A bit critical

“I can save time if I write my review on the way to the theater.” –Mortimer Brewster

Arsenic and Old Lace (IMDB), a hit play and Capra film, was done by several radio anthology series.

Here it is by “Best Plays,” from July 1852, with Donald Cook as theater critic Mortimer Brewster, and Boris Karloff, from the original Broadway cast, as family psychopath Jonathan Brewster. (Capra had Cary Grant as Mortimer and settled for Raymond Massey as Jonathan, but kept the original play’s line saying Jonathan “looked like Boris Karloff.”)

Are theater critics “journalists”? They certainly were on the minds of playwrights and film-makers, as I’ve discussed here before.

While they may not be “journalists” in a hard news sense of the word, some of them do work for newspapers, as appears to be the case here. Mortimer Brewster says he is off to “cover a play,” so he might consider himself a reporter, even if his powers of observation and deduction leave much to be desired.

And his dedication to his craft gets shaky when he discovers that his aunties have a cadaver in the window seat. Perhaps he does sound like a newspaperman, when in an attempt to deal with the crisis at home, he tries to find a last-minute substitute to review the play.

His suggested candidates include an office-boy and one of the printers at the newspaper… with a joke that his substitute might turn into another John Chapman — the New York Daily News critic who was the host of “Best Plays.”

(If an audio player is not visible, click the program name above to download or stream an mp3 from the Internet Archive.)

About Bob Stepno

mild-mannered reporter who sank into computers and the Web during graduate school in the 1980s and '90s, then taught journalism, media studies and Web production, retiring to write and play more music.
This entry was posted in 1950s, adaptations, Capra, critics, movies. Bookmark the permalink.

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