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Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Not Rated  |   |  Comedy, Crime  |  23 September 1944 (USA)
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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


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
See  »

Did You Know?


Hal B. Wallis outbid "every major film company" in February 1941 for the rights to the play. See more »


A policeman named Rooney has his rank fluctuate between "Lieutenant" and "Captain" throughout the film. See more »


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


Featured in The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004) See more »


Bridal Chorus
(1850) (uncredited)
from "Lohengrin"
Music by Richard Wagner
Variations often in the score
Whistled by Priscilla Lane
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The Brooklyn Brewsters
15 May 2005 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

"Arsenic and Old Lace", one of the best stage comedies that were seen on Broadway, gets the royal treatment via Frank Capra, a man that was born to direct the movie version, if ever there was a man to do so. The play written by Joseph Kisserling was given an excellent screen play treatment by the Julius and Philip Epstein team, two great movie adapters of all time.

This is a combination of a madcap and a screwball comedy. The first best thing in the film are the star turn performances by two of the original actresses that created the roles of Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha, Josephine Hull and Jean Adair, respectively. Just to see the Brewster sisters in action is worth the price of admission. These two women had the roles of a career by bringing life into the two kinds souls living in Brooklyn and doing good, as well as "helping lonely old men" to find happiness.

The second best reason for watching the film is Cary Grant. This is without a doubt one of the actor's best achievements in his long career in the movies! Mr. Grant plays Mortimer Brewster, a man that hates the idea of getting married and losing his freedom. That is, until the beautiful Elaine comes along. Mr. Grant is a joy to watch in the film, no matter what he is doing, at any given moment. His expressions, as well as his timing is impeccable, something one expects of all of Mr. Capra's movies.

The Brewster household is the center of the action, but for a stage play, it never seems confining, or theatrical, even though it's basically shot in one single set. This appears to be the Brooklyn area near the Heights where one can see the majestic bridge in the distant. Maybe around Old Fulton Street, or that area, where the River Cafe is located now.

Mr. Capra was able to assemble such a wonderful group of the best actors working in movies. Lovely Priscilla Lane is the woman that conquered Mortimer's heart. Raymond Massey is Jonathan, the Dracula-like sinister figure that is Mortimer's brother. Also, John Alexander, is seen as "Uncle Teddy", the man with a Teddy Roosevelt's complex. Peter Lorre makes a good contribution as Dr. Einstein.

Jack Carson and John Ridgley are seen as the police working the area where the Brewster live. The supporting players are amazing: Edward Everett Horton, Garry Owen, Grant Mitchell, James Gleason, and although seen briefly, the great Charles Lane, who is one of the photographers pursuing Mortimer and Elaine when they are getting the marriage license. Mr. Lane appeared in hundred of films and is still alive, 100 years young! In a way, it's ironic Mr. Lane survived almost all the people in the film!

An excellent film by that American master, Frank Capra!

56 of 71 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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