Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

In director Frank Capra's classic screwball comedy:

  • Mortimer Brewster's (Cary Grant) two loveable aunts: Martha and Abby (Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) in Brooklyn, NY who revealed their secret poisoning of old male bachelors with elderberry wine (spiked with arsenic), assisted by Mortimer's crazy brother Teddy Brewster (John Alexander) who buried the many bodies in the cellar
  • the opening of the window seat-box twice by Mortimer - and a double-take before realizing a dead body was in there
  • "Teddy Roosevelt" Brewster's incessant charges up the staircase as if fighting the Spanish-American War, and his belief that the poisoned male victims had perished from yellow-fever
Jonathan and Dr. Einstein
Jonathan Resembling Boris Karloff's Frankenstein
Alcoholic Plastic Surgeon
  • the insane pair of serial murderer Jonathan Brewster (Raymond Massey) (resembling Frankenstein), Mortimer's other brother with a body to dispose of, and his alcoholic assistant - plastic surgeon Dr. Hermann Einstein (Peter Lorre)
  • the relief when Mortimer discovered from his two aunts that he wasn't an insane Brewster family member after all (earlier, he had told Elaine that their marriage was problematic: "Insanity runs in my family; it practically gallops") - his mother was the family cook and his father had been a chef on a steamship: "You're not really a Brewster...Your mother came to us as a cook. And you were born about three months afterwards. And she was such a sweet woman and such a good cook. We didn't want to lose her so brother married her. Your real father was a cook too. He was a chef on a tramp steamer"
  • overjoyed, Mortimer yelled at his newly-wed wife Elaine from a window: "Elaine, Elaine, Where are you? Can you hear me? I'm not really a Brewster. I'm a son of a sea cook!"
"Insanity runs in my family; it practically gallops"
"I'm not really a Brewster. I'm a son of a sea cook!"
  • Elaine's hysterical discovery in the cellar of bodies, yelling out: "It's true. I guess there are 13 bodies down there!" as Mortimer tried to silence her
  • and before their departure for their honeymoon to Niagara Falls, Mortimer exultantly exclaimed to the cab-driver: "I'm the son of a sea-cook"; he charged away with Elaine draped over his shoulder; the astonished cab-driver responded after them with the film's final line: "I'm not a cab driver. I'm a coffee pot"

Mortimer's Two Deadly Aunts

Servings of Elderberry Wine

"Teddy Roosevelt"

Mortimer's Double-Take at Body in Window Box, One of Jonathan's Victims

13 Bodies in the Cellar

Mortimer: "I'm the son of a sea cook!"

Cab-Driver: "I'm not a cab-driver. I'm a coffee pot"


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z