Thursday, September 23, 2021

On This Day... Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

On today's date back in 1944, Cary Grant's 47th full length feature film, Arsenic and Old Lace, was released. 


Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant), a newspaperman and author known for his diatribes against marriage, ironically gets married then takes a quick trip home to tell his two maiden aunts (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair). While trying to break the news, he finds out his aunts' hobby: killing lonely old men and burying them in the cellar...


Cary Grant...Mortimer Brewster
Priscilla Lane...Elaine Harper
Raymond Massey...Jonathan Brewster
Jack Carson...O'Hara
Edward Everett Horton...Mr. Witherspoon
Peter Lorre...Dr. Einstein
James Gleason...Police Lt. Rooney
Josephine Hull...Abby Brewster
Jean Adair...Martha Brewster
John Alexander...'Teddy Roosevelt' Brewster
Grant Mitchell...Reverend Harper
Edward McNamara...Brophy
Garry Owen...Taxi Cab Driver
John Ridgely...Saunders
Vaughan Glaser...Judge Cullman
Chester Clute...Dr. Gilchrist
Charles Lane...Reporter
Edward McWade...Gibbs

Did You Know?

Some 20 years before filming this movie, actress Jean Adair had helped to nurse a very sick vaudeville performer named Archie Leach back to health; by the time she was asked to reprise her Broadway "Arsenic and Old Lace" role as Aunt Martha for this film, Adair and Leach, now known as Cary Grant, were old friends.

Cary Grant considered his acting in this film to be horribly over the top and often called it his least favorite of all his movies.

On stage, Boris Karloff played the monstrous Jonathan Brewster, Raymond Massey's film character, who, in eerie-looking screen makeup, resembled Karloff, which was a running gag throughout the picture. Karloff eagerly wanted to do this film, but he was kept under contract by the Broadway play producers and was not allowed to do the picture, to his immense displeasure.

Amy Archer-Gilligan, Americas most prolific female serial killer, has been cited as the inspiration for the play, and subsequently the film. She was charged with the poisoning deaths of her two husbands and was allegedly responsible for the deaths of 66 other elderly "inmates" of her nursing home. Her weapon of choice? Arsenic.

Frank Capra noted that while he was stationed in London in January 1943, he overheard American and British soldiers screaming "Charge!" in the manner of the "Teddy Roosevelt" character and deduced that they had seen the film. He then learned that Jack L. Warner had released the picture to the armed forces that month, a year after it was completed, and almost two years before it was released to the general public.

The Broadway play opened January 10, 1941. The film was shot between October 20 and December 16, 1941 while the play was still running, with most of the play's cast playing their roles in the movie. Editing on the film was completed by Capra in January 1942, followed by some post production work in February, when the film was ready for release. However, Warner Brothers had been contractually required to wait for the play to finish its run before releasing the movie, and as the subject matter had a particularly macabre theme, prompted as well by obvious Halloween references, it was hoped that the play would have finished for an October 1942 release. By January 1943, the play was still running domestically, so Warner got permission to show it to the U.S. Armed Forces who were stationed on overseas bases during that month. When the play finally finished its Broadway run on June 17, 1944, it was decided to release it ahead of Halloween, receiving its token film debut on Broadway at the Strand Theatre on September 1, 1944, followed by the nationwide release on September 23, two and a half years after the film had been completed.

In none of his closeups does Raymond Massey ever blink.

Throughout the film, the grandfather clock below the staircase (the minute hand of which always drops to the '6' position when "Teddy Roosevelt"/Johan Alexander slams his door) keeps correct time, i.e. it advances in time with the action. This is an extremely uncommon feature in movies, where clocks usually are left to show whatever time someone happened to set them for).

Cary Grant: [name] Grant's birth name Archie Leach appears on a tombstone in the cemetery near the Brewster's house. In Grant's earlier picture His Girl Friday (1940), his character Walter responded to a threat by saying "listen, the last man that said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat." As a gag, the departed Mr. Leach was apparently interred in the Brooklyn cemetery by the Brewster's home.


Mortimer Brewster: Look I probably should have told you this before but you see... well... insanity runs in my family... It practically gallops.

Mortimer Brewster: The name Brewster is code for Roosevelt.
Teddy Brewster: Code for Roosevelt?
Mortimer Brewster: Yes. Don't you see? Take the name Brewster, take away the B, and what have you got?
Teddy Brewster: Rooster!
Mortimer Brewster: Uh-huh. And what does a rooster do?
Teddy Brewster: Crows.
Mortimer Brewster: It crows. And where do you hunt in Africa?
Teddy Brewster: On the veldt!
Mortimer Brewster: There you are: crows - veldt!
Teddy Brewster: Ingenious! My compliments to the boys in the code department.

Aunt Martha: For a gallon of elderberry wine, I take one teaspoon full of arsenic, then add half a teaspoon full of strychnine, and then just a pinch of cyanide.
Mortimer Brewster: Hmm. Should have quite a kick.

Mortimer Brewster: Mr. President, may I have the pleasure of presenting...
Teddy Brewster: Doctor Livingston?
Dr. Gilchrist: Livingstone?
Mortimer Brewster: Uh, well, that's what he presumes.

Mortimer Brewster: Aunt Abby, how can I believe you? There are twelve men down in the cellar and you admit you poisoned them.
Aunt Abby Brewster: Yes, I did. But you don't think I'd stoop to telling a fib.

Mortimer Brewster: Look, Aunt Martha, men don't just get into window seats and die!
Abby Brewster: We know, dear. He died first.
Mortimer Brewster: Wait a minute! Stop all this. Now, look, darling, how did he die?
Abby Brewster: Oh, Mortimer, don't be so inquisitive. The gentleman died because he drank some wine with poison in it.
Mortimer Brewster: How did the poison get in the wine?
Martha Brewster: Well, we put it in wine, because it's less noticeable. When it's in tea, it has a distinct odor.
Mortimer Brewster: You mean, you... You put it in the wine!
Abby Brewster: Yes. And I put Mr. Hoskins in the window seat, because Reverend Harper was coming.
Mortimer Brewster: Now, look at me, darling. You mean, you mean you knew what you'd done and you didn't want the Reverend Harper to see the body?
Abby Brewster: Well, not at tea. That wouldn't have been very nice.
Mortimer Brewster: Oh, it's first-degree.
Abby Brewster: Now, Mortimer, you know all about it and just forget about it. I do think that Aunt Martha and I have the right to our own little secrets.

[to Mortimer]
Elaine Harper: We were married today. We were going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Your brother tries to kill me. A taxi is waiting and now you want to sleep on a window seat. You can take the honeymoon, your wedding ring, your taxi, your window seat, and put 'em in a barrel and push 'em all over Niagara Falls!

 Lobby Cards:

Directed by Frank Capra.
Produced and distributed by Warner Bros.
Running time: 118 minutes.

Artwork by Rebekah Hawley at Studio36.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

On This Day... None But The Lonely Heart (1944)

 Cary Grant's 46th full length feature film, None But The Lonely Heart, was released today, back in 1944. 


An English woman (Ethel Barrymore) runs a store by herself, while her irresponsible son (Cary Grant) travels aimlessly.  When told that his mother is ill, the young man comes home, reforms himself, and helps his mother run the shop. Soon however, each becomes involved in illegal activities.


Cary Grant...Ernie Mott
Ethel Barrymore...Ma Mott (as Miss Ethel Barrymore)
Barry Fitzgerald...Henry Twite
June Duprez...Ada Brantline
Jane Wyatt...Aggie Hunter
George Coulouris...Jim Mordinoy
Dan Duryea...Lew Tate
Roman Bohnen...Dad Pettyjohn
Konstantin Shayne...Ike Weber

Did You Know?

Cary Grant purchased the film rights to the book in order to ensure that he was cast for this part. A photo of his real father is on the set of his character's home. A biography of Grant reports that the story was especially meaningful to Grant because he saw in it who he could have become if he had never left Bristol.

Author Richard Llewellyn was strongly opposed to the casting of Cary Grant, demanding to know how the 40-year-old actor could play a teenager.

Cary Grant's Best Actor Oscar-nominated performance was the only one in the category not in a Best Picture nominee that year.

This film marked a return to the big screen after an 11-year absence by star Ethel Barrymore. Prior to making this film, Barrymore had considered movie appearances an inferior art to the stage. However, her time on set, her critical acclaim, and her hefty paycheck changed her mind. After making this film, she moved from New York to California so she could concentrate on making movies instead of Broadway plays.


Ernie Mott: They say money talks... all it's ever said to me is goodbye.

Ernie Mott: I'm so broke I'm in two halves.

Ernie Mott: Did you love my old man?
Ma Mott: Love's not for the poor, son. No time for it.

Posters and Lobby Cards:

Directed by Clifford Odets.
Produced and distributed by RKO Radio.
Running time: 113 minutes.

Artwork by Rebekah Hawley at Studio36.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

On This Day... The Howards of Virginia (1940)

Released today back in 1940, The Howards of Virginia was Cary Grant's 37th full length feature film.


Aristocratic young Virginian Jane (Martha Scott) steps down from her upbringing when she marries down-to-earth surveyor Matt Howard (Cary Grant). Matt joins the Colonial forces in the American War of Independence which puts him in conflict with Jane's brother, Fleetwood (Cedric Hardwicke), who supports the Crown.


Cary Grant...Matt Howard
Martha Scott...Jane Peyton-Howard
Cedric Hardwicke...Fleetwood Peyton (as Sir Cedric Hardwicke)
Alan Marshal...Roger Peyton
Richard Carlson...Thomas Jefferson
Paul Kelly...Captain Jabez Allen
Irving Bacon...Tom Norton
Elisabeth Risdon...Aunt Clarissa (as Elizabeth Risdon)
Anne Revere...Mrs. Norton
Tom Drake...James Howard at 16 (as Richard Alden)
Phil Taylor...Peyton Howard at 18
Rita Quigley...Mary Howard at 17
Libby Taylor...Dicey
Richard Gaines...Patrick Henry
George Houston...George Washington
Ralph Byrd...James Howard
Dickie Jones...Matt Howard at 12
Buster Phelps...Tom Jefferson at 11
Wade Boteler...Uncle Reuben
Mary Field...Susan Howard
Roy Gordon...Colonel Jefferson (as R. Wells Gordon)
Charles Francis...Mr. Douglas

Did You Know?

Elizabeth Page's book, The Tree of Liberty, served as the source material for this film. Adapting the screenplay from Page's book to the film's 116 minute run-time proved quite a task, as Page's novel is 985 pages long.

With World War II raging in Europe, Columbia Pictures foresaw a need for more patriotic projects and initiated this film early in 1940. Studio executives mentioned that they believed that many Americans felt that the country would be going to war soon and were desirous of patriotic films.

The millionaire heir, John D. Rockefeller Jr., recently had restored Williamsburg, Virginia as a model colonial town for educational, tourism, and amusement purposes. Rockefeller offered Columbia the rights to film exterior scenes for this picture in the newly restored colonial town. This offer saved the studio millions of dollars in set construction and location shooting. Much of the film was shot on location in Williamsburg. What was not shot there was shot on location in Northern California.

Martha Scott lauded Cary Grant's professionalism and assistance to her while shooting this film. This was Scott's second feature film (She only just had finished acting in her debut film, Our Town (1940) several months before.), and she was quite new to the acting world. Scott claimed that Grant was extremely patient, kind, and helpful to her. He made precise lighting and staging demands for her benefit.

The film's failure hit Cary Grant so hard that he refused all period roles he was offered with the he exception of The Pride and the Passion (1957), which ultimately failed to make a profit.

This film garnered Cary Grant some of the worst critical reviews of his thirty-five year acting career. In general, neither audiences nor critics found much to praise about Grant's performance. Grant did not feel the sting of failure for very long, however. 1940 proved to be a busy year for the actor, and this was only one of four films he acted in that year. The other Grant films of 1940 were: His Girl Friday (1940), My Favorite Wife (1940), and The Philadelphia Story (1940). Those films were not only profitable, but they also charmed critics and audiences and, even today, are widely felt to have stood the test of time as prime examples of classic Hollywood comedies.

Alternative Titles:

(original title)                 The Howards of Virginia
Argentina                 Pasión de libertad
Belgium (Flemish title) Howard de opstandeling
Belgium (French title) Howard le révolté
Brazil (alternative title) Flama de Liberdade
Brazil                         A Flama da Liberdade
Canada (English title) The Howards of Virginia
Finland                         Virginialaisia
France (DVD title)         Howard le révolté
Italy                                 Quelli della Virginia
Japan (Japanese title) 明日への戦ひ
Mexico                         Pasión de libertad
Poland                         Howardowie z Wirginii
Portugal                         Paixão da Liberdade
Romania                          Familia Howard din Virginia
Soviet Union (Russian title) Ховарды из Вирджинии
Spain                         Pasión de libertad
Sweden                         En hjälte i Virginia
UK                                 The Tree of Liberty
USA (working title) The Tree of Liberty
USA                         The Howards of Virginia
Uruguay (original subtitled version) Pasión de libertad
Venezuela                 El árbol de la libertad


Directed by Frank Lloyd.
Produced and distributed by Columbia.
Running time: 117 minutes..

Artwork by Rebekah Hawley at Studio36.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

On This Day... Blonde Venus (1932)

 On today's date back in 1932, Cary Grant's 5th full length feature film, Blonde Venus, was released. 


When housewife Helen Faraday's (MarleneDietrich) husband needs money for a life-saving operation, she decides to resume her former career as a nightclub singer to raise money.  This creates a chain of events that separate her from her husband and force her to make a choice between her lucrative singing career, and her role as a wife and mother.


Marlene Dietrich...Helen Faraday, aka Helen Jones
Herbert Marshall...Edward 'Ned' Faraday
Cary Grant...Nick Townsend
Dickie Moore...Johnny Faraday
Gene Morgan...Ben Smith
Rita La Roy...Taxi Belle Hooper
Robert Emmett O'Connor...Dan O'Connor
Sidney Toler... Detective Wilson
Morgan Wallace...Dr. Pierce

Did You Know?

Cary Grant said that Josef von Sternberg didn't really direct him much during the filming, but taught him the most important thing. On the first day Grant came on the set, von Sternberg looked at him and said, "Your hair is parted on the wrong side." So Grant parted it on the other side and kept it that way the rest of his career.

Though Josef Von Sternberg is credited for having written the script to Blonde Venus, the true author of the script was in fact Marlene Dietrich. She agreed not to receive credit for writing the movie due to the obvious struggles it would cause with the Hays Office and Code. This turned out to be a good idea, as both Dietrich and Von Sternberg were suspended for several months as the story was cut and watered down to satisfy the censors. It took nearly a year before the smoke cleared but all the frustrations and drama from the censors caused the story to lose its appeal for both Dietrich and Von Sternberg. By the time filming finally began, both director and star no longer liked, nor wanted to make the picture any longer.


Nick Townsend: Hello, Helen.
Helen Faraday, aka Helen Jones: Well, if it isn't old Nick himself. I expected you to pop up someday.
Nick Townsend: If this is a dream, Helen, I hope I never wake up. Let me come backstage, will ya?
Helen Faraday, aka Helen Jones: I seem to remember you came backstage once before.

Nick Townsend: Why don't you cool down and run along? We don't want any trouble.
Big Fellow: Yellow, huh?
Nick Townsend: Yes, maybe I am. As a matter of fact, I'm scared stiff. And being reasonably certain that someone's gonna get a punch in the jaw, I'm going to make sure it isn't me.[punches him]
Minor Role: Are you goin' back for more, or will we go home, ya big stiff? Come on Mary.
Big Fellow: [as he's being picked up off the floor] Who hit me?
Dan O'Connor: Sorry this happened, Mr. Townsend.
Nick Townsend: Oh, that's all right, O'Connor, I rather enjoyed it.

Helen Faraday, aka Helen Jones: I wish I was someone else. Then I could stay here with you forever.
Nick Townsend: So do I, Helen. Not only for my sake but for your own. There's trouble ahead of you.
Helen Faraday, aka Helen Jones: I know it.

Helen Faraday, aka Helen Jones: Well, Nick, did you succeed in forgetting me?
Nick Townsend: Forget you? I should say not. I haven't stopped thinking about you a single day since I last saw you.


Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Produced and distributed by Paramount Publix.
Running time: 85 minutes

Artwork by Rebekah Hawley at Studio36.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

On This Day... Monkey Business (1952)

 Cary Grant's 58th film, Monkey Business, was released on today's date back in 1952. 


Research chemist Barnaby Fulton(Cary Grant) finds his and his wife's personal and professional lives turned upside down when he believes he's discovered a fountain of youth pill.


Cary Grant...Dr. Barnaby Fulton
Ginger Rogers...Mrs. Edwina Fulton
Charles Coburn...Mr. Oliver Oxley
Marilyn Monroe...Miss Lois Laurel
Hugh Marlowe...Hank Entwhistle
Henri Letondal...Dr. Jerome Kitzel
Robert Cornthwaite...Dr. Zoldeck
Larry Keating...G.J. Culverly
Douglas Spencer...Dr. Brunner
Esther Dale...Mrs. Rhinelander
George Winslow...Little Indian

Did You Know?

The off-screen voice during the opening credits is director Howard Hawks.

The small sports car used in the film was a red 1952 MG TD Roadster, which was owned by Marilyn Monroe. It sustained a dent in the front bumper when Cary Grant hit a fence while driving the car. It was later purchased by Debbie Reynolds in a pre-sale at a 20th Century Fox studio auction. It was then stored for several years. In 2011, it was sold at auction for $210,000.

The address that Edwina gives when she calls the police was Ginger Rogers' real-life address: 1605 Gilcrest.

Postal zip codes were not created until 1963. Yet numbers are recited after addresses in the film.  Cary Grant refers to an address as being in Inglewood, but the zip code, 90645, would be in Whittier, quite a distance away.


Barnaby: Hello, Griffith Park Zoo, Snake Department. Sssshhh!
Oliver Oxley: Hello? Hello? What is this?
Barnaby: What do you want?
Oliver Oxley: This is Mr Oxley.
Barnaby: I'll see if he's here.
Oliver Oxley: No, I said *this* is Oxley!
Barnaby: Who is?
Oliver Oxley: I am, speaking!
Barnaby: Oh, you're Mr. Speaking...
Oliver Oxley: This is Mr. Oxley speaking!
Barnaby: Oxley Speaking? Any relation to Oxley?
Oliver Oxley: Barnaby Fulton is that you?
Barnaby: Who's calling?
Oliver Oxley: I am, Barnaby!
Barnaby: Oh, no, you're not Barnaby. I'm Barnaby! I ought to know who I am.
Oliver Oxley: This is Oxley speaking, Barnaby!
Barnaby: No, that's ridiculous! You can't be all three. Figure out which one you are and call me back!

Lois Laurel: [at her secretarial desk, responding to Barnaby's remark that she is at work early] 
Mr. Oxley's been complaining about my punctuation, so I'm careful to get here before nine.
Hank Entwhistle: Well, I can only tell you, Mrs. Fulton. If you had been smart enough to marry me instead of...[points at Barnaby]
Hank Entwhistle: this, you wouldn't be in the kitchen cooking.
Barnaby: No? Where would she be cooking?

Barnaby: Umph! I'm beginning to wonder if being young is all it's cracked up to be. We dream of youth. We remember it as a time of nightingales and valentines. But what are the facts? Maladjustment, near idiocy, and a series of low comedy disasters. That's what youth is. I don't see how anyone survives it.

Barnaby: In my opinion, your opinion that it's a silly song is a silly opinion.

Mrs. Edwina Fulton: Oh, darling! Stop by the automobile agency. Mr Peabody just called and says he had a very good buy.
Barnaby: A good buy? Well, good bye to you!

Lobby Cards:

Directed by Howard Hawks.
Distributed by 20th Century-Fox.
Running time: 97 minutes.

Artwork by Rebekah Hawley at Studio36.