Arsenic and Old Lace

Screening on Film
Directed by Frank Capra.
With Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey.
US, 1944, 35mm, black & white, 118 min.
Print source: Warner Bros.

To the already imposing cast of Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, and John Alexander we added these high-powered performers: Raymond Massey, to play the maniacal killer (played by Boris Karloff on the stage); Peter Lorre, to play Massey’s partner-in-murder (a shy, idio surgeon); Priscilla Lane, for Grant’s new bride; Jack Carson, for the dumb cop who writes plays; and my favorite character actor, Jimmy Gleason, for the tough-detective role. And to round out an all-star cast of scene stealers, we engaged Edward Everett Horton to play the huffy keeper of the ‘rest home’ who comes to pick up the ‘girls,’ but instead picks up ‘just a pinch’ of arsenic in his elderberry wine [...].

And I couldn’t have been happier. No great social document ‘to save the world,’ no worries about whether John Doe should or should not jump; just good old-fashioned theater—an anything goes, rip-roaring comedy about murder. I let the scene stealers run wild; for the actors it was a mugger’s ball. — FC

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