You Can’t Take It with You (1938)

Directed by Frank Capra
Cinematography Joseph Walker

You Can’t Take It with You is a 1938 American romantic comedy film directed by Frank Capra and starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, and Edward Arnold. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the film is about a man from a family of rich snobs who becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family.

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The stenographer Alice Sycamore is in love with her boss Tony Kirby, who is the vice-president of the powerful company owned by his greedy father Anthony P. Kirby. Kirby Sr. is dealing a monopoly in the trade of weapons, and needs to buy one last house in a twelve block area owned by Alice’s grandparent Martin Vanderhof. However, Martin is the patriarch of an anarchic and eccentric family where the members do not care for money but for having fun and making friends. When Tony proposes Alice, she states that it would be mandatory to introduce her simple and lunatic family to the snobbish Kirbys, and Tone decides to visit Alice with his parents one day before the scheduled. There is an inevitable clash of classes and lifestyles, the Kirbys spurn the Sycamores and Alice breaks with Tony, changing the lives of the Kirby family.

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Three Cheers To The Vanderhof Family,Three Cheers To Lionel Barrymore.

3 July 2003 | by vivian_baum_cabral (Rio De Janeiro,Brazil) – See all my reviews

My favorite american director is Frank Capra.”It Happened One Night” is his first great film.”Mr.Deeds Goes To Town”,”Mr.Smith Goes To Washington” and “Meet John Doe” are perfect examples of how to make a great film about simple,ordinary man.”It’s A Wonderful Life” is everybody’s favorite holiday film.But “You Can’t Take It With You” is Capra’s masterpiece.The story is perfect,The direction is brilliant and it’s impossible you don’t get tears in your eyes with the sweetness and shear simplicity of Martin Vanderhof.That leads us to the best thing in this classic:Lionel Barrymore,one of the greatests actors in film history.All you have to do is see this film and “It’s a Wonderful Life” and see for yourselfs.

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Mr.Potter is cruel,heartless,despicable and absolute fascinating(I still can’t believe it ranked only 6 in the AFI list,because for me he’s the greatest villain in film history)All Mr.Potter lack,Martin Vanderhof has to share.He is absolutely adorable,he has a lot of friends.(The scene in the court room is magnificent)he is sweet,and equally fascinating.(Not to mention that Lionel is really gorgeous in this film)One must remember the shining presence of Jean Arthur,and equally portrayal of good and young Jimmy Stewart.Not to forget Edward Arnold and his greedy Anthony P. Kirby,who tries at all costs to buy Grandpa’s house.But Lionel teaches him in a marvelous harmonica duet,how to enjoy life.The Plot is simply and delightul.Jean is Lionel’s granddaughter,and she loves Jimmy Stewart,who is the son of the blood sucking banker Arnold.Jean decided that the two family’s shall met,But Stewart’s family will have a shock when they meet the wonderful and very eccentric Vanderhof family with Lionel,the grandfather anyone would love to have,Spring Byington as the writing mother(Only because someone forgot a typing writer in her house)Ann Miller as the adorable dancing sister,Essie,and a very funny Mischa Auer as the russian dancing teacher,who always arrives just in time for dinner.Pay also attencion in a small but memorable perfomance of the forgotten silent actor H.B.Warner as the broken Mr.Ramsey.

lionel barrymore, james stewart, jean arthur & edward arnold - you can't take it with you 1938

I believe I already say to much,but not all this site will be enough to say what this masterpiece and Martin Vanderhof means to me

My Rate:1000 Out Of 10

Capra at his best!

10/10
Author: mjpooch from United States
25 March 2005

For film-goers and movie fans that are from my generation, it is easy for these films to get lost in the shuffle. Ask someone my age, who would now be 25, what the best movie of all time is, they’re likely to say Pulp Fiction or Fight Club.

Not to take away from today’s movies, but for anyone who has not gone back and viewed classic Capra, such as “You Can’t Take it With You,” then they are truly missing out.

This movie is pure magic and beauty. Lionel Barrymore gives a performance as relevant in 2005 as it was in 1938. And what can you say about Jimmy Stewart?? This is a rare gem of a film and in true Capra fashion, the climactic final scene brings tear to the eye, much the same way as Harry Bailey’s toast in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

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It Always *Is* A Wonderful Life…

10/10
Author: gaityr from United Kingdom
11 July 2002

I wouldn’t exactly call YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (YCTIWY) Capra’s forgotten movie–after all, it *did* win the Best Picture Oscar in its year. And I *have* heard of this film by word of mouth previously, though perhaps not as frequently or with as much ubiquity as some of Capra’s other films. Compared to IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, for example, YCTIWY distinctly has the status of a ‘minor classic’. I don’t believe this is deserved, even if themes and (co-)stars are shared between these movies: YCTIWY should definitely be far better known and remembered than it actually is.

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First of all, the story-telling is flawless. It very cleverly sets up the two very different families, the Vanderhof/Sycamores (an offbeat family trading most importantly in happiness) and the Kirbys (a stiff up tight banking family trading mostly in weapons). To complete the biggest deal of his career, Anthony Kirby Sr (Edward Arnold) must buy up the last house in a neighbourhood, and of course, this house belongs to Martin Vanderhof (a delightful Lionel Barrymore). The movie pleasantly surprised me in *not* having young Tony Kirby (James Stewart) be assigned to get Vanderhof to sell his house and thereby falling in love with Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) and her zany family. Rather, he was in love with her to begin with, and loved her regardless of what he thought of her family. (Though it would be impossible to hate any of them, I feel!) The story really is simple:

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Tony loves Alice no matter what, and doesn’t want her or her family to put on a show to impress his own family. When he surprises her by turning up a day early for a dinner engagement, the Kirbys meet the Vanderhof/Sycamores for who they truly are, wind up in jail, and along the way, learn a little bit about being real human beings.

There are several delightful scenes in the film as well, all beautifully filmed and connected such that the story is a coherent whole. I’m especially partial to practically any scene with James Stewart wooing Jean Arthur (those two, quite seriously, make the cutest couple imaginable)–I love it when he sort of proposes to her. “Scratch hard enough and you’ll find a proposal.” Or that lovely intimate scene in the park where he directs her to a seat like he would at the ballet, or when they start dancing with the neighbourhood children. The scene in the restaurant was also amusing, when Tony kept warning Alice that there was a scream on the way, building it up so perfectly that *she* wound up screaming before he did. It’s hard to beat the scene in night court too, when Capra foreshadows pretty much the exact same scene and sentiment in the forthcoming IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, when all of Vanderhof’s friends chip in to pay off his fine. It’s sweet, it’s real, and it’s something you really do wish could still happen in this world.

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Even the littlest things like Grandpa Vanderhof’s dinnertime prayers are enough to remind the viewer of what a world could be like if we kept our values simple, our wants satisfied, and ourselves happy.

Second of all, the acting is superlative. How could it *not* be, with a cast like this? Evidently I was completely charmed by James Stewart and Jean Arthur, who are both incredibly believable both as real people and movie stars, and who together make Tony and Alice an utterly credible, true-to-life couple. Edward Arnold was great as the stuffed shirt Anthony Kirby Sr too–his eventual ‘thawing’ was something that could easily have been played in too exaggerated a fashion, but both the actor and director, I suspect, are too good to have allowed that to happen. I also had great fun watching Ann Miller in her secondary role as Essie Sycamore, Alice’s dancing sister.

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I sincerely hope that every person making this film had just as much fun as I did watching it, because the whole secondary cast was excellent, and I loved all the characters we were introduced to, particularly the entire Sycamore family with their attendant friends (the ex-iceman DePinna, or the toymaker Poppins) and even their servants Rheba and Donald, who were treated almost as much as part of the family as could be expected at that time. But my greatest praise would have to be reserved for Lionel Barrymore as Martin Vanderhof–a sweeter, lovelier old man you just couldn’t imagine, and a complete change from his much-better-known Mr. Potter in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. He really does make Grandpa Vanderhof very much a real person, from his reminiscences about Grandma Vanderhof, to his messing around with the IRS agent, to his harmonica-playing and evident love of life and people.

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I really could not say enough good things about this movie (which I prefer to IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE). It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, and quite frankly, it’ll make you glad to be alive. Not many movies can do that. And it’s most certainly true that you can’t take your money with you… but what you *can* do is take this movie and its message to heart. 10/10, without a doubt.

Don’t worry, be happy!

10/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
21 August 2005

George Kaufman and Moss Hart, the playwrights of the original play in which this film is based, seemed to have been keenly aware that most people in their pursuit of wealth and success in life basically forget the most important point of all: To live life to its fullest, enjoying every minute of it and sharing with loved ones and friends everything, good, or bad.

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“You Can’t Take it with You” is an enormously satisfying theater play, which must have drawn Frank Capra’s attention to bring it to the movies. In fact, it meshes well with most of his films, in that this is a film with a social conscience, after all. The screen play by Robert Riskin has some awkward moments, but the finished product proves that Mr. Capra could turn any script into a movie with great success. While this film is not in the same league as his other masterpieces, it is still a good way to spend some time with good company.

Much has been said in this forum about the merits of YCTIWY. The cast of this film is Hollywood at its best. Lionel Barrymore makes a great contribution with his Martin Vanderhof, the patriarch of the crazy household where happiness lives. Vanderhof’s life is full because of his family and the friends he welcomes to share whatever he has, asking nothing in return. He is a rich man, indeed.

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By contrast, Anthony Kirby, the Wall Street millionaire, is a miserable human being. His whole aim in life is to amass a fortune that he will not be able to spend at all. He is reminded by Vanderhof that his life is worth nothing because he has no friends. Edward Arnold does wonders portraying this unhappy man, in perhaps, the best performance of his long film career. Mr. Arnold was a great actor.

The other notable character in the film is Alice Sycamore, the young secretary that happens to fall in love with the rich Kirby heir. In fact, she has the pivotal role of telling off the father of the man she loves because she sees the older Kirby for what he really stands. As Alice, the wonderful Jean Arthur takes the role and makes a splash with it.

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James Stewart has a minor role in this film, in comparison to the above mentioned ones. Ann Miller is charming as the happy would be ballerina Essie. Spring Byington makes a great Penny, the woman who can write plays in the middle of all the confusion going on in the Vanderhof household. There is a small scene where the incomparable Charles Lane, an actor that has been seen in innumerable films in minor roles, who plays a tax collector. The rest of the cast is excellent.

I Don’t Want To Take It With Me…

4/10
Author: Rich Wright
18 November 2012

ts easy to be cynical and sneering at this film… so I will be. The supposedly happy, carefree family in this film consists of old men who make fireworks in their cellar, a woman who dances everywhere instead of walking and a patriarch who never gets cross and doesn’t stop dishing out fortune cookie advice. They also carry musical instruments and break out into song whenever the mood takes them, even in a prison. Capra wants us to think that these nutcases, because they do whatever they please and spend so much time together rather than accumulate money, are living a perfect life. If such a bohemian philosophy leaves you dirt poor and acting like a bunch of escaped mental patients, then get me a job as a 9-to-5 bank clerk pronto.

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If you disagree with the central premise, then you really have no room to maneuver. I suffered through scene after scene of sappy speeches and events pertaining to the views of Mr Capra, each one more tiresome than the last. Rich = Unhappy and no idea of community. Poor = Salt of the earth and always there for each other. What a crock. Capra’s other films may have extolled the same virtues, but at least they didn’t ram them down our throats. And they had the added advantage of having non-annoying characters and well thought out plots. Watching this is was for me akin to listening to a lecture by a BNP representative… I don’t agree with your opinions, and that’s all you have to offer. So… I quit. 4/10

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Jimmy, how could you?

2/10
Author: annmason1 from Bellingham, WA
27 February 2007
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I love old movies. I love Frank Capra. I love Jimmy Stewart. I do not love “You Can’t Take It With You.” Like other would-be-likers, I kept hanging in there, fighting sleep; waiting to laugh, to cry, to stay awake. I groaned and grabbed the remote when Gramps talked whatever his name was to join along and play the harmonica. Good God! And there was that twit dancing dancing dancing…and the wrestling Russian and the black couple dancin’ and every other hokey junk Capra could throw in! I couldn’t even hear Jean Arthur, she talked so low and ducked her face behind her hair so often I can only conclude she was hoping to avoid any association with this stinker.

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To say this movie insults one’s intelligence is a compliment. It attempts to tug at your heartstrings so much that it chokes you with them.

Do yourself a favor, replay “It’s a Wonderful Life” instead.

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So Dated, It Can Be Painful To Watch

3/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
19 June 2007

Here’s another film that just doesn’t date well but, hey, it’s almost 70 years old. I have found most of the comedies (the Marx Brothers are an exception) of that time period aren’t very funny these days. Humor has changed a lot.

There is a crazy family in this film and these crackpots are pretty humorous the first time you see them, in their first scene, but not the subsequent ones. They only get more and more annoying as you hear them.

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The romance between Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur is sappy and bogs down the film. How they advertise that Arthur is the beautiful lead female romantic in here amazes me. She was talented actress but “beautiful” or “glamorous?” Hardly, plus she had an awful voice. She does better as a comedienne or straight dramatic actress than playing the “beautiful romantic” as one known national critic labeled her. Maybe it is just this film because normally I like Arthur, but she’s awful in here.

When you add Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Micha Auer and Spring Byington and have the famous Frank Capra directing, you would think this is going to be topnotch, but the movie is anything but impressive or entertaining, especially now in this day-and-age. In fact, many parts of this story have such an absence of credibility to them that you’ll cringe watching. With the big awards it won, I expected a better movie.

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