This is At the Buzzer’s countdown of the best 25 comedies of all-time. Our panel of 10 cast their votes, and we’re revealing the results one by one until we get to No. 1 on Tuesday, May 10.
And now, our number 23:
23) Arsenic and Old Lace (3 votes, 119 points)
Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops.
Chris: If you’ve been following this list so far, you’re probably surprised by this pick. We’ve talked before about how multiple iconic comedies from the ‘70s and ‘80s didn’t make the top 25 at least in part because the demographics of the panel meant that most of us weren’t born when they came out. So what in the world is a movie from 1944 doing here?
The main reason is that the stage adaptation simply works. Cary Grant put in a ton of work here, working as the perfect foil to a family that spends most of its free time alternating between insanity and murder. Frank Capra also deserves a ton of credit for putting together a tightly edited production that was finished in eight weeks — under budget, no less. Hell, there’s even a happy ending to this macabre masterpiece.
Cary: If I didn’t already like the ATB crew, the fact that Arsenic and Old Lace made the list would put a pin in it! Y’know how Hollywood is all into remakes and reboots and revamps and crap? Well, Arsenic and Old Lace is completely safe from all that dumb noise because it is goddamn perfect.
If you know mid 20th century movies, then you know that director Frank Capra was no slouch when it came to his films. His take on this late 1930s farcical stage play is utterly captivating. I could write treatises on each actor, from the beautiful Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster to the perfectly sincere Josephine Hull as one of his well-meaning aunts who wants nothing more than to “help” lonely, old men find relief from their “misery.”
Please, if you’ve not see this movie, then do yourself a favor and promptly right that error. I don’t care of you hate black and white movies. I don’t care of you think 1940s actors talk funny. I don’t care if your knowledge of Hollywood’s Golden Era only extends as far as a couple Bugs Bunny cartoons. SEE. THIS. MOVIE.
Michaela: Arsenic and Old Lace has a strange sense of humor that is heavily reliant on the slow build-up and reveals of the characters. The movie revolves around a critic who discovers that his family members are completely psychotic, and as he tries to prevent them from doing more harm, hilarity ensues as more people jump into the mix.
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