Roanoke's historic Grandin Theatre will screen the 1944 comedy "Arsenic and Old Lace" this Saturday, August 9. Presented by Friendship Retirement Community, the Grandin's Classic Film Series occurs the second Saturday of each month and allows film buffs to see older films on the big screen in a theatre with fellow fans. The movie will begin at 10 a.m. and admission is free. Just ask for a ticket at the box office.
This adaptation of Joseph Kesselring's Broadway smash stars Cary Grant in his most frenetic comedic performance. As brand spanking newlywed Mortimer Brewster, he must deal with his old family before he can focus on starting a new one with Elaine (Priscilla Lane). He discovers his sweet little Aunt Abby (Josephine Hull) and Aunt Martha (Jean Adair) have been performing some very misguided community service in the fashion of the movie's title. They see it as ending the pain of lonely old gentlemen in the neighborhood.
The aunties have also involved Mortimer's hilariously but certifiably insane brother Teddy (John Alexander) in their benign but terminal business. Believing he is Teddy Roosevelt, he has been burying some very real bodies claimed to be yellow fever victims. Add Raymond Massey as Boris Karloff-like murderous brother Jonathan, a role Karloff originated on stage, and his plastic surgeon Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre) to the goings on and Mortimer's sanity and security is sure to be pushed to the brink.
Frank Capra, the Americana master behind such classics as "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," directed all the madcap action. He had previously brought another Broadway comedy about an eccentric family to the screen with 1938's "You Can't Take It With You." He actually shot "Arsenic and Old Lace" in 1941 then held the release until the play had finished its run.
Another notable face in the cast is the wonderful character actor James Gleason as the beleaguered Lt. Rooney. He had a big year in 1941. He played perhaps his best known character as trainer Max Corkle in the sports fantasy "Here Comes Mr. Jordan," which was remade as Warren Beatty's classic comedy "Heaven Can Wait." Gleason had also just given a very funny performance working with Capra in "Meet John Doe."