Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Not Rated  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Thriller  |  23 September 1944 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 52,333 users  
Reviews: 251 user | 66 critic

A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family.



(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Josephine Hull ...
Jean Adair ...
John Alexander ...
Edward McNamara ...
Garry Owen ...
Taxi Cab Driver
John Ridgely ...
Vaughan Glaser ...
Judge Cullman


Mortimer Brewster is a newspaperman and author known for his diatribes against marriage. We watch him being married at city hall in the opening scene. Now all that is required is a quick trip home to tell Mortimer's two maiden aunts. While trying to break the news, he finds out his aunts' hobby; killing lonely old men and burying them in the cellar. It gets worse. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


She Passed Out On Cary ! No Wonder . . . She's just discovered his favorite aunts have poisoned their 13th gentleman friend !


Comedy | Crime | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

23 September 1944 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Frank Capra's 'Arsenic and Old Lace'  »

Box Office


$1,120,175 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The Broadway comedy opened at the Fulton Theatre on January 10, 1941 and ran for 1,444 performances, closing on June 17, 1944. Repeating their stage roles in the movie were "Brewster siblings" Josephine Hull, Jean Adair and John Alexander, all three getting time off from the New York play. Boris Karloff was denied permission to go by the play's producers, fearing that the absence of their main star would adversely affect the play's attendance. See more »


When Dr. Einstein is begging Mortimer to flee from Jonathan's murderous rage, Cary Grant ad-libs to Peter Lorre, "Stop underplaying, I can't understand you." See more »


[first lines]
Baseball Fan: I'll knock your block off, you big stiff! You're a bum!
See more »


References Bringing Up Baby (1938) See more »


Bridal Chorus
(1850) (uncredited)
from "Lohengrin"
Music by Richard Wagner
Variations often in the score
Whistled by Priscilla Lane
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Brilliant comedy like they could only make it in the old days
19 November 2003 | by (the Draconian Swamp of Unholy Souls) – See all my reviews

Arsenic and Old Lace is the most important contender for the funniest movie ever made !! Every single aspect and element in this movie is just perfect. And I'm NOT exaggerating... If I have to rate all the different elements of cinema separately, I would rate them all 10 out of 10. Acting, directing, plot, location, dialogues, sense of humor...all brilliant and in the right proportions. Frank Capra was responsible for several milestones and masterpieces in the history of cinema but - in my opinion - Arsenic and Old Lace beats them all. Yes, I DO think it's even better than 'It's a Wonderful Life' and 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' !!! Arsenic and Old Lace is just everything you could possibly wish for in a motion picture. A must see that comes with the highest possible recommendation.

Explaining the plot a bit would almost be impossible to do. The story goes about so many things. Don't be alarmed, it's not at all hard to follow or something. As a viewer, you're just being overwhelmed by a series of hilarious plot twists and intelligent side-characters and their backgrounds. So much that it is almost impossible to mention it all. And besides, it's better that you start watching it without knowing too much about the story anyway. Just sit back and enjoy being pleasantly surprised. I can't imagine that there are people out there who didn't fully enjoy this movie !! It comes really close to perfection, and the intelligence and originality of it will never again find an equal. Nowadays comedies are all low-brainers ( or even no-brainers ) that handle about dumb teenagers or dick and fart jokes. Arsenic and Old Lace is a comedy that is mainly story-driven and brought to an even higher level thanks the flawless acting performances.

Yes...let's talk about the cast a bit !! Cary Grant plays the role of his life in my opinion. Sure, he played many other brilliant roles but his character Mortimer Brewster is just the most memorable of them all. Grant's comedy talent was never stressed better than in this film. His facial expressions are hilarious and his the amazingly funny lines sound brilliant coming out of his mouth. The girl who played his wife Elaine ( forgot her name ) is very beautiful and a great match for him. And I was very enthusiast to see Peter Lorre in this film. He's in my top 5 list of greatest actors who ever lived and anyone who saw this movie will agree with me on that. He's just perfect as Dr. Einstein. I can keep on rambling about the cast but I think you get the whole picture... FLAWLESS !!!

Black comedy is one of the hardest subgenres of cinema to make a good movie out. Not many directors and scriptwriters have enough talent to take a subject like murder, death or insanity and make a masterpiece out of it. Stanley Kubrick did it with 'Dr. Strangelove' and Frank Capra did it with this one ... I think these men are the exception. Only these guys can make you laugh hysterically with subjects like this. Finally one more note : This is also a perfect movie to watch if you're a fan of classic horror movies and thrillers. First of all because of the tribute role by Peter Lorre of course but also because of the constant morbid atmosphere hanging around the movie...And, naturally, because of the character of Jonathan Brewster which clearly is a direct tribute to Boris Karloff...They even say so most of the times.

What the hell are you waiting for ?? Go watch it right now !

36 of 47 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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