Review: You Can’t Take It with You (1938)


You Can’t Take It with You (1938)

Directed by: Frank Capra | 126 minutes | comedy, romance | Actors: Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Mischa Auer, Ann Miller, Spring Byington, Samuel S. Hinds, Donald Meek, HB Warner, Halliwell Hobbes, Dub Taylor, Mary Forbes, Lillian Yarbo, Eddie Anderson

When director Frank Capra was in New York in March 1937 for the premiere of his film ‘Lost Horizon’, he was blown away by the play ‘You Can’t Take It with You’, written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. He was so impressed that he summoned Harry Cohn, the boss of Columbia Pictures, to buy him the film rights. Cohn didn’t just snap, because he wasn’t happy with Capra’s recent actions. The gentlemen, for example, had a disagreement about the editing of ‘Lost Horizon’ and the fact that Capra was touting the film ‘If Only You Could Cook’, with Columbia’s star Jean Arthur, in England as his production, while he had nothing to do with it. had to do. Only at the end of 1937 – after a number of fierce lawsuits – Capra got his way; he was allowed to film ‘You Can’t Take It with You’.

For the adaptation of the script, the director had the help of his friend Robert Riskin, with whom he previously collaborated on ‘It Happened One Night’, ‘Mr Deeds Goes to Town’ and ‘Lost Horizon’. The basic story of ‘You Can’t Take It with You’ was modeled after these previous hit songs; themes such as the rejection of wealth and capitalism and the triumph of the ‘common man’ were woven into the script. The film was shot with a budget of just over one and a half million dollars. The result should be there; ‘You Can’t Take It with You’ was a huge success with both the press and the public. The film received seven Oscar nominations and cashed in two (Best Picture and Best Director).

Wealthy industrial tycoon Anthony P. Kirby is about to make a huge deal. He plans to buy up all the land around his main competitor’s factory in order to pave the way for a monopoly in ammunition. As all his associates gather around Kirby to assist him, it appears that Tony Kirby, the millionaire’s son, shows no interest in his father’s business, even though he has just appointed him vice president. No, Tony only has eyes for his charming secretary Alice Sycamore, and hopes to win her over and marry her.

This Alice lives with the rest of her eccentric family in a house, right in the middle of the land that Kirby wants to buy up. Her grandfather Martin Vanderhoff, who is also the owner of the house, does not hesitate to sell his house to such capitalists. Money doesn’t matter to him, hasn’t for years. He prefers to do fun things. Tony’s parents, of course, are vehemently against the marriage, even before they know it’s Alice’s grandfather who’s hindering them from completing their mega deal. At Tony’s request, they decide to take a chance and visit Alice’s family. Hope it turns out fine …

Like ‘Mr Deeds Goes to Town’ and ‘Mr Smith Goes to Washington’, this film is also a sublime piece of classic comedy with an underlying social commentary. The film is bursting with unforgettable scenes and colorful characters. In addition to brilliant lead roles by, among others, Lionel Barrymore (the great-uncle of), Jean Arthur and James Stewart, Capra once again excels in casting a fantastic arsenal of supporting actors (including Donald Meek and Mischa Auer).
Stewart, Arthur and the equally excellent Edward Arnold would collaborate again with Capra a few years after this film on an unforgettable film, namely ‘Mr Smith Goes to Washington’. The fact that the film comes out slightly higher in the rating has to do with the role of James Stewart. As a romantic lead he comes out just a little less well than as a naive do-gooder. Anyway, with ‘You Can’t Take It with You’ Frank Capra has once again succeeded in making an extremely charming romantic comedy from which many contemporary filmmakers can learn a lot.

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