Let's recast a movie!
This time around, we're going to recast Arsenic and Old Lace, Frank Capra's brilliant 1944 comedy. If you haven't seen it, rent it now. Cary Grant, Raymond Massey, and Peter Lorre, with serial killers, crazy people, marriage issues, and botched plastic surgery. And it's hilarious! You know if someone threw those elements in a movie today they'd make it dark and disturbing and Darren Aronofsky would have to direct it. But we're remaking it as a comedy, because it came into the world as a comedy, and it will return as one! So let's recast that bad bear!
First, we're going to need a director. Capra isn't available. Capra isn't my favorite director, but in this movie he kept things razor-sharp. Who will replace him? WHO?!?!?!?
First up, of course, is Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster. Grant is excellent, of course, because he has great comic timing but also a bit of that upper-class stuffiness that makes his predicament even funnier. In case you haven't seen the movie, he's a newspaper columnist who claims not to believe in marriage, but at the beginning of the movie he's getting a marriage license. When he takes his fiancée back to his aunts' house in Brooklyn, however, he learns some distressing things about the goings-on there. Here's Grant, in case you're from another planet and don't know what he looks like:
His girl, Elaine Harper, is played by Priscilla Lane. She didn't have a great career, but she's a cutie:
Here's Grant and Lane. He looks uncomfortable. You don't suppose he wasn't too impressed with the ladies?
While Elaine readies for a trip to Niagara Falls, Grant visits his aunts. They're dotty old women, played wonderfully by Josephine Hull as Abby Brewster and Jean Adair as Martha Brewster. Abby is slightly less dotty than Martha, but only just. Here is Grant with his aunts:
That's Martha on the left, and Abby on the right.
While he's there, he learns that his aunts are actually serial killers. It's true! They take in lodgers, who are always lonely old men, and they decide the men would be much happier if they were dead. So they poison them. I can't remember how many they've killed, but it's around 12 or 13. It's of minor importance later on in the movie. Grant is understandably upset by this, but his aunts don't seem to think anything's wrong with it. They're too worried about Grant's cousin, Teddy, played by John Alexander. Teddy, you see, actually thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. Whenever he goes up the stairs, he thinks he's charging up San Juan Hill and he blows his trumpet. The neighbors don't like this, and the police are threatening to take Teddy away. This is Teddy (the one in the pith helmet, obviously):
Teddy helps his aunts bury their victims in the basement, because he believes he's digging the Panama Canal. As Grant struggles with this, his brother Jonathan shows up. Jonathan is on the run from the law, as he is a particularly vicious killer. Raymond Massey plays Jonathan with barely suppressed rage. Tagging along with him is his alcoholic plastic surgeon, Dr. Herman Einstein, wonderfully played by Peter Lorre. Dr. Einstein botched Jonathan's surgery and now he resembles Boris Karloff. They want to lie low in Brooklyn for a while until the heat is off, but of course, they discover what Martha and Abby have been doing. We've already seen them, but here they are again, with Grant:
Finally, the cops keep coming around. Jack Carson plays Officer Patrick O'Hara, the clueless young policeman who keeps bugging Grant about the screenplay he's written. Surely we can find someone to fill his role?
So there's the cast. I welcome your substitutions! The only person you can't use is Steve Buscemi in Peter Lorre's role. When we recast The Maltese Falcon, my wife cast Buscemi in Lorre's role, and Tom pointed out that Buscemi as Lorre is too easy. Other than that, it's all wide open! Who will be in your remake of a comedy classic? And will it be able to defeat Fred Claus for those Thanksgiving dollars?
I should point out that a bunch of these pictures came from CaryGrant.net, which has more Cary Grant information than you thought you'd ever need. It's a good thing, too, because it was tough finding stills from the movie!