Arsenic and Old Lace
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • Arsenic and Old Lace

Arsenic and Old Lace

4.8 36
Director: Frank Capra

Cast: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey


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Arsenic and Old Lace is director Frank Capra's spin on the classic Joseph Kesselring stage comedy, which concerns the sweet old Brewster sisters (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair), beloved in their genteel Brooklyn neighborhood for their many charitable acts. One charity which the ladies don't advertise is their ongoing effort to permit lonely bachelors to die with…  See more details below


Arsenic and Old Lace is director Frank Capra's spin on the classic Joseph Kesselring stage comedy, which concerns the sweet old Brewster sisters (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair), beloved in their genteel Brooklyn neighborhood for their many charitable acts. One charity which the ladies don't advertise is their ongoing effort to permit lonely bachelors to die with smiles on their faces--by serving said bachelors elderberry wine spiked with arsenic. When the sisters' drama-critic nephew Mortimer (Cary Grant) stumbles onto their secret, he is understandably put out--especially since he has just married the lovely Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane). Given the homicidal tendencies of his aunts, the sinister activities of his escaped-convict older brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) and the disruptive behavior of younger brother Teddy (John Alexander)--who is convinced that he's really Theodore Roosevelt, and runs around the house yelling "CHAAAAARGGGE"--Mortimer isn't keen on starting a family with his new bride. "Insanity runs in my family," he explains. "It practically gallops." Further complications ensue when the murderous Jonathan Brewster arrives home, with his snivelling accomplice Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre) in tow. When Jonathan learns that his darling aunts have killed twelve men, he is incensed--they're challenging his own record of murders. Though the movie rights for Arsenic and Old Lace were set up so that the film could not be released until 1944, director Capra shot the film quickly and inexpensively in 1941, so that his family could subsist on his $100,000 salary while he was serving in World War II.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
This hilariously droll black comedy is one of the most successful adaptations of theater to film. The deft portraits of two classically sweet little old ladies (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) who invite bachelors to dinner and then poison them with spiked elderberry wine are at the center of the increasingly frantic proceedings. A homicidal nephew and another who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt add to the fun. Frank Capra coaxes over-the-top performances from a cast that includes Cary Grant as a clueless drama-critic nephew and Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre as villains. The film's cavalier attitude toward death was well-suited to its World War II release. It was actually shot in 1941, and Capra's family lived off his salary from it while he served in the war. It's one of Capra's best. A cinematic evergreen, Arsenic and Old Lace has never lost its appeal, as new generations of audiences keep discovering its lunatic charms.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Turner Home Ent
Region Code:
[Full Frame]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Cary Grant Mortimer Brewster
Priscilla Lane Elaine Harper
Raymond Massey Jonathan Brewster
Jack Carson Officer O'Hara
Peter Lorre Dr. Einstein
Edward Everett Horton Mr. Witherspoon
James Gleason Lt. Rooney
Josephine Hull Abbey Brewster
Jean Adair Martha Brewster
John Alexander "Teddy Roosevelt" Brewster
Grant Mitchell Rev. Harper
Edward McNamara Brophy
Garry Owen Taxi Driver
John Ridgely Saunders
Vaughan Glaser Judge Cullman
Chester Clute Dr. Gilchrist
Charles Lane Reporter
Edward McWade Gibbs
Spencer Charters Marriage License Clerk
Hank Mann Photographer
Lee Phelps Umpire
Leo White Man in Phone Booth

Technical Credits
Frank Capra Director,Producer
Robert Burks Special Effects
Russel Crouse Producer
Julius J. Epstein Screenwriter
Philip G. Epstein Screenwriter
Byron Haskin Special Effects
Howard Lindsay Producer
Dan Mandell Editor
Orry-Kelly Costumes/Costume Designer
Max Parker Art Director
Sol Polito Cinematographer
C.A. Riggs Sound/Sound Designer
Russ Saunders Asst. Director
Max Steiner Score Composer
Perc Westmore Makeup

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Arsenic and Old Lace
1. Credits [1:09]
2. A Spree Grows In [:51]
3. Mortimer's Come To [3:10]
4. The Brewster House [7:23]
5. One Thing at a Time [4:09]
6. Two Nicest Aunts [2:04]
7. Murder Will Out [2:03]
8. Their Little Secrets [2:53]
9. An Even Dozen [2:37]
10. Gone to Panama [2:54]
11. Where Elaine Stands [3:06]
12. A New Gentleman [3:08]
13. Another Roosevelt [3:30]
14. Jonathan/Dr. Einstein [7:52]
15. Disagreeable [2:41]
16. Just the Right Size [2:45]
17. Lights and Bodies [5:16]
18. Elaine's Bad Timing [3:59]
19. A Touching Reunion [3:08]
20. What's With Elaine? [2:28]
21. Who Can That Be? [2:24]
22. Window-Seat Worries [1:52]
23. O'Hara Drops In [3:13]
24. If You Tell, I Tell [2:01]
25. Tie Score [3:02]
26. Galloping Insanity [4:09]
27. Melbourne Method [2:24]
28. Big Dope [3:52]
29. To My Dear Dead [2:42]
30. O'Hara's Opus [3:13]
31. Third-Act Brawl [3:44]
32. Rooney on the Scene [3:44]
33. Teddy's Term Expires [3:57]
34. Bodies Everywhere [3:54]
35. Sign, Dr. Einstein [1:41]
36. True Confessions [3:14]
37. Not Themselves; Cast List [1:34]

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Customer Reviews

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Arsenic and Old Lace 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
Earth_Angel More than 1 year ago
If you want to laugh, laugh, and laugh...then this is the must-have halloween movie. It's set in Brooklyn on Halloween Day. "Oh..Mortimer" What have you gotten into...LOL First saw this on TV when I was around 24 or so...I found myself 10 years later going to see it in NYC on Broadway starring Jean Stapleton. I still laugh all these years later. I say in a single word..."CHARGE" right to the store and get this movie...Happy Haunting...
Guest More than 1 year ago
My 10-yr old daughter and I came across this movie on PBS one evening and we couldn't stop watching. The quick pace and timeless humor kept us glued to the movie. I recently learned that this is also one of my mom's favorite movies! Three generations of Arsenic fans! Amazing, simply amazing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every minute of this zany film is enjoyable, from the machinations of the two old ladies to the macabre brother of the ''son of a sea cook''. For me, a high spot is the nervous giggle of Peter Lorre when he realizes that he will go free.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Arsenic and Old Lace is my favorite comedy movie and one of my favorite Cary Grant movies! It is very hilarious and the cast is superb! I have never seen the play but this movie has me very interested in seeing it and hopefully someday I can see a production of the play!
EliseV More than 1 year ago
If you ever find yourself trying to entertain 75 (or one) sixteen-, seventeen-, and eighteen- year- olds, this is a must. Introduce a younger generation to classic comedy. Cary Grant is hillarous in his role as Mortimer Brewster. My students even got over the fact that it was in Black and White. Several asked for the name so that they could order this title themselves. They, and I, love it!!
loulouTX More than 1 year ago
I love this movie growing up and still love it today! My daughter loved it also.
DarkStarGrl More than 1 year ago
I always love a good Grant film and this one is a favorite! Slapstick comedy adds to the character's charm. Always a treat from the usual Halloween films. But,don't wait 'til then to watch it!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I was first introduced to Arsenic And Old Lace when I saw it at The Rep. Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I fell in love with the play and new I had to do something involved with Arsenic And Old Lace! I am now playing Mortimer in another version of the classic! Getting this DVD is a must for me! ''There's a body in the windowseat!''
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've always liked this movie. When I first saw it I had to own a copy. All of the characters were perfectly animated and each one can tickle your funnybone throughout the movie. It's just a great production for all ages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is such a cool movie! I read the play, and saw the movie. It is so humourous, I just can't stop laughing. I would reccomend it to everyone!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Whoever said murder can't be funny? This movie is zany, wild, and hilarious. With two loveable muderesses and Theodore Rossevelt how can you go wrong?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Oscar-winning director Frank Capra ("It's a Wonderful Life") knew a good story when he saw one. He bought the rights to this successful stageplay and then brought in a superb team to make it (including the original actresses who played the spinster sisters in Broadway). The story, plot-twists, scares and humor are non-stop. Cary Grant,Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and the cream of character actors and actresses each contribute to this Hollywood classic. Not to be missed!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Arsenic and Old Lace is a fantastic movie. Cary Grant is great in this movie. Also they did an amazing job turning this play into a movie without jeopardizing the feeling of being in an audience as the actors performed on stage - the setting was believable and they didn't shoot from impossible angles. My only complaint is that I wish the role played by Cary Grant had been played by Jimmy Stewart, I think that would have added to it a bit. Otherwise a great movie for anyone.
EGHunter01 More than 1 year ago
Cary Grant plays a new groom and he brings his bride to meet his family before they go off on their honeymoon. He has done all he can to keep her "protected" from their zany behavior, the antics that occur as he tries to steer her clear of the family are a riot. This was LOL! LOL! fun and entertainment. And if you enjoy this DVD, you should view some of the other Cary Grant DVDs like: His Gal Friday, The Bishop's Wife, An Affair to Remember, and Every Girl Should Be Married. These were all entertaining and just delightful to watch. Mr. Grant is a great actor in each of these movies.
Berlinsgonewhere More than 1 year ago
HIlarious. A favorite. Wonderful script performed by a top notch cast. Peter Lorre and Cary Grant at their side-splitting best!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grant is such a great comedian. The movie apparently is based on the Broadway play. They couldn't get Boris Karloff, so Raymond Massey played Karfoff's part and several places in the movie other characters comment on how much Massey resembles Karloff. Anyway good for a relaxing evening.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very Funny old movie in B&W. Cary Grant is hilarious and the rest of the cast is great.Peter Lorre is very interesting. If you like the old movies, this one is funny and very enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cary Grant is Brilliant in this film! He is truly a man of all trades almost on every level you can think of. This must be his funniest film ever next to Bringing up Baby I believe. There is some mystery to the story. You must pay attention closely or you could miss some important factors to the movie. You won't be disappointed! I don't normally like Priscilla Lane. But, she was Fantastic in this movie. She kept up with Cary Grant's beat and comedic and romantic scenes perfectly! You don't have to be a Cary Grant Fan to enjoy this movie! It's great for the whole family too! It is a must treasure to add to your collection!
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