A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)

Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, and Peter Lorre in Arsenic and Old Lace
Mortimer Brewster: Cary Grant
Abby Brewster: Josephine Hull
Martha Brewster: Jean Adair
Elaine Harper: Priscilla Lane
Jonathan Brewster: Raymond Massey
Dr. Einstein: Peter Lorre
O'Hara: Jack Carson
Mr. Witherspoon: Edward Everett Horton
Teddy Brewster: John Alexander
Lt. Rooney: James Gleason

Director: Frank Capra
Screenplay: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein
Based on a play by Joseph Kesselring
Cinematography: Sol Polito
Art direction: Max Parker
Film editing: Daniel Mandell
Music: Max Steiner

This may be Cary Grant's worst performance. Certainly director Frank Capra put no restraints on Grant's lurching, mugging, groaning, and whinnying as he tries to portray Mortimer Brewster's reaction to the discovery that his beloved maiden aunts have been killing old men and burying him in their basement. But then Capra doesn't bother to restrain anyone else in this too-frantic version of the very popular Broadway farce. It's a film in which nobody listens to anyone else, producing complications that are supposed to be hysterically funny but are just hysterical. The Epstein twins do a fairly good job of adapting Joseph Kesselring's one-set stage play into a slightly opened-out movie -- though some scenes, such as the opening baseball park sequence and the bit at City Hall where Mortimer and Elaine get their wedding license, seem to be staged just for the sake of getting out of the confines of the Brewster house. No one covers themselves with comedy glory here, with the possible exception of Peter Lorre, who remains on the fringes of most of the action, providing a wry, restrained point of view on the nonsense. The film was made in 1941, but was held from release for three years because it couldn't be exhibited before the play had ended its Broadway fun.

No comments: