There’s a Body in the Window Seat! is a detailed history of one of the most beloved American murder-mysteries and comedies, Arsenic and Old Lace. Actor, director, and playwright Charles Dennis investigates the mystery behind the play: how did a true-life crime in Connecticut turn into a comedy? And who are the real writers that deserve credit for its long-lasting success?
Dennis brings an insider’s view to Joseph Kesselring’s attempts to write Arsenic and Old Lace and how producers had to step in to save the play from his heavy hand. He also follows the actors, both on the stage and on the screen, as they handle the demands of the roles and behind-the-scenes relationships. Why didn’t Boris Karloff recreate his stage role, even though Jean Adair and John Alexander did? Why did Cary Grant hate his performance in Arsenic—was it because Frank Capra deceived him or because of costume designer Orry Kelly? And why did the movie never receive Academy Award consideration?
Learn the answers to these intriguing questions and more in There’s a Body in the Window Seat!
Charles Dennis is an author, playwright, filmmaker, actor, and voice artist. He has written several novels, including Hollywood Raj, The Magiker, and Given the Crime. His play, Going On, has been produced in New York, London, and Los Angeles. His prize-winning movies include Barking Mad and Hard Four. He has appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife Ulrika Vingsbo-Dennis.
"Charles Dennis's book There's a Body in the Window Seat! is an absolutely gripping page turner. The great thing about Charles's writing is his extraordinary grasp of history—particularly film history—so the book is filled with the most amazing detail which only a writer as adept as him could bring to the fore. As a historical, investigative, and hugely entertaining piece, I couldn't recommend this book more highly. I just couldn't put it down!"—Brian Cox, author of Putting the Rabbit in the Hat
“Charles Dennis’s There’s a Body in the Window Seat!: The History of Arsenic and Old Lace is a minutely detailed, deeply personal account of all things Arsenic and Old Lace on stage, screen, and television. Filled with factoids, interesting vignettes, sideshots, and biographical sketches, Dennis’s wealth of detail about how this venerable American comedy influenced his own work makes for an exuberantly fun read!”—Alan K. Rode, author of Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film
"Frank Capra’s uncharacteristically madcap venture into screwball comedy has found a sympathetic chronicler in Charles Dennis. Blending wicked glee and careful research, Dennis tells the tale of how the offbeat play ARSENIC AND OLD LACE originated, how and why Capra filmed it, and what accounts for the film's zany headlock on many viewers today. This enjoyable book sheds light on a shadowy corner of the career of a major American director and his exploration of unfamiliar ground with a discombobulated Cary Grant and a pixilated pair of murderous old ladies.”—Joseph McBride, author of the biography Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success
“Arsenic and Old Lace meant an awful lot to Boris Karloff. It brought him theatrical success and financial security. He revisited the play many times on stage, television and on radio. I think he would have been fascinated, and surprised, by Charles Dennis’s excellent book. I know I was. For those who have wondered, ‘How much of this sparkling comedy was due to Joseph Kesselring, and how much was due to Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse?’ Charles has finally answered that question, and a whole lot more.”—Stephen Jacobs, author of Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster
"Charles Dennis knows more about Arsenic and Old Lace than anyone. And in this book he doles it out generously. From the stage play to the wonderful giddy movie, he can give you shooting schedules and delicious gossip. As much fun as the movie. "—Michael Lindsay-Hogg, author of Luck and Circumstance: A Coming of Age in Hollywood, New York and Points Beyond
“If you’re a fan of Arsenic and Old Lace (and who isn’t?) Charles Dennis has written the book for you. Set down with contagious enthusiasm, Dennis’s book will tell you everything you ever wanted to know (and a great deal you could never have imagined) about this classic comedy. The secrets of Cary Grant, Boris Karloff, and playwright Joseph Kesselring himself are revealed in this recounting of the film’s origins and filming. There’s even a tear or two to shed amongst the merriment. Altogether, a gem.”—Nicholas Meyer, author of The Return of the Pharaoh