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JACK BENNY'S BIG-SCREEN MOVIES

For Hicksflicks.com, Nov. 15, 2013

The announcement this week that the manufacture-on-demand DVD label Warner Archive has just made available two of Jack Benny's most famous movies, "George Washington Slept Here" (1942) and "The Horn Blows at Midnight" (1945), is great news for Benny fans.

Though he is best known for his radio and TV series, both of which ran for decades, Benny also starred in a raft of 1930s and '40s movies that have never been released on DVD — and this may signal that there are more on deck.

A fair number of episodes of "The Jack Benny Program" have made it to DVD, though not nearly enough. But at least we do have some 30 or so that have been floating around on public-domain DVD labels for years, and the Shout! label recently released "The Jack Benny Program: The Lost Episodes," with another 18. Hopefully, more of these will follow too.

There are a few movies on DVD that feature Benny in guest appearances, such as "It's in the Bag" (1945), "Medicine Man" (1960, aka "The Slowest Gun in the West") and "A Guide for the Married Man" (1967), and many more in which he made cameos, some credited and some not: "Hollywood Canteen" (1944), "Without Reservations" (1946), "The Great Lover" (1949), "Who Was That Lady?" (1960),"Gypsy" (1962) and "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (1963).

But few of his starring films have worked their way into release, the exceptions being "Charley's Aunt" (1941), "The Meanest Man in the World" (1943) and his most famous film — and arguably his best — "To Be or Not to Be" (1942), which has had two DVD releases, back in 2005 on Warner Home Video, and just last month on the boutique label Criterion Collection, a two-disc version packed with bonus features.

As for the two new releases, "George Washington Slept Here" is a very amusing domestic comedy about a Manhattan couple (Benny and Ann Sheridan) saddled with a dilapidated country home, the ultimate fixer-upper (with great support from Percy Kilbride, Charles Coburn and Hattie McDaniel), and "The Horn Blows at Midnight" has Benny dreaming he's an angel charged with destroying the Earth, until he gets a taste of mortality.

You can purchase "George Washington Slept Here" and/or "The Horn Blows at Midnight" at the Warner Archive website.