Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Cary Grant is panic-stricken when he suspects his seemingly sweet spinster aunts harbours a dark secret, in Frank Capra’s uncharacteristic foray into twisted farce.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace Alternative

Cast & Credits

Introduction

“Riotously funny film adaptation of the smash Broadway comedy, coddled and coaxed into hilarious existence by master director Capra.”
Virgin Film Guide, 1995

His reputation cemented by politically conscious popular dramas of the late 1930s, including Mr Smith Goes to Washington, director Frank Capra changed his style with this knockabout adaptation of Joseph Kesselring’s hit stage comedy, in which two cheery old dears bump off a succession of gentleman callers.

With the stage production’s leading actresses Josephine Hull and Jean Adair loaned out to the film, Capra agreed not to open his movie until the play had closed, prompting a three-year gap between shooting and the 1944 release.

Cary Grant expressed misgivings about his overly broad performance as the playwright nephew who twigs the awful truth, yet the material’s insouciant attitudes towards death and insanity make the black humour seem decidedly modern.

Boris Karloff, veteran of numerous horror movies, was not released from playing the sinister sibling in the successful stage run, so Raymond Massey deputised on screen.

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