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Arsenic and Old Lace Cary Grant Halloween classic

Updated on September 1, 2013

Arsenic and Old Lace was released in 1944 by Universal. The movie, starring Cary Grant, was based on a popular Broadway play. Some members of the cast, especially the Brewster sisters, were in the film. Boris Karloff wanted to be in the film but was unable to, so Raymond Massey played a character that resembles Boris Karloff. This is a classic Halloween film, more funny than scary. Mortimer Brewster falls apart completely during the course of the film, with funny results.


Cary Grant…………Mortimer Brewster

Priscilla Lane………Elaine Harper

Grant Mitchell ……Reverend Harper

Josephine Hull……Aunt Abby

Jean Adair……….Aunt Martha

John Alexander…Teddy

Sgt Brophy……Edward McNamara

Officer O’Hara…Jack Carson

Raymond Massey....Jonathan

Peter Lorre………….Dr. Einstein

Mortimer Brewster is a prominent drama critic in Manhattan, he is also famous for being anti-marriage. As the film opens he is going for his marriage license with Elaine, who lives with her father next door to Mortimer's aunts.

This movie starts out as a sort of romantic comedy but quickly changes. It is still a comedy, but a wonderful dark comedy.

After the wedding, Mortimer takes Elaine to her house to pack and he pops in to tell his Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha the good news. Mortimer's brother Teddy, who insists he is Teddy Roosevelt also lives in the house.

The aunts are nice maiden ladies who are active in charity and very kind to the neighbors. But as Mortimer soon discovers, they are also serial killers.

Mortimer makes a discovery

Now Mortimer is very concerned, in fact Cary Grant's character immediately falls apart, starts ranting and raving and talking to himself. He seems the craziest person in the house. He wants to keep the aunts out of trouble and keep his new wife from finding out.

Mortimer is supposed to be going on his honeymoon but he keeps telling Elaine to go away because he wants to deal with the dead body. This is all very funny. But the comedy gets better when Mortimer's long lost brother, Jonathan, comes back to Brooklyn.

Jonathan has been evil since he was a little kid and long ago left New York. He is now on the run from the law after killing a dozen people.

Jonathan and Dr. Einstein insist on hiding out at the Brewster residence, so the doctor can perform plastic surgery. He watched a Boris Karloff movie just before operating so now Jonathan looks just like him.

The movie was based on a currently running Broadway play, where Boris Karloff played Jonathan, it would have been a little funnier having Karloff playing a man that looks like Karloff but he couldn't be released from the play. The two actresses who play the aunts, however, were part of the Broadway cast and they were able to do the move.

Anyway, all this stuff is happening at once: Mortimer is trying to get Teddy committed so he is out of the house, he is trying to stop the aunts from killing again. He stops them once and tells them "This is getting to be a bad habit!". He should be going away on his honeymoon but seems to have forgotten his wife. Now his brother is hiding out in the house and what's more, Jonathan has also bought a body to the house.

Dr. Einstein points out that the aunts have stayed in Brooklyn and have killed just as many as Jonathan who had to go all over the world to do it. The aunts don't care about the record but they don't like a strange corpse in their house.

This is such a good movie, the story is action packed and full of eccentric characters. This is something I watch every year around Halloween time and I would highly recommend it. I haven't seen that many Cary Grant movies except some comedies, and he had just wonderful comedic timing.

Classic Comedies at Amazon


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