Movies - TV
Cary Grant Landed His Arsenic And Old Lace Role In An Unusual Way
By SANDY SCHAEFER
In the macabre comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace,” legendary actor Cary Grant plays the often-flustered writer Mortimer Brewster, who discovers his family’s dark secrets. The Brewsters are a peculiar prototypical American family, complete with murderous aunts, one brother who believes he’s Theodore Roosevelt, and another who’s a ruthless killer hiding his identity via plastic surgery.
The film presents a satirical portrayal of America as the epitome of decency, all while hiding bodies in the basement, and the circumstances behind Grant’s inclusion are just as eccentric as the Brewster family. Director Frank Capra and Warner Brothers wanted a big-name actor for Mortimer and considered actors like Bob Hope or Ronald Reagan (the irony is hard to miss) for the part.
WB decided on Grant for the role after they received widespread criticism for casting him in their upcoming film "The Man Who Came to Dinner," instead of allowing Monty Woolley to reprise his role from the stage. To convince Grant to swap movies, writers Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein fleshed out the character to make him the true lead, and the film became a critical and financial hit when released.