Matinee Monday: Arsenic and Old Lace


And now I get to discuss one of my favorite movies of all time, Arsenic and Old Lace. I have a special love for this delightful film, and consider it one of the best films ever made. You don’t have to take my word for it; the American Film Institute ranks it 30th in their list of the top 100 comedies of all time.

G. Florence, writing for, writes this summary:

For the clan known as Brewster insanity runs in the family. Two sweet old aunts take it upon themselves to poison lonely old men with nothing to live for, as an act of charity. Their nephew Mortimer has just got married, and is trying to negotiate his way around the shenanigans of the house, while trying to keep his new bride from fleeing. Shady brother John returns from a world adventure involving using corpses to change his appearance [“He looks like Boris Karloff” is a running gag] to allude capture. The merry mayhem continues with bugle-blowing brother Teddy [who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt] who is charged with burial duties.

Filmed in 1941 and released in 1944 (Warner was contractually required to wait until Arsenic and Old Lace finally closed on Broadway), it is a delightfully macabre comedy, which is surprising, as it was directed by the great Frank Capra, known for his heart-warming “Capra-corn” films (think It’s A Wonderful Life.) After all, two sweet little old ladies poisoning people hardly screams “family entertainment”, does it?

Here is the scene where Mortimer’s head and world begin to spin out of control. Enjoy:

I’ll write more about this film next week. CSL

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