Operation Backlog Completion 2024
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How could I celebrate Halloween without mentioning one of my favorite movies? Arsenic and Old Lace was a play that was later adapted as a movie starring Cary Grant. It is black comedy at its finest, in my opinion. The story centers around the Brewster family: the Brewster sisters, Abby and Martha, who are considered by everyone who knows them to be two of the sweetest, kindest old ladies in the world, their nephew Teddy, who believes himself to be Theodore Roosevelt, and their other nephew Mortimer, a famous dramatic critic. Teddy and Mortimer have a third brother, Jonathan, but he has long since left home and they hope to never see him again. The story begins when Mortimer marries Elaine Harper and stops to visit his aunts before leaving on his honeymoon. While there, however, he opens up the window seat and discovers a dead body.

Mortimer initially believes Teddy is a murderer, but when he brings it up to his aunts, they quickly correct him–that is one of their gentlemen, and since they’re going to bury him in the cellar with all the others, there’s really nothing for Mortimer to worry about.

They go on to explain about how one day, a lonely old man visited them and had a heart attack right there in the house. When they saw how peaceful he looked, they added poisoning lonely old men to the list of charities they perform. And Teddy, who had been down in the basement digging the Panama Canal, believed the dead men to be Yellow Fever victims, and therefore immediately buried them.

Teddy, from Arsenic and Old LaceMortimer knows something has to be done, but he doesn’t want it to be known that Abby and Martha were murderers. He finally decides that since everyone already knows that Teddy is crazy, if he can commit him to the sanitarium now, it’ll be assumed he was responsible if the bodies are ever discovered. And without Teddy to dig the canal, Abby and Martha won’t be able to take care of any more gentlemen. He begins a frantic race to commit Teddy, keep his new wife from becoming too angry with him as he delays their honeymoon, and keep his aunts from killing anyone else in the meantime.

Jonathan Brewster from Arsenic and Old LaceBut while Mortimer is gone, his criminally insane brother Jonathan returns to town with his assistant, Dr. Einstein–on the run from the police and with a dead body to hide. As far as Jonathan is concerned, the house is a perfect hideout. He can find a place to hide the body, get Dr. Einstein to change his appearance yet again (especially since people keep comparing him to Boris Karloff), and maybe, just maybe, eliminate his hated brother Mortimer once and for all.

I’ll leave the rest of the plot for you to discover when you watch Arsenic and Old Lace, because it is definitely worth watching. By the way, the play eventually returned to Broadway in the 80s with Jonathan Frid playing Jonathan Brewster. In that version Larry Storch plays Dr. Einstein, and the entire cast is excellent. But whether you’re watching the play or the movie, it’s certain to be something you’ll enjoy.

Buy Arsenic and Old Lace from Amazon

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