Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) - Rotten Tomatoes

Arsenic and Old Lace1944

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Arsenic and Old Lace Photos

Movie Info

Arsenic and Old Lace is director Frank Capra's spin on the classic Joseph Kesselring stage comedy, which concerns the sweet old Brewster sisters (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair), beloved in their genteel Brooklyn neighborhood for their many charitable acts. One charity which the ladies don't advertise is their ongoing effort to permit lonely bachelors to die with smiles on their faces--by serving said bachelors elderberry wine spiked with arsenic. When the sisters' drama-critic nephew Mortimer (Cary Grant) stumbles onto their secret, he is understandably put out--especially since he has just married the lovely Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane). Given the homicidal tendencies of his aunts, the sinister activities of his escaped-convict older brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) and the disruptive behavior of younger brother Teddy (John Alexander)--who is convinced that he's really Theodore Roosevelt, and runs around the house yelling "CHAAAAARGGGE"--Mortimer isn't keen on starting a family with his new bride. "Insanity runs in my family," he explains. "It practically gallops." Further complications ensue when the murderous Jonathan Brewster arrives home, with his snivelling accomplice Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre) in tow. When Jonathan learns that his darling aunts have killed twelve men, he is incensed--they're challenging his own record of murders. Though the movie rights for Arsenic and Old Lace were set up so that the film could not be released until 1944, director Capra shot the film quickly and inexpensively in 1941, so that his family could subsist on his $100,000 salary while he was serving in World War II.

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Cary Grant
as Mortimer Brewster
Raymond Massey
as Jonathan Brewster
Josephine Hull
as Abby Brewster
John Alexander
as `Teddy Roosevelt' Brewster
Priscilla Lane
as Elaine Harper
Jean Adair
as Martha Brewster
Edward Everett Horton
as Mr. Witherspoon
Peter Lorre
as Dr. Einstein
James Gleason
as Lt. Rooney
Grant Mitchell
as Rev. Harper
Garry Owen
as Taxi Driver
John Ridgely
as Saunders
Vaughan Glaser
as Judge Cullman
Chester Clute
as Dr. Gilchrist
Charles Lane
as Reporter
Leo White
as Man in Phone Booth
Spencer Charters
as Marriage License Clerk
Hank Mann
as Photographer
Lee Phelps
as Umpire
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Critic Reviews for Arsenic and Old Lace

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (6)

Cary Grant et al are on sparkling form in this classic darkly twisted comedy.

October 22, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Despite the fact that picture runs 118 minutes, Frank Capra has expanded on the original play [by Joseph Kesselring] to a sufficient extent to maintain a steady, consistent pace.

August 13, 2007 | Full Review…

The timing is abysmal throughout, turning fast pace into numbing frenzy.

August 13, 2007

Good macabre fun.

August 8, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Dusty but gentle entertainment.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…

Regardless of Cary Grant's thoughts on the film, Arsenic and Old Lace is one of the best comedies of all time.

January 12, 2022 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Arsenic and Old Lace


While this madcap drawing room comedy rests on the shoulders of the ever charming mr. Grant, who does more doubletakes here than in any other feature he may have done, there is actually quite a lot to be said for the obvious fun being had by the heavies, Raymond massey and peter lorre, who chew scenery with the best of them and look as if they're restraining themselves from outright giggling during their scenes together. Rightfully one of the best of this genre.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

While the first half hour is exceptionally hilarious (with Cary Grant displaying a perfect comic timing there), this madcap dark comedy soon resorts to irritating, over-the-top mass hysteria, with everyone yelling around without rest, killing what made it so funny in the beginning.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Way too theatrical for my taste. I couldn't stand watching it anymore, so I turned it off after watching the first hour.

Saskia D.
Saskia D.

Super Reviewer

Arsenic and Old Lace Quotes

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