Arsenic and Old Lace
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Frank Capra made this film in 1941 before he went off to make films for America's war effort, but it wasn't released until 1944. Adapted from the hit play by Joseph Kesselring, this frantic black comedy shows Capra at his best as a master of mood and timing. Actresses Josephine Hull and Jean Adair reprise their Broadway performances as two gentle old ladies who poison men with elderberry wine to put them out of their misery. Cary Grant plays one nephew, a normal guy who just gets wind of their little hobby and tries to get them to stop, while Raymond Massey plays another, a villain just escaped from jail. Capra encourages the cast, especially Grant, to give a somewhat more outsized performance than one might expect. But made during the war years as it was, this overstated comic approach to killing was probably cathartic. --Tom Keogh
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The story involves writer Mortimer Brewster(Grant)who writes books on the pitfalls of marriage.It opens with him and his girlfriend Elaine(Lane)trying to get hitched!It is against his better judgment but Cupids' arrow is firmly planted and there's no escape for him.On the way to their honeymoon destination of Niagara Falls,the now married couple stop off at Elaine's home, which is also near Mortimers' aunts home.They both part to break the news to their relatives;Elaine to her father and Mortimer to his aunts Abby and Martha.
His aunts are elated at the news but Mortimer is dumbfounded upon finding a body in the window seat.His aunts are nonplussed as they calmly tell him they poisoned the former lodger plus 12 more that are now buried in the basement.
Going back and forth between total apoplexy and controlled confusion Mortimer tries to somehow get a handle on events as they unfold.
It seems Mortimer' brother Teddy(who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt,complete with horn blowing and a charge up San Juan Hill!Read more ›
The story takes place all on Halloween night in Brooklyn. Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) a critic, that wrote a scathing book about the negatives of marriage, gets married. He soon finds out about his families past and where the bodies are buried. Soon he is to be visited by his estranged or just strange brother (Raymond Massey). Seems that his brother and his brother's friend, Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre), has some secrets of their own. Keep your eye on the elderberry wine.
There is also a welcome appearance by the inimitable Edward Everett Horton as Mr. Witherspoon, the head of Happydale Insane Asylum, where some of the characters eventually end up! Halloween is over, but rent (or buy!) ARSENIC AND OLD LACE anyway. Be prepared to laugh!
Even though Cary Grant, who played the lead role, always said he disliked his performance in Arsenic and Old Lace (he complained that Capra pushed him into overplaying instead of his usual more restrained style) I think he was excellent! His expressions are priceless, and it is impossible to keep a straight face while watching his frantic movements about the house. The aunts are also quite good, as are the actors playing the other crazy brothers.
All in all, this movie is a must have! If you haven't seen it already, you are in for a treat.
Most recent customer reviews
fantastic movie have owned it for years now the under 30 family members are starting to want their own copyPublished 8 days ago by Bootner
Cary Grant is so wonderfully frantic and distracted, and Raymond Massey is so malevolently crazy, what's not to like about this film. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Hale & Hardy
I love this movie. Cary Grant has never been funnier. All of the actors are perfect in their roles. The whole movie is ridiculous. I love it!Published 13 months ago by Mili Fay
My favourite movie of all time... the only problem was that the copies that played on tv or on video were very dark and as a result a lot of subtleties in the background was... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Linda Gardiner
Cary carries the entire movie just with the lift of an eyebrow or a wide eyed terror-filled expression. His comic genius is apparent in this movie.Published 22 months ago by Nancy Thornton