George Washington Slept Here (Warner) is an amusing picturization of the barn-theater hit about a back-to-the-land antique addict and his strictly modern-convenience wife, who bought a decrepit house in which George Washington was said to have slept. But the leading roles have been switched. In the film Ann Sheridan is a Duncan Phyfey wifey. Jack Benny is her harassed, urban-minded husband.
To accommodate Jack Benny's slapstick comedy talents, matters are so arranged that he 1) is conked by sheaves of loose planks; 2) falls downstairs once; 3) falls through the floor twice; 4) falls down two different wells; 5) suffers a grand climax in which a horde of 17-year locusts devour him down to his underwear.
Meanwhile a rich uncle (Charles Coburn) has turned out to be a gold brick instead of a gold mine. A pestiferous dog saves the situationat least for home-loving Wife Sheridanby exhuming a letter from Washington to the Continental Army (modern value: $50,000). As a deadpan caretaker, Percy Kilbride gets the lion's share of the laughs. While the locusts ravish Mr. Benny, Kilbride drawls: "And three months ahead of schedule."
Casablanca (Warner). Before the U.S. seizure of Morocco handed Warner Bros. some of the most dazzling promotion in years, Casablanca was just an exotic location for a topical melodrama. The city was known to European refugees as a desperate whistle stop on the underground railway to Lisbon. This picture is about some refugees who were stranded in Casablanca and some of the people who helped or hindered them. Among them:
>The proprietor of Rick's Cafè Americain (Humphrey Bogart, so tough that at one moment he looks like Buster Keaton playing Paul Gauguin). A strictly cynical neutral, Rick likes to snarl: "I stick my neck out fer nobuddy."
> Laszlo, leader of the European underground (Paul Henreid), still breathing hard after three escapes from the Nazis.
> His wife Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman, whose beautiful performance transfigures a vapid role). Once in Paris she thought she was a widow, and fell in love with Rick. But she left him as soon as she learned that Laszlo was alive. Rick is still trying to get over it. So is lisa.
Conrad Veidt, looking more & more like a scarred wolfhound, has a few moments as a Nazi captain. Peter Lorre, as a petty passport racketeer, is knocked out of the show after 20 minutes. Sydney Greenstreet briefly represents the emigre black bourse. Oldtimer S. Z. Sakall (who should consider wearing his face in a brassiere) steals scene after scene as usual, merely by wobbling his jowls. Claude Rains is a bush-league Laval.
The climax of Casablanca concerns the efforts of Laszlo and his wife to leave Morocco. Rick has two letters of transit which would make that easy. Reluctant to help, Mr. Bogart at last does the manly thing and Mr. Rains saves him from the consequences. Nothing short of an invasion could add much to Casablanca.