The basic story is this: there are two little old ladies (played here by Josephine Hull and Jean Adair, who also were in the play this is based on). Everyone considers them the “nicest most caring people you ever did see”, but, like the rest of the family, they are crazy. Unbeknownst to everyone, they have been killing lonely old men as a sort of charity. When their nephew Mortimer (played by Cary Grant) discovers one of their 12 dead bodies in (of all places) the window seat, his life becomes even more insane.
At the very mention of this actor, a whole nation of women cry out and swoon…or something like that. Supposedly, Mr. Grant considered this not one of his better roles, but I really think this a perfect role for him. His expressions (both vocally and physically) make the movie even more enjoyable. I also like it, because his role as Mortimer was helpful to me as I tried playing him in the scene in drama.
Photo Caption: Cary Grant realizes this is a good performance...that or the body in the window seat...
There are so many great actors, so let’s see if I can address at least some of them.
- Peter Lorre appears in this film as the creepy and skittish Doctor Einstein. Lorre was this Austrian actor who was perfect for this role. Maybe it’s his accent that makes him creepy, but whatever the case he’s just really humorous and he works well as a straight man for Raymond Massey.
- Raymond Massey was this Canadian actor probably well known for this role and his role in the 1955 film East of Eden. I’m not as crazy about Massey (though he did a good job) because I know someone who would have done a better job in the role Massey got, but I’ll mention him later.
- A personal favorite of mine is Edward Everett Horton. He was the narrator for the Rocky and Bullwinkle segment “Fractured Fairytales”. I really loved seeing him in this live action movie. He’s funny live action as well!
- The last person I’m going to mention is John Alexander. He (along with Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) had been in the stage play. He plays Teddy Roosevelt Brewster, who believes himself to be THE Teddy Roosevelt. His role is just hilarious. Whether he is digging the panama canal in the basement (where they would put the bodies of the men the aunts kill) or running up the stairs shouting “charge!”, he was hilarious.
Photo caption (left to right): Peter Lorre, John Alexander, and Raymond Massey
Boris KarloffWith all respect to Raymond Massey, the real person I can see in the role of Mortimer’s brother, Jonathan, is Boris Karloff. Jonathan is tall and grim fellow who escaped from prison and who had killed 12 people (the same number as the aunts). Dr. Einstein had given him plastic surgery while being drunk (and after watching a particular horror film), so Jonathan has scars on his face which always reminds people of a certain actor or monster. The writers seemed to have agreed with me because they give the actors all these jokes about how Jonathan looks similar the Frankenstein Monster and the actor who played that role. These jokes might also be caused by the fact that Boris Karloff played the role of Johnathan in the play, but when the creators of this movie tried to get him they couldn’t get him as the movie distributor he had contracts with forbid it. I still think the jokes would be funnier if the Frankenstein Monster would be in this movie.
Photo Caption: the Frankenstein Monster
This is a hilarious film and should not be missed. The whole cast is wonderful (I wish I could mention them all in this blog, but that would take forever). I think I’m going to add this to my favorite comedy movies list, that is if I ever create such a list.
“Aunt Martha! Men don’t get into window seats and die!”
--Cary Grant (as Mortimer Brewster, Arsenic and Old Lace 1944 Warner Brothers)