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1944 motion picture starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey and Jack Carson.

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Slapstick Classic - Arsenic and Old Lace

  • Nov 6, 2011
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What's the film about?
Based on the hit play of the same title, the story is about two sweet elderly sister who also happen to be serial killers.   When their nephew brings home the preachers daughter to announce their engagement he stumbles upon his two aunts planning their next poisoning.  Filled with wild slapstick antics and screwball subplots this classic is still popular today with high school and community theater productions.


Who was the classic actor/actress?
 Cary Grant stars along with Priscilla Lane, Josephine Hull, Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre.   I have read critics of the film saying Cary Grant is way over the top and out of his element in this role, but I disagree.   Its a true slapstick screwball comedy which calls for just type of performance.


Why did you choose this film?
 I have always like this film.   I did not really learn to appreciate it though, until I directed a production of the play at a community theater.  What appears to be a fun but simple story is very complicated in its staging and characterizations.   It calls for exact timing, comedic ability, and many stage tricks with lighting, entrances, and exits.   The film is classic and much under rated in my opinion.


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More Arsenic and Old Lace reviews
review by . February 09, 2010
Yet another zany 1940's
The more Frank Capra films that I sample the more I appreciate his genius.  I have yet to see one of his films that I have not thoroughly enjoyed.  Case in point is Capra's 1944 comedy classic "Arsenic and Old Lace" starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre.  Much like Capra's rollicking 1938 comedy "You Can't Take It With You" this is a  film will keep you roaring with laughter throughout.       …
Quick Tip by . August 13, 2010
This is my favorite Cary Grant movie. He could do it all! This movie showed off his expert comic timing.
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
Classic Cary Grant. A must see!
About the reviewer
Larry Sampson ()
Ranked #202
I am a retired Federal employee. I worked for 34 years for the Civil Service. When I retired I was working at The Library of Congress in Washington DC. I was able to retire at a somewhat young age of … more
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About this movie


Frank Capra made this film in 1941 before he went off to make films for America's war effort, but it wasn't released until 1944. Adapted from the hit play by Joseph Kesselring, this frantic black comedy shows Capra at his best as a master of mood and timing. Actresses Josephine Hull and Jean Adair reprise their Broadway performances as two gentle old ladies who poison men with elderberry wine to put them out of their misery. Cary Grant plays one nephew, a normal guy who just gets wind of their little hobby and tries to get them to stop, while Raymond Massey plays another, a villain just escaped from jail. Capra encourages the cast, especially Grant, to give a somewhat more outsized performance than one might expect. But made during the war years as it was, this overstated comic approach to killing was probably cathartic. --Tom Keogh
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Director: Robert Scheerer
Genre: Comedy, Action, Frank Capra, Adventure
Release Date: September 23, 1944
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: August 29, 2000
Runtime: 1hr 58min
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