes a commentary, the best of which speaks of Benny and his career and the worst of which methodically rattles off biographical details about all the players and the people behind the camera. This maybe informative but it becomes tedious and although the commentator has clear diction and enthusiatic delivery, he races the clock to get all the information out. There is also a good short with Benny promoting the film, but cleverly using Tyrone Power and Randolph Scott to promote simultaneous Fox productions. Both actors are more relaxed and personable than they often were on screen. A couple of postcard size lobby cards as well as marketing and on-set stills are included. Finally, some excellent liner notes actually provide a much better summary of the production than the verbose commentary.
The film makes an interesting comparison to an English variation on the play released at about the same time, starring Arthur Askey. I like both versions."
Jack Benny. Superstar.
David Baldwin | Philadelphia,PA USA | 06/22/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of my fondest memories of my mispent youth was on Summer vacation watching re-runs of "The Jack Benny Program" on UHF. Sight unseen, I eagerly awaited the release of "Charley's Aunt" on disc. The film isn't a comic masterwork but it's a fun way to spend an hour and a half. Benny, predating Jack Lemmon's work in "Some Like It Hot", is a marvel as the English Earl posing as an Oxford classmate's aunt. His enthusiasm makes the film more than the sum of it's parts. The film also sports a great supporting cast that includes Richard Haydn, Edmund Gwenn("Miracle on 34th Street", and the late great Laird Cregar. If you need to see Cregar at his best check out the vintage noir "I Wake Up Screaming". Now if they would only issue "Buck Benny Rides Again" and "The Horn Blows at Midnight". It also wouldn't hurt if "The Jack Benny Program saw the light of day on disc."
Rollicking Fun Without Crudeness Or Foul Language
Rick L. Parrish | 07/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jack Benny had a checkered movie career and he himself felt most of his films were tripe, but three stand the test of time for hilarity. Buck Benny Rides Again (wherein it helps if you know his radio persona and his supporting cast), The Horn Blows At Midnight, and Charlie's Aunt. I would add a fourth - To Be Or Not To Be - which Mr. Benny himself thought his best work, but he didn't regard it as an out and out comedy. If you're looking for laughs for the whole family you can't go wrong with Charlie's Aunt. Jack steps out of his character and into a british fop impersonating a grand lady and plays the role terrifically. This was forty years before Tootsie, or Mrs. Doubtfire, and while Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams were at the top of their game, they relied heavily on prosthetics and modern fx, while Benny relied simply on that "look". The walk alone is worth the price of admission. The movie is taken from a stage play that became the standard comedy of it's time for colleges and high school revivals, so it's audience was built in in the Forties. Largely forgotten now because it had the unfortunate timing to come out the year World War II began it is well worth rediscovering. You'll laugh. And you'll laugh again. Then you'll laugh some more. And after all, that's what you're paying for."
Some really good laughs here,in this fun,clean comedy.
Chris H. | ,OH,U.S.A. | 03/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Saw the DVD copy of this last night,and enjoyed it immensely.It's really funny,and the quality of the copy of a 1941 film is excellent. Comedy lovers age 10 and up should have fun with this,unless they only find profanity, crude/toilet humor and sexual innuendo a must,because they are absent from Charley's Aunt."
Timeless comedy classic returns
Archie H. Waugh III | Palmetto, FL | 07/14/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Fox finally comes through with a splendid DVD rendering of this long-hidden gem. I first saw this film on TV in the sixties as a teenager, and it made me as an actor long to do this play, which I subsequently read. While the Benny film somewhat streamlines the script, eliminating a few minor plot points and characters, the essence remains, as well as most of the great gags that are as funny today as they were over 100 years ago. Mysteriously (I gather due to rights issues, as the musical "Where's Charley?" vanished as well) this film disappeared from television for decades; I subsequently saw a stage production starring Nicky Henson at the Young Vic in London in 1977, and it reconfirmed what a hilarious vehicle Brandon Thomas's play could be. I finally achieved my dream of playing the role of Fancourt Babberly in 1992, and it is still the funniest comedy I have ever performed. So it is with complete delight that I report that "Charley's Aunt" with Jack Benny, beautifully transferred to DVD, is every bit as funny as I remember, with a splendid cast (including "Miracle on 34th Street"'s Edmund Gwenn) supporting Benny in his best farcical role. A special delight is 30's siren Kay Francis, here bringing a sophisticated sensuality as the "real" aunt...this is probably her last great film role."