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Arsenic & Old Lace is a 1962 television film directed by George Schaefer and starring Tony Randall, Dorothy Stickney, and Mildred Natwick. It first aired during season 11 of the NBC anthology series Hallmark Hall of Fame.[1] It is an adaptation of Joseph Kesselring's 1939 play Arsenic and Old Lace.

Arsenic & Old Lace
GenreBlack comedy
Based onArsenic and Old Lace
by Joseph Kesselring
Screenplay byRobert Hartung
Directed byGeorge Schaefer
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
  • George Schaefer
  • Robert Hartung
Running time90 minutes
Original networkNBC
Original releaseFebruary 5, 1962 (1962-02-05)

The story is a black comedy in which drama critic Mortimer Brewster (Randall) discovers that his elderly aunts Abby and Martha (Stickney and Natwick respectively) have been poisoning their lonely male guests.

Boris Karloff reprised his role as Jonathan Brewster (who is described by the other characters as resembling the Frankenstein star), which he had originated on Broadway. He had been unable to appear in Frank Capra's 1944 film due to a scheduling conflict, but had played Jonathan on television once before, in a 1955 adaptation for the CBS anthology series The Best of Broadway.[2]

Karloff and director Schaefer had previously performed the play during World War II, touring Pacific islands such as Kwajalein to entertain troops for Special Services.[3][4] Karloff reportedly tried to cajole Schaefer into playing the role of Teddy in the television adaptation as well, but he declined and the part went to Tom Bosley.[5]


Actor Role
Tony Randall Mortimer Brewster
Boris Karloff Jonathan Brewster
Dorothy Stickney Abby Brewster
Mildred Natwick Martha Brewster
Tom Bosley Teddy Brewster


Arsenic & Old Lace was well-received by critics, who called it "a fine, frolicsome TV adaptation"[6] and "a well polished gem of a performance".[7] Director Schaefer was praised for returning the focus of the story to the sisters Abby and Martha, as it had been in the play, rather than emphasizing Mortimer's romantic subplot, as had been the case in the 1944 film.[7][8]


  1. ^ "Hallmark Hall of Fame - Movie List". Hallmark Channel. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  2. ^ Nixon, Rob. "The Big Idea Behind Arsenic and Old Lace". TCM. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  3. ^ Smith, Cecil (February 5, 1962). "Karloff – Arsenic, Very Old Lace". Los Angeles Times. p. 70. Retrieved April 2, 2019 – via
  4. ^ Gill, Alan (January 29, 1962). "Television and Radio". The Marion Star. p. 7. Retrieved April 2, 2019 – via
  5. ^ "Karloff's Bargain Didn't Work". The Tennessean. January 21, 1962. p. 5F. Retrieved April 2, 2019 – via
  6. ^ Lowry, Cynthia (February 6, 1962). "'Arsenic And Old Lace' Funny Television Treat". Cumberland Evening Times. New York. AP. p. 5. Retrieved April 2, 2019 – via
  7. ^ a b Shain, Percy (February 6, 1962). "'Arsenic & Old Lace' A Dazzling Jewel". The Boston Globe. p. 46. Retrieved April 2, 2019 – via
  8. ^ "'Arsenic' On Hall of Fame; Nixon Guest On Paar's Show". The Salina Journal. February 5, 1962. p. 20. Retrieved April 2, 2019 – via

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