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ARSENIC AND OLD LACE
August 13, 2014  | By David Bianculli

TCM, 2:45 p.m. ET

 

Today is Cary Grant day on TCM, and the network is using the day, and night to present lots of lesser-known, or at least less frequently televised, Grant movies, along with a couple classics. TCM’s choices are heavy on the comedies, and you could do a lot, lot worse than to make special efforts to watch or record 1940’s His Girl Friday (9:30 a.m. ET, opposite Rosalind Russell) and 1948’s Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (9:30 p.m. ET, opposite Myrna Loy). But the biggest treat of all today, for me, is the afternoon showing of 1944’s Arsenic and Old Lace, in which Grant plays a newspaper drama critic (no wonder I love it) whose extended family includes two eccentric and sweetly homicidal aunts, an uncle who thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and a monstrously murdering brother who resembles Boris Karloff. Raymond Massey plays that last role, which was played in the original stage version by the original Karloff. His hunching assistant, in this movie version, is played by Peter Lorre, who’s wide-eyed and hilarious. Then again, so is Grant, in one of his broadest, funniest roles. And the rest of the cast –Josephine Hull and Jean Adair as the dotty aunts, John Alexander as the bugle-blaring uncle, Edward Everett Horton as the insane-asylum director – are all, in the hands of director Frank Capra, utterly brilliant. This movie makes me feel good every time I watch it, and I watch it every time it’s televised. And appreciate, every time, how in 1944, it found a perfectly acceptable and defensible way to have Cary Grant scream the word “bastard.”

 
 
 
 
 
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