Arsenic and Old Lace 2/10
Arsenic and Old Lace (NR) 1944
Reviewer’s Tilt (7)
Special DVD Features worth a look-None
Filmed in 1941, the studio did not release this “classic” until 1944. Joseph Kesselring’s original play was still on stage, and the producers wanted to give the play its full run. The stage actors Jean Adair (Aunt Abby Brewster), Josephine Hull (Aunt Martha Brewster), and John Alexander (Theodore Brewster) also needed an opportunity to immortalize their roles on celluloid. Combining a hit play, with seasoned stage actors, the directorial talents of Frank Capra and the star power of Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorie and Indianola, Iowa born Priscilla Lane, sounds like a recipe for success.
The result, however, is far less than the sum of its parts. Audiences received the film very well, but even Grant was disappointed with his performance. Throughout much of the movie he mugs for the camera with a contorted face and eyeballs popping out of their sockets. Many of the actors, including Alexander, fail to tone their performances down several notches to garner the subtleties of the big screen. Cast more appropriately and placed into the hands of a different director, this film might have shown some promise. The overblown melodrama (even for a screwball comedy) frenetic pacing and dated, unfunny lines, however, result in a dark comedy only a mother could love . . . and only if the mother was stuck in 1944.
Format: B&W, Fullscreen, Closed captioned.
Sound: (Dolby Digital Mono)
Extras: Production notes