Arsenic and Old Lace: A Creepy Old Comedy That Still is Hillarious

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Here is a good bet for spooky fun – Arsenic and Old Lace (1944, not rated). Directed by Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life), the entire movie takes place on Halloween night when reluctant groom Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) stops by home to say goodby to his sweet old spinster aunts before going on his honeymoon with girl-next-door Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane).

The sweet old aunts.

The sweet old aunts.

The problem is Mortimer’s black-sheep brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) comes home the same evening to hide out from the police while he heals from plastic surgery. Boris Karloff, who played many monsters in 1930’s films, played the role on stage, and was wanted for the film version. As a tribute, every person who meets Jonathan comments that he looks like someone in the horror movies, which further enrages him towards his surgeon (Peter Lorre), who has been in his fair share of horror films himself.

The criminally insane brother and his sidekick.

The criminally insane brother and his sidekick.

There is also the crazy brother (John Alexander), who thinks he is Theodore Roosevelt and possibly has resorted to murder.

The crazy brother, who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt.

The crazy brother, who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt.

This is a comedy, but spooky in the right ways. The use of shadows increases the feeling of impending dread without unnecessary gore.

Spooky, but not too scary.

Spooky, but not too scary.

Will Mortimer find a solution to Teddy’s insane behavior? Will he survive a night with Jonathon and his doctor? Will his aunts hold another funeral? Will he remember that Elaine is waiting for him?

She has the taxi waiting to take her new husband on their honeymoon…

She has the taxi waiting to take her new husband on their honeymoon…

Give this old movie a try, with it’s older style of acting and stylized lighting, and you will have a fun evening!

Weird Advice From the Internet

It used to be when you needed some advice, you called mom.

  • How do I know when chicken has gone bad?

Or you talked to a friend who had gone through a similar experience.

  • What should I wear to the job interview?

Now we simply ask Google.

  • (Here’s Google’s answers, in case you are wondering: it looks grey and smells sour; match the company dress code.)

Of course, Google won’t come over and help you pick out an outfit, or let you borrow something to wear like a friend would.  Google may suggest chicken recipes, but doesn’t know how to make Grandma’s secret chicken casserole recipe like your mom does.

Google doesn’t wear pearls, like mom used to.

Google doesn’t wear pearls, like mom used to.

Some of Google’s advice is just plain bad.

  • You should remove moles with dental floss. (Sounds like infection waiting to happen.)

  • You can get flat abs in 5 minutes a day with this miracle exercise. (Yeah, right!)

  • You can make anti-acne face mask out of kitty litter. (Gross!)

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Don’t do these things!

Do you remember when you first brought your baby home?

  • Maybe you read baby books.

  • Maybe you grew up the oldest in your family and had a lot of experience with little brothers and sisters.

  • There still was a learning curve getting used to your baby, and fitting in to your growing family.

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Now now, don’t judge!  You remember how it was when your baby didn’t sleep.  A new dad’s got to eat!  He said, “The only way my 3-day-old daughter would fall asleep. After two hours of carrying her around, I got hungry.”

You can find all sorts of child-rearing advice online.

  • Some of it is reputable, like Pampers’ YouTube video teaching how to diaper your baby. 

  • Some of it is not.

Have you seen the movie Penny Serenade?  This gentle comedy, from 1941, follows the lives of a couple who unexpectedly adopt a baby.  The husband, played by Cary Grant, wasn’t sure he even wanted to be a father, until he saw his wife, played by Irene Dunne, holding a precious baby girl.

Watch as they nervously bathe and diaper their baby the very first time. Good advice comes from an unexpected source. (You can stop once the record starts spinning, at 1:18).

What a cutie!  Do you remember those days?

Aren’t you grateful for disposable diapers?  Or, if you were a cloth diaper family, for waterproof diaper covers?

How precious babies are!  Think of how much you have learned as a parent over the years!  How special our children are, no matter what age.

No matter how much they drive us crazy.

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Isn't it Romantic?

Nope.

Skip this movie.

Re-watch your favorite rom-com instead.

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What’s a rom-com?

A romantic comedy. A love story with laughs. A chick-flik.

Boy meets Girl.

They fight. Or they work together against an obstacle. Or they don’t realize they are right for each other.

Characters grow. Boy and Girl finally are together in love.

Three rom-coms to watch instead.

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Don’t give up on me! Yes, this is a silly movie. Ridiculous, even. But also touching. And funny.

Eugenio Derbez lives off the wealth of older women. When he gets dumped, he must move in with his estranged sister Salma Hayek and her son Raphael Alejandro.

If you’ve seen Instructions Not Included, you know that Eugenio Derbez is capable of both slapstick and tender heartbreak. You get both in this movie, plus Salma Hayek gets to be more than just the comedic foil.

All the small parts are played by well-known actors hamming it up: Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Mckenna Grace, Raquel Welch, Linda Lavin, Renee Taylor, Rob Corddry, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, Michael Cera, and Mather Zickel.

Not pure rom-com, but enough romance and enough comedy to count.

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Before romantic comedies were called rom-coms, they were called screwball comedies.

This 1940 movie may be in black and white, but the story is still strong. Formerly married co-workers Cary Grant tries to keep Rosalind Russell from leaving town to marry Ralph Bellamy. Watch how Cary manipulates his introduction to Rosalind’s fiancee.

Clever writing! Great acting, with subtle facial expressions conveying the internal dialogue.

Less screwball comedy than others in the era, less rom-com than modern films, this movie has the fastest dialogue around a smart story-line among actors that crackle and snap!

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Finally, a traditional rom-com. Grieving widow David Duchovny meets medically damaged Minnie Driver. It’s the year 2000, and everyone is sweet and well-meaning and believes in the value of family. Funny, with great supporting characters. But watch out - we bet you’ll tear up a little before the end!

What are your favorite rom-coms?