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The lead role of Mortimer Brewster was originally intended for Bob Hope, but he could not be released from his contract with Paramount Pictures. Capra had also approached Jack Benny and Richard Travis before learning that Grant would accept the role. On the Broadway stage, Boris Karloff played Jonathan Brewster, who is said to "look like Boris Karloff". According to Turner Classic Movies, Karloff, who gave permission for the use of his name in the film, remained in the play to appease the producers, who were afraid of what stripping the play of all its primary cast would do to ticket sales. Raymond Massey took Karloff's place on screen.[Note 1] The film's supporting cast also features Jack Carson, Priscilla Lane, Peter Lorre, and Edward Everett Horton.
Searching for the notes for his next book, Mortimer finds a corpse hidden in the window seat. He assumes in horror that Teddy's delusions have led him to murder. Abby and Martha cheerfully explain that they are responsible, that as serial murderers, they minister to lonely old bachelors by ending their "suffering". They post a "Room for Rent" sign to attract a victim, then serve a glass of elderberry wine spiked with arsenic, strychnine, and cyanide while getting acquainted with them. The bodies are buried in the basement by Teddy, who believes they are yellow fever victims who perished in the building of the Panama Canal.
The high contrast between deeds and outward appearances is supported by the design of the show. The sisters bustle around an inviting living room full of the titular old lace, dressed in patterned prints and frills courtesy of costume designer Sally Kahn. Understated piano embellishments (courtesy of LeVar Betts) create an atmosphere of suspicion and tension, when needed.
Arsenic and Old Lace is a classic dark comedy about the Brewster family, whose members are all a bit eccentric. Mortimer Brewster is a drama critic who discovers a shocking secret about his aunt and uncle-they have been poisoning lonely old men with elderberry wine laced with arsenic. Mortimer must come up with a plan to keep his family our of jail and save his own sanity. 59ce067264