Thursday, October 29, 2009
ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (1944)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). Directed by Frank Capra based on Joseph Kesselring's play of the same name. The lead role of Mortimer Brewster was originally intended for Bob Hope, but he couldn't be released from his contract with Paramount. Capra had also approached Jack Benny and Ronald Reagan before going with Cary Grant. Boris Karloff played Jonathan Brewster, who "looks like Karloff", on the Broadway stage, but he was unable to do the movie as well because he was still appearing in the play during filming and Raymond Massey took his place.
The film also starred Josephine Hull and Jean Adair as the Brewster sisters. Hull and Adair as well as John Alexander (who played Teddy Roosevelt) were reprising their roles from the 1941 stage production.
Arsenic and Old Lace, is about two sweet old ladies who poison lonely old men as a "charity" and bury them in the cellar and no sooner does their nephew find out about this (while preparing to leave for his honeymoon) than his homicidal brother returns.
Cary Grant's character Mortimer, grows more and more freaked out throughout the night, jumping from one problem to the next so quickly that he can't even remember who he is. While trying to manage four insane relatives, cops and two dead bodies. The only characters who aren't thrown for a loop by their troubles are the Brewsters.
One of my favorite scenes is when Mortimer, takes a breather to explain to his new wife: "Insanity runs in my family"....Will Mortimer keep his aunts safe and prevent them from continuing their charity work?
Another favorite scene, Is When Mortimer is sitting in the graveyard, one of the tombstones has the name Archie Leach on it. Archie Leach is Cary Grants real name.
That was followed by, After Tomorrow (recreating her stage role) and The Careless Lady (1932).
She missed out on recreating her, You Can't Take It With You role (1938), as she was still onstage with the show. Instead, Spring Byington appeared in the film version. Hull and Jean Adair did play the Brewster sisters in the 1944 film Arsenic and Old Lace (starring Cary Grant) and Hull was in the screen version of Harvey as well, playing James Stewart's sister.
It was for that role that Hull won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar; it was her only nomination.
After, Hull made only one more film, The Lady from Texas (1951).