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Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

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

There are several allusions to the biographies of US Presidents, most obviously Theodore Roosevelt. Jonathan's line "He wouldn't have died of pneumonia if I hadn't shot him" seems to be an allusion to James A. Garfield's death from pneumonia after being shot by Charles J. Guiteau in 1881. See more »

Goofs

When Mortimer first thinks of calling Judge Cullman, he raises his left arm. In the next shot, his right arm is raised. 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 Murder, She Wrote: Mr. Penroy's Vacation (1988) See more »

Soundtracks

Funeral March (Marche funèbre)
(1837) (uncredited)
from "Sonata in Bb-, Op.35 No.2"
Music by Frédéric Chopin
In the score when Teddy gets Mr. Hoskins
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Brilliant Black Comedy!
16 April 2005 | by GafkeSee all my reviews

Mortimer Brewster, a New York critic of both drama and marriage, has finally married Elaine Harper, the girl next door. But before heading off to Niagra Falls for the honeymoon, Mortimer stops in to see his aunts, Abby and Martha Brewster, two sweet little old ladies who donate toys to charity and care for their nephew Teddy, a bugle blowing nutbag who thinks he's Theodore Roosevelt. But Abby and Martha aren't as sweet and innocent as they seem. Mortimer soon discovers, to his horror, that his dear old aunties have a dozen bodies buried in the basement. It seems the Brewster sisters have a new hobby - luring lonely old men into their home and serving them Elderberry Wine spiked with arsenic poison. To make matters worse, Mortimer's deranged and very dangerous brother Jonathan shows up. Jonathan, on the run from the law, has a dead body in the trunk of his car, a drunken plastic surgeon at his side and a face that looks like Boris Karloff. Mortimer frantically attempts to deal with dead bodies, insane asylum directors, attempted murders and a new bride all on a single crazy Halloween night.

This is a must-see Halloween movie, filled with Gallows humor, leaf-strewn graveyards, pumpkins and death. Cary Grant delivers a performance unlike any other he has ever done - manic, panicked, hysterical and almost as insane as his screen family. John Alexander is flawless as Teddy; bugles, pith helmet and all. Jean Adair and Josephine Hull are so sweet and cute and so absolutely morbid you'll forgive them anything. Raymond Massey as Boris Karloff lookalike Jonathan is simultaneously menacing and amusing, and Peter Lorre as his drunken German sidekick Dr. Einstein is a riot, bugging his eyes and flinching through the entire film in a most endearing way.

This is a must see film, no matter your genre preference. There's something for everyone here: quick-witted comedy, true romance, grisly deeds, everything! Fans of Grant and Lorre must not miss this film. 10 stars!


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