Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE: Tuesday's Forgotten or Overlooked Film (or A/V)

This was the poster for a remake, but you can't beat the original movie.

We're not fond of the colorization of black and white movies, in general, except when it comes to Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace.  It is, after all, a Halloween movie, complete with trick-or-treaters.  And with autumn leaves blowing through the graveyard in that wonderfully scripted romantic segment, starring Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane.

And Priscilla Lane impresses us, not only with her fresh good looks but with her comedic presence.  It is a shame that she did not do more movies.

Cary Grant plays a playwright who has long been famous as a critic of marriage.  Some think that the character was based upon H. L. Mencken, who wrote such essays.  Mencken wrote:  "Men have it easier than women--they marry later and die earlier...Bachelors know more about women than married men; if they didn't, they'd be married too. . .A man can be a fool and not know it--but not if he is married......Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another."

Mencken later surprised his readers by getting married, at age 50, to the love of his life, author Sarah Haardt.  Long after their deaths, their collected letters and his memoirs reveal a deep and lasting love.

The movie was made in 1941, when Cary Grant was thirty-seven.  Priscilla Lane was then twenty-six.  Both looked much younger on the screen.  The movie is largely slapstick, but it is timeless slapstick, over-the-top but a comfortable over-the-top.  The jokes are as funny now as they were when I first saw this.

It is said that the idea of movie may have been inspired by the real serial murderer Amy Archer-Gilligan.  Arsenic and Old Lace has certainly inspired many later mystery novels, plays, and movies.  But you can't beat the original with Grant and Lane, supported by Josephine Hull and Jean Adair as the Brewster aunts, a heavily made up Raymond Massey as a Boris Karloff lookalike, Peter Lorre as Dr. Einstein, John Alexander as Teddy "Roosevelt" Brewster, Jack Carson, and Edward Everett Horton.

A comic crime movie, and one that fits the season.
This is an adjunct of Todd Mason's Forgotten (or Overlooked) Film or Other A/V series. For the other selections by many authors and bloggers, see this link.

1 comment:

  1. One of my all time favorite movies, Richard. Especially at this time of year. The perfect October movie - great for a Halloween treat too.

    Thanks for writing about it. :)