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

Director: 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 City 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 ordered Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn to buy him the movie rights. Cohn did not just take it because he was not satisfied with recent actions by Capra. For example, the gentlemen had a disagreement about the editing of ‘Lost Horizon’ and about the fact that Capra would recommend the film ‘If Only You Could Cook’, with Columbia’s star Jean Arthur, in England as his production, while he did not like 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”.

To adapt the script, the director was assisted by his friend Robert Riskin, with whom he previously worked 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 on these previous hits; 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 $ 1.5 million. The result was there; “You Can’t Take It with You” was a great success with both press and public. The film received seven Oscar nominations and cashed in two (best film and best direction).

Rich industry mogul Anthony P. Kirby is about to strike a massive deal. He plans to buy up all the land around his main competitor’s factory to pave the way for a monopoly in ammunition. While all his associates gather around Kirby to help him, it turns out that Tony Kirby, the millionaire’s son, has no interest in his father’s company, 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. Her grandfather Martin Vanderhoff, who is also in charge of the house, does not think about selling his house to such capitalists. Money doesn’t hurt him, hasn’t been for years. He prefers to do fun things. Tony’s parents are, of course, firmly against marriage, even before they know that Alice’s grandfather is troubling them in 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 superb piece of classic comedy with an underlying social commentary. The film is bursting with unforgettable scenes and colorful characters. In addition to brilliant leading roles by Lionel Barrymore (the great uncle of), Jean Arthur and James Stewart, Capra once again excels at casting a fantastic arsenal of supporting actors (including Donald Meek and Mischa Auer).
Stewart, Arthur and the equally excellent Edward Arnold would collaborate with Capra again a few years after this film on an unforgettable film, “Mr Smith Goes to Washington”. The fact that that film is slightly higher in the rating has to do with the role of James Stewart. As a romantic lead, he is slightly less successful than as a naive world improver. In any case, Frank Capra has once again succeeded in making an extremely charming romantic comedy with “You Can’t Take It with You” that many a contemporary filmmaker can learn a lot from.

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