Queering the Gothic Parody of Arsenic and Old Lace
Frank Capras Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), based on Joseph Kesselrings popular Broadway play, has been largely ignored by critics and Capra-philes. The film is generally perceived of as existing outside of the corpus of Capras other films, such as Its a Wonderful Life, Mr Deeds Goes to Town, and Mr Smith Goes to Washington. As Thomas Schatz states, the feeling about Arsenic is that it is little more than a serving of canned theater, an entertaining and straightforward recreation,of the stage play with virtually none of the style or substance of earlier Capra-directed pictures. Victor Scherle and William Turner Levy note that ‘Capra left the play essentially unchanged and did not embellish it with any special social significance’. In his extensive biography of the director, Joseph McBride goes so far as to state that the filming of Arsenic signals the beginning of a ‘flight from ideas’ which would continue for most of Capras career.
Capra meets Franz Kafka. 25 Intriguingly, only the Belfast reference is
British (and problematically so). And the very title of the film shifts
focus from the hyper-real Britain that Sam seems at times to inhabit to
the idyllic world of romance conjured up by a cheesy song. That song
underscores how Brazil depicts less a place than a state of
mind, an attitude, a utopian destination, and a potentially rebellious