Beginning with acts such as Abbott
and Costello, and episodes of “I Love Lucy,” humor is often the
result of a misunderstanding. In the movie, “Arsenic and Old Lace,”
the plot combines murder and insanity. “Arsenic and Old Lace,”
seemingly outlines a mystery or drama, however with the addition of
misunderstanding, it becomes a comedy. The humor is drawn from the
characters’ relationships with one another as well as the
characters themselves, being misunderstood.
The movie centers on two sisters,
Abby and Martha, and their nephew Mortimer. The misunderstanding lies
between the sisters and the townspeople. Abby and Martha are known as
sweet, kind, and charitable, however, the town is oblivious to the
sisters’ hobby of poisoning old men and burying them in their
cellar. There is even a misunderstanding with the sisters themselves,
as they see nothing wrong with what they do, and make no attempt to
hide it. Yet, the humor of the movie is when their nephew, Mortimer,
finds the bodies, and is quite flustered to discover how his aunts
treat it with such nonchalance.
Humor is also found in the
misunderstanding between Mortimer and his Brewster family. Throughout
the entire movie, Mortimer finds himself ashamed of his Brewster
name. He discovers that his aunts keep twelve bodies in the
basement. Mortimer also receives a
visit from his lunatic brother John, who, like his aunts, murders
people. While Mortimer discovers more about his insane family, he
still must deal with his brother Theodore, who believes that he is
President Roosevelt. Finally, Mortimer commits his brother Theodore
along with his aunts to an insane asylum. The humor in this scene is
at the very end of the movie when Mortimer finds out from his aunts
that he is not really a Brewster, rather a son of a sea boat captain.
“Arsenic and Old Lace,” is not
the typical comedy, yet contains all of the elements necessary to fit
into the humor genre. The idea of being misunderstood is one so
common; it has appeared in many films, both drama and comedy.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” contains a plot that is unique. The
movie’s ideas alone are common, yet together they mix an unusual
blend of humor.
... ), Dark Victory (1939), and The Old Maid (1939). Errol Flynn ... Doe (1941) with Gary Cooper andArsenicAndOldLace (1941, released '44) ... war with the thrillers Rope (1948) and Under Capricorn (1949); ... competition from television and the loss of its theater ...
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