Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
Arsenic and Old Lace is director Frank Capra's spin on the classic Joseph Kesselring stage comedy, which concerns the sweet old Brewster sisters (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair), beloved in their genteel Brooklyn neighborhood for their many charitable acts. One charity which the ladies don't advertise is their ongoing effort to permit lonely bachelors to die with smiles on their faces--by serving said bachelors elderberry wine spiked with arsenic. When the sisters' drama-critic nephew Mortimer (Cary Grant) stumbles onto their secret, he is understandably put out--especially since he has just married the lovely Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane). Given the homicidal tendencies of his aunts, the sinister activities of his escaped-convict older brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) and the disruptive behavior of younger brother Teddy (John Alexander)--who is convinced that he's really Theodore Roosevelt, and runs around the house yelling "CHAAAAARGGGE"--Mortimer isn't keen on starting a family with his new bride. "Insanity runs in my family," he explains. "It practically gallops." Further complications ensue when the murderous Jonathan Brewster arrives home, with his snivelling accomplice Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre) in tow. When Jonathan learns that his darling aunts have killed twelve men, he is incensed--they're challenging his own record of murders. Though the movie rights for Arsenic and Old Lace were set up so that the film could not be released until 1944, director Capra shot the film quickly and inexpensively in 1941, so that his family could subsist on his $100,000 salary while he was serving in World War II. … More
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as Mortimer Brewster
as Jonathan Brewster
as Abby Brewster
as `Teddy Roosevelt' Br...
as Elaine Harper
as Martha Brewster
as Mr. Witherspoon
as Dr. Einstein
as Lt. Rooney
as Rev. Harper
as Taxi Driver
as Judge Cullman
as Dr. Gilchrist
as Man in Phone Booth
as Marriage License Cle...
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Critic Reviews for Arsenic and Old Lace
Despite the fact that picture runs 118 minutes, Frank Capra has expanded on the original play [by Joseph Kesselring] to a sufficient extent to maintain a steady, consistent pace.
The timing is abysmal throughout, turning fast pace into numbing frenzy.
Cary Grant et al are on sparkling form in this classic darkly twisted comedy.
The film was adapted from a successful stage play and it comes across as very theatrical on screen, but once you get past that, there's an enjoyable lunacy to the whole thing.
Audience Reviews for Arsenic and Old Lace
While the first half hour is exceptionally hilarious (with Cary Grant displaying a perfect comic timing there), this madcap dark comedy soon resorts to irritating, over-the-top mass hysteria, with everyone yelling around without rest, killing what made it so funny in the beginning.
Way too theatrical for my taste. I couldn't stand watching it anymore, so I turned it off after watching the first hour.
A newlywed discovers that his aged aunts have been poisoning lonely bachelors as his brother returns with a body to hide.
This is a shallow but enjoyable farce. Cary Grant runs about and contorts his face in all the shapes required by the genre, and Josephine Hull and Jean Adair are delightful in their naivete. This isn't substantive comedy, but it's well-plotted and energetic.
Overall, I enjoyed Arsenic and Old Lace for its madcap fun as it's a decent way to while away a couple hours.
Arsenic and Old Lace Quotes
|"Teddy Roosevelt" Brewster:||[Mr. Witherspoon has just met Teddy and Teddy pulls Mortimer aside] Is he trying to move into the White House before I've moved out?|
|"Teddy Roosevelt" Brewster:||[points to Mr. Witherspoon] Taft!|
|Dr. Einstein:||You shouldn't have killed him. Just because he know something about us, what happens?|
|Jonathan Brewster:||We come to him for help, and he tries to shake us down. Besides, he said I looked like Boris Karloff!|
|Mortimer Brewster:||[singing] There is a Happydale, far, far away...|
|Martha Brewster:||For a gallon of elderberry wine, I take one teaspoon full of arsenic, then add half a teaspoon full of strychnine, and then just a pinch of cyanide.|
|Mortimer Brewster:||Hmm. Should have quite a kick.|
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