Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Reviewed on 2007 April 10
Poor Mortimer Brewster. Most people just have a bridezilla or sub-par caterer or one annoying in-law to deal with when they get married.
Mortimer (Cary Grant) is a drama critic who is as disdainful of matrimony as he is a hackneyed plot, until he decides to marry Priscilla Lane (Elaine Harper). Elaine is beautiful, and more importantly, she’s a good sport. She’s going to need it to marry into the Brewster clan. Mortimer finds out, on his wedding day of all days, that his dear aunts Abby and Martha (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) have been slipping poisoned elderberry wine to single elderly men that rent the room in their house. They feel sorry for them and think they’re euthanizing the “poor dears” like stray cats. Worse, they’re not the only crazy people in his family.
Frank Capra did a wonderful job adapting this stage play, and Grant ran with it as the frantic Mortimer. Lane and Hull were picture-perfect as the dotty old aunts, and John Alexander stole the show as Uncle Teddy (I’m not going to say anything about what he did, you have to watch). The whole thing is as funny as it is dark, and one of my favorite bits is a scene with Mortimer, trying to help his aunts while they’re off screen, oblivious to all the fuss and sweetly singing an off-key hymn. I personally have a soft spot for this movie because it always makes me glad I eloped.
Four chocolate morsels.