Arsenic and Old Lace

Synopsis: Mortimer Brewster is a newspaperman and author known for his diatribes against marriage. We watch him being married at city hall in the opening scene. Now all that is required is a quick trip home to tell Mortimer's two maiden aunts. While trying to break the news, he finds out his aunts' hobby; killing lonely old men and burying them in the cellar. It gets worse.
Director(s): Frank Capra
Production: Warner Bros. Pictures
  1 nomination.
Rotten Tomatoes:
118 min

I'll knock your block off, you big stiff!

You're a bum!

Strike! You're out!

Elmer, here it is.

-I knew you'd find it.

-Boy, I could sure use a drink.

I wonder if any big shots

are getting married today?

Looks like the same suckers

get married every day.

Come on.

Hey, the guy with the cheaters.

Now what's he hiding from?

-Hey, isn't that Mortimer Brewster?

-Mortimer Brewster, the dramatic critic?

No, it's not him. But what a scoop it'd be!

The guy who wrote The Bachelor's Bible

getting hooked. It's too good to be true.

Let's snap the mayor

in his new fire helmet and go.

Let's stick around, see who the guy is.

"Two by two they come and go"

Good morning, children.

Your name, please?

-Elaine Harper.

-Speak a little louder.

Elaine Harper.

Thank you. Yours?

-Mortimer Brewster.

-How's that?

Mortimer Brewster.

Speak up, sonny.

There's nothing to be afraid of.

I want to keep this undercover.

Love her? Of course you love her.

You're marrying her, right?

You don't understand. Come here.

I don't want this to get out for a while.

I'm Mortimer Brewster.

You're who?

Mortimer Brew--

That's him!

Mr. Brewster!

Now, look--

Goodbye, dear.

Don't you understand?

How can I marry you?

Me, the symbol of bachelorhood.

I've sneered at every love scene.

I've written four million words

against marriage!

Not only hooked, but to a minister's

daughter, and a girl from Brooklyn.

Look at the way you look!

What is that contraption you've got there?

A pin I borrowed from your aunts.

You know, "Something borrowed--"

I know, "Something borrowed,

something blue." Old, new.

Rice and old shoes.

Carry you over the threshold.

Niagara Falls. All that silly tripe.

Is this what I've come to?

I can't go through with it.

I won't marry you. That's that.

-Yes, Mortimer.

-What do you mean, "Yes, Mortimer"?

Aren't you insulted?

Aren't you going to cry?

-No, Mortimer.

-And don't "No, Mortimer" me, either!

Marriage is a superstition.

It's old-fashioned. It's....

O'Hara, don't be a jerk. You don't realize...

...l'm turning over to you

the nicest, best beat in Brooklyn.

Now look at that old church.

And them old houses.

Did George Washington ever sleep here?

Of course he did. This whole neighborhood

just stinks with atmosphere.

-And look at that old house.

-The original owners still there?

Don't crack wise

about the Brewster sisters.

They're two of the dearest, sweetest

old ladies that ever walked the earth.

They're out of this world.

They're like pressed rose leaves.

Pressed rose leaves?

The old girls must be kind of hard up.

Their old man left them fixed for life.

Don't you call them "the girls," either.

Brophy. Is Lieutenant around?

So what are they renting rooms for?

They don't. But you can bet

if anybody came looking for a room...

...they wouldn't go away

without a good meal and a couple of bucks.

That's their way of digging up people

to do good to.

Reverend Harper, I do hope

you don't disapprove of Mortimer...

...because he's a dramatic critic

and takes your daughter to the theater.

It's not that I disapprove

of his being a critic...

...but no man with this published attitude...

...should take any man's daughter

anyplace, at any time.

I must be catching cold.

No, dear. It was Reverend Harper

who sneezed. Bless you.

We mustn't be angry with Mortimer.

He's so very much in love with her.

Sister Martha and I are so happy.

He used to come to see us

only occasionally, and now...

...he's in Brooklyn six nights a week.

Remember now, watch your language.

You know I'm not a swearing man.

You'd be surprised

what they'd consider swearing.

Will you excuse me?

No, no, Teddy, dear. Thank you. I'll go.

-Come right in, Mr. Brophy.

-Miss Abby, we came for the toys.

This is Officer O'Hara.

He's taking over my beat.

-How do you do, miss?

-Welcome to our neighborhood.

Gentlemen, what news

have you brought me?

Colonel, we have nothing to report.

No, absolutely nothing to report.


Thank you, gentlemen. At ease.

You know the Reverend Dr. Harper

from the church next door?

Hello. This is Officer O'Hara,

the new man on the beat.

How do you do, sir? It's nice to meet you.

The toys are on the chair up here,

by the library door.

Teddy, run upstairs and bring down your

Army and Navy from Aunt Martha's room.

They're all packed.

That's splendid work you men do, fixing up

discarded toys for the kids at camp.


It gives us something to do at the station.

You get tired of playing cards.

-So these are the toys?

-How's Mrs. Brophy?

She's better, thank you.

But a little weak, still.

I'll get some beef broth

for you to take to her.

Please don't bother.

You've done so much already.

Stop the nonsense! I won't be a minute.

Gentlemen, if I know what pure kindness

and absolute generosity are...'s because I've known

the Brewster sisters.

Teddy, you promised me

you wouldn't do that anymore.

But I have to call a Cabinet meeting

to get those supplies.

Now don't do that again. Do you hear me?

He used to do that at night...

...and the neighbors raised Cain.

They're afraid of him.

Look, Sarge, I promised I wouldn't swear,

but what the heck--

What's going on here?

-He's quite harmless.

-He thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt.

There's a lot of worse guys

he could think he was.

That's right.

I'll make a note.

He's an interesting character.

Rate this script:1.0 / 2 votes

Julius J. Epstein

Julius J. Epstein (August 22, 1909 – December 30, 2000) was an American screenwriter, who had a long career, best remembered for his screenplay – written with his twin brother, Philip, and Howard E. Koch – of the film Casablanca (1942), for which the writers won an Academy Award. It was adapted from an unpublished play, Everybody Comes to Rick's, written by Murray Bennett and Joan Alison. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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