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Arsenic and Old Lace Reviews

Riotously funny film adaptation of the smash Broadway comedy (which ran for almost four years), coddled and coaxed into hilarious existence by master director Capra. The lovable Brewster sisters are spinster pillars of Brooklyn society, except for their secret penchant for poisoning old male callers with their homemade elderberry wine, to end the men's loneliness! Grant plays their frantic nephew who discovers their serial murders. The punch line that ended the play was cut by censors; the line in occurs after Grant learns he is free of hereditary insanity, and yells elatedly to his fiance: "Elaine! Did you hear? Do you understand? I'm a bastard!" Additional comedic lunacy results from macabre team of Lorre and Massey (the latter in a part made famous on Broadway by Boris Karloff) and Alexander as an eccentric uncle who believes he's Teddy Roosevelt. ARSENIC was Capra's pet from beginning to end. He saw the play in New York and rushed backstage to buy the property, only to be told that Warner Brothers (his studio was Columbia) had optioned the film rights. He immediately went to the WB studio and had Jack Warner's own people prepare a modest budget, $400,000, for a hectic four-week shooting schedule ($100,000 for the star salary Grant demanded). Capra used only one interior set, that of the spooky old house belonging to the aunts, and an exterior set of the house next to an ancient cemetery. The lighting was low-keyed, from dusk to night, in keeping with the eerie atmosphere. Capra came in on schedule as usual and produced a romping, ripsnorting comedy classic.