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Arsenic and Old Lace’s “Teddy Roosevelt”

John Alexander as "Teddy Roosevelt" Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace (1941)

John Alexander as “Teddy Roosevelt” Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace (1941)

Vitals

John Alexander as “Teddy Roosevelt” Brewster

Brooklyn, Halloween 1941

Film: Arsenic and Old Lace
Release Date: September 23, 1944
Director: Frank Capra

Background

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, was born this day 159 years ago on October 27, 1858. A son of New York City, the timid Theodore overcame his childhood asthma with his robust physical pursuits matched only by his professional ambition as a career soldier, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, and finally the youngest President of the United States when he assumed office at the age of 42 after the assassination of William McKinley.

The proximity of T.R.’s birthday to Halloween always makes me think of Arsenic and Old Lace, the Frank Capra-directed dark comedy set one Halloween in Brooklyn involving Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant), his two dangerous but darling elderly aunts, and – like all of the best movies of the 1940s – Peter Lorre being Peter Lorre.

Originally a play (and doubtlessly one that your high school has performed), actor John Alexander reprised his role from the stage as “Teddy” Brewster, Mortimer’s delusional but harmless brother who believes that he is Teddy Roosevelt.

“So what?” says a friendly local cop who visits the Brewsters on his beat. “There’s a lot worse guys he could think he was.” Continue reading

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