I’ve been loving vintage films for years. And it’s been a delight to discover that some of my old favorites are popping up on Netflix. I’ve been revisiting some of my old favorites and discovering a few good ones I missed out on during my childhood. (I was raised with the classiscs!) Today I want to share one of my all-time top favorite movies that is a Halloween must-see. The great thing about this movie is that it’s perfect for all ages. A little suspenseful but not too scary, lots and lots of good humor and physical comedy, and a delightfully unpredictable storyline make this a movie everyone can enjoy.
Presenting….Arsenic and Old Lace
Cary Grant stars in this black and white classic that was directed by Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life, It Happened One Night). It’s always a pleasure to watch Cary Grant on the big screen, but I’d have to say he really outdoes himself in this particular movie. I know we all love Cary Grant for his suave, romantic roles with dry humor, but this is one of the movies where Grant’s expressive face and ability to do physical comedy are what really shine.
Grant plays Mortimer Brewster, a confirmed bachelor who has fallen head over heels in love with the local minister’s daughter, and slipped away to City Hall to marry Elaine (played by Priscilla Lane). The day they tie the knot just happens to be….Halloween.
While Elaine goes into the rectory to gently break the news of her marriage to her father, the Reverend Harper, Mortimer goes next door to tell his spinster Aunts, Abby and Martha Brewster. Minutes, then hours, delay the newlyweds’ departure for their Niagara Falls honeymoon as Mortimer accidentally discovers a dead body in the window seat, and learns just how eccentric his extended family really is.
Look I probably should have told you this before but you see… well… insanity runs in my family… It practically gallops. - Mortimer Brewster
Each and every character in this film–whether they have five lines or a starring role–is memorable. They play their parts to the hilt and with such believability that even without today’s technicolor or computer graphics, you feel like you are there. Mortimer’s Uncle Teddy thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt and is digging “locks” for the Panama Canal down in the cellar. Aunties Abby and Martha are charitable souls with a recipe for homemade wine that’s simply to die for. Mortimer’s brother Jonathan returns home from his life of crime with a new face, and there’s a cabby outside who’s been waiting all night to take the newlyweds to the train station. It’s a wild ride this story takes us on, but the situations are so ridiculous, the lines so witty, and the characters so sympathetic that it’s a ride you’ll want to ride over and over again.
For a gallon of elderberry wine, I take one teaspoon full of arsenic, then add half a teaspoon full of strychnine, and then just a pinch of cyanide. - Aunt Abby
Just in time for Halloween, Arsenic and Old Lace is currently available for instant streaming from Netflix. And I’ve found the perfect accompaniments for throwing a Halloween viewing party of this black and white classic.