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Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

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

Director:

Frank Capra

Writers:

Julius J. Epstein (screen play), Philip G. Epstein (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Cary Grant ... Mortimer Brewster
Priscilla Lane ... Elaine Harper
Raymond Massey ... Jonathan Brewster
Jack Carson ... O'Hara
Edward Everett Horton ... Mr. Witherspoon
Peter Lorre ... Dr. Einstein
James Gleason ... Lt. Rooney
Josephine Hull ... Abby Brewster
Jean Adair ... Martha Brewster
John Alexander ... 'Teddy Roosevelt' Brewster
Grant Mitchell ... Reverend Harper
Edward McNamara Edward McNamara ... Brophy
Garry Owen Garry Owen ... Taxi Cab Driver
John Ridgely ... Saunders
Vaughan Glaser 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

Taglines:

Strike. You're out! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Crime | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

23 September 1944 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Frank Capra's 'Arsenic and Old Lace' See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,120,175 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

On stage, Boris Karloff played the monstrous Jonathan Brewster, Raymond Massey's film character, who, in eerie-looking screen makeup, resembled Karloff, which was a running gag throughout the picture. Karloff eagerly wanted to do this film, but he was kept under contract by the Broadway play producers and was not allowed to do the picture, to his immense displeasure. See more »

Goofs

The hymnal that the aunts use to hold services over Mr. Hoskins is "Hymns For Creative Living," published in 1935 by The Judson Press. The hymn that they sing ("There is a Happy Place") is not in that hymnal. See more »

Quotes

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

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Here's Lucy: Lucy and the Little Old Lady (1972) See more »

Soundtracks

Home, Sweet Home
(1823) (uncredited)
aka "There's No Place Like Home"
Music partly composed, and arranged by H.R. Bishop from a Sicilian air
Played when Jonathan first speaks with his aunts
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
And who said comedy is not an art form?
4 January 2002 | by mattymatt4everSee all my reviews

With many silly comedies of recent years, comedy has become the most underrated art form. People take comedy for granted. As if there's nothing to it. True, there are some people will just laugh at anything. In some cases, it doesn't take much to raise a chuckle out of a certain someone. But this is the kind of film that will make you fall on the floor laughing. Why? Because it makes use of every comic device you can think of. The timing, the delivery, the choreography. Absolutely perfect!

That's right, no cheap shots here. There are some absolutely brilliant scenes in this film that made me laugh out loud, while at the same time scream out "Capra's a genius!" If you wanna see what comedy is truly all about, watch the scene where Cary Grant (noted drama critic) is describing the story of a bad play he had just seen to Peter Lorre. As he's doing so, everything that happened in the story is going on right behind his back. Doesn't sound like much on paper, but you have to see it to believe it. There are also many great lines, including "Pull up a tombstone."

The acting is topnotch. I can't believe Grant felt this was the worst movie he's ever done (check the Trivia section). I actually liked the fact that this was a different role for him, as opposed to the suave, quiet, laid-back romantic he-man he usually plays. In this movie, we really get to see his knack for slapstick--and he's great at it! Every facial expression, every bulge of the eyes--he did it with such perfect timing. There's also a great scene where they all start fighting, and Grant sits on the stairs and smokes a cigarette while all this bedlam ensues. His deadpan expression during that scene is classic. I also have to give it up for everyone else in the cast--though Grant deserves the most acclaim.

There are lulls here and there, and the film runs a little long (though that wouldn't surprise me being that it was adapted from a stage play), but there are so many beautifully crafted, hilarious moments that I can't rate this movie as anything less than a must-see! I would go on and on about which scenes I found memorable, but I don't wanna spoil it for anyone. Just see it for yourself! Trust me, you'll die laughing!

My score: 9 (out of 10)


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