Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Arsenic and Old Lace



Arsenic and Old Lace (Black and white, 1944)

Director:
Frank Capra

Cast:
Cary Grant, Prisicllia Lane, Raymond Massey, Jack Carson, Peter Lorre, Edward Everett Horton, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair and John Alexander

Ages:
7 and up

Plot:
Mortimer (Grant) is a drama critic living in Manhattan and is engaged to Elaine Harper (Lane). Mortimer is about to go on a honeymoon when he learns his family is a family of crime. The first evidence is that Mortimer’s aunts (Hull and Adair) are poisoning lonely old men. The second thing is his brother Jonathan (Massey) is now a murderer and has teamed up with Dr. Einstein (Lorre) to kill others. Soon the aunts murder another man and put him in the window seat, while Jonathan does the same thing. This results in Mortimer becoming the next victim.
From left: Cary Grant, Jean Adair and Josephine Hull in the film
Why it’s good:
It would show you how crime can lead to comedy and romance, and how crime can be at the top with the romance at the butt.

Elaine Harper is not there for many purposes, besides being outside the house whistling and waiting for Mortimer to come out who is waiting for his aunts who are definitely insane enough.

But besides that, Mortimer clearly loves her, and the interest is clear from the start where he tries to tell to a hard-of-hearing man at the marriage services,”My name is Mortimer Brewster!”

The laughter will turn screwball as he tries many methods of telling him.

And what are Mortimer’s books about? Disagreeing on marriage!

There is also, as Mr Witherspoon, Edward Everett Horton, and the sophisticated master of comic who tells Mortimer over the phone from the mad person’s people hospital: ”No, we have too many Teddy Roosevelts currently. We are shortly out of Napoleons…”

And love this when you can. Capra’s direction is good enough to bring this film’s original creek to an excellent comedy makeover, making it scarier the more you watch it.

Parent’s guide:
O’Hara (Carson) breaks into a fight with Jonathan where they overturn furniture. Also, Cary stalks Lane to a tree in the first scenes at the house.

Trivia:
Look carefully at the tombstones at the front yard of the aunts’ house. One of them says "Archie Leach". That, incidentally, is Grant’s real name.

If you like this…:
More murder-comedies include 1934’s "The Thin Man" (see Mystery section) or the Ealing comedies (see Comedy section.)

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