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Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

 -  Comedy | Crime  -  23 September 1944 (USA)
8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 47,397 users  
Reviews: 243 user | 62 critic

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

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(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Title: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
O'Hara
...
...
...
Josephine Hull ...
Jean Adair ...
John Alexander ...
...
Edward McNamara ...
Garry Owen ...
Taxi Cab Driver
John Ridgely ...
Saunders
Vaughan Glaser ...
Judge Cullman
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Storyline

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 <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

cellar | critic | insanity | poison | cemetery | See more »

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Comedy | Crime

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

23 September 1944 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Frank Capra's 'Arsenic and Old Lace'  »

Box Office

Budget:

$1,120,175 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jonathan describes one of his killings and Dr. Einstein says "You can't count him. He died of pneumonia," then Jonathan replies "He wouldn't have died of pneumonia if I hadn't shot him." This connects to the United States Presidents theme in the film. In 1881, President James Garfield was shot by a drifter named Charles Guiteau. Garfield recovered from the wound, only to catch pneumonia from tainted surgical tools, and died 79 days after the shooting. Guiteau's courtroom defense was that Garfield died of pneumonia; the verdict was, in effect, that Garfield wouldn't have died of pneumonia if Guiteau hadn't shot him. Guiteau was sent to the execution dock in 1882. See more »

Goofs

James Gleason plays the role of "Lieutenant Rooney", but he is referred to several times as "Captain". See more »

Quotes

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

Connections

Referenced in Roseanne: Arsenic and Old Mom (1997) See more »

Soundtracks

Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K.331, 3rd Movement, 'Alla Turca'
(1783?) (uncredited)
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Played by John Alexander on the harpsichord
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
My favorite classic movie!
7 September 2002 | by (Perth, Australia) – See all my reviews

This is my all-time favorite classic movie. It has an very sophisticatedly entertaining plot line, the casting is superb, the pace is breathtaking, and it deals with a subject (euthanasia) that is still controversial today. The story is a fine example of "black comedy", where a socially unacceptable idea is shown in a very entertaining manner.

The story is set up brilliantly right from the get-go; where a 'certifiable' publicly-acclaimed bachelor is secretly getting married. The personality of the cast is excellent. I know that Cary Grant reckoned this was his worst movie, saying it was more of a "Jimmy Stewart-type part"; but his spot-on comic timing and professional style hamming plays the role to perfection. Also co-starring in the movie is a brilliant Peter Lorre as a maniac doctor and Raymond Massey as the psychotic brother. Most critics have attacked this film by saying the script refers to the psycho being a Boris Karloff look-alike, highlighting the fact that Boris played the role is the original stage play. However Massey plays the role to deadpan perfection, and the humor of the scenario still works.

My favorite scene is the self-referential one where Mortimer (a theater critic)is describing "bad plays (and movies)". If you watch the background action, and pay attention to the dialog, the ironic situation is brilliantly realized. This film also has my personal favorite quote, said by Cary Grant as Peter Lorre frantically tries to warn him of impending doom; "Stop underplaying - I can't hear you!"


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