So This is Washington (1943)
Directed by Ray McCarey younger brother of Leo (Going My Way (1944)) this comedy spoofs the government’s Civilian Aid Department which appealed to the common man for help with the war effort (e.g. to invent something of value). The print I saw on TCM shows a National Film Preservation slide at the beginning. The ironic thing about the film is that while it received an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Recording the audio quality is noticeably bad.
It begins in Pine Ridge (Arkansas?) a rural town where the “Jot ‘Em Down General Store” is run by two old men Lum Edwards (Charles Lauck) and Abner Peabody (Norris Goff). Besides being the proprietors of the store Lum & Abner perform a lot of other functions for the small community and we learn about rationing etc.. Abner hears the head of the Civilian Aid Department Chester Marshall (Alan Mowbray) appeal to the common man to invent something which could help the war effort. So he leaves Lum in charge to go into the back room where he has previously tried to invent something. When Lum joins him he realizes that Abner invented something when he was trying to make licorice. So it’s off to our nation’s capital.
In Washington D.C. Lum & Abner are like two fish out of water. Not only do the two speak with heavy Southern (country really) accents but they are fairly ignorant about the ways and language of city folk. They find that the city is terribly overcrowded and after walking all day fall prey to the night watchman (Matt McHugh) of a department store who sells them an expensive bed for the night … in the show window. Fortunately for them newspaper reporter Robert Blevins (Roger Clark) who’s also from Pine Ridge sees them and welcomes them to stay with him. He also tries to help them to see Marshall whose secretary (Mildred Coles) he’s been trying to date. However Blevins has been writing sarcastic articles about her boss’s efforts so she won’t help him. She and Marshall are shown listening to several amateur inventors with various crazy ideas.
Since they can’t get in to see Marshall Lum & Abner walk the city seeing and reflecting upon the importance of the various monuments and their histories. When they sit on a particular park bench to rest they overhear a Senator and a Congressman discussing a problem which they themselves know how to solve. They share the information with the grateful Senator who tells others such that Lum & Abner become grassroots experts holding “court” on their park bench every day while they wait to see Marshall. Low and behold Marshall comes to their bench to find out if these two think his civilian aid idea is a good one. Eventually they figure out who he is and he learns of the valuable invention “synthetic rubber”. However at the press conference to demonstrate it Abner gets bumped on the head and forgets who he is. He later surmises that his name is Buster V. Davenport because the initials BVD are on his underwear.
*** SPOILERS ***
The comic hijinks continues with Lum & Abner returning to Pine Ridge with Marshall in hopes that the familiar locale with restore his memory. Naturally he’ll have to be bumped on the head again in order to remember. This happens at the same time Marshall too is hit on his head by Lum such that then he thinks his name is Buster V. Davenport. His secretary and Blevins show up just in time to inform everyone that the scientists back in Washington D.C. have determined that while the invention isn’t synthetic rubber Abner created the perfect substance “instant” landing fields.