Rambling Reviewer, “You Can’t Take it With You”

Columbia Pictures

Directed byFrank Capra
Produced byFrank Capra
Screenplay byRobert Riskin
Based onYou Can’t Take It with You
1936 play
by George Kaufman and Moss Hart
StarringJean ArthurLionel BarrymoreJames StewartEdward Arnold

There’s nothing like a great ensemble cast from the Golden Age of Hollywood – even when most of them play whacky members of an eccentric family.  The patriarch of this family is Grandpa Martin Vanderhof, played by Lionel Barrymore. Grandpa refuses to sell his house, the last property in the vicinity, to the hard as nails tycoon Anthony P. Kirby. The Scrooge-like Kirby, played by Edward Arnold, wants to squeeze out his competitor’s factory. Grandpa has a large household: his daughter Penny Sycamore (Spring Byington) and her husband Paul Sycamore (Samuel S. Hinds); Their daughter Essie (Anne Miller), married to Ed (Dub Taylor). Each one has followed their whims as far as avocation: Penny is a playwright (for no other reason than she was given a typewriter; Paul makes fireworks; their daughter Essie dances ballet around the house and makes candy, which her husband Ed delivers around town. Essie’s sister is Alice, who has a real job. Alice works for Tony Kirby, the tycoon’s son.  Alice, played by Jean Arthur, and Tony, played by Jimmy Stewart, love each other. Tony thinks that it’s time that their parents should meet each other, Alice is nervous but agrees and sets a date. Mrs. Kirby does not approve of her son’s choice for a love interest. Tony starts to think that Alice’s parents will start putting on a show trying to impress his parents (how little he knows) and therefore decides to visit the Vanderhof/Sycamore clan a day early. And so begins a whirlwind ride that starts literally when fireworks explode in the basement during dinner and continues all the way to the jail and then a courthouse. Mr. Kirby is cantankerous to everybody the entire way, while Grandpa tries to tell him about the importance of having friends. Is there any hope for Alice and Tom in this story?  And just who is going to win out in the battle for the house and property?  Watch this jewel of a romantic screwball comedy and find out.
“You Can’t Take it With You” was based on the Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman 1936-37 Broadway play. It won a Pulitzer Prize and was still running on Broadway when the film premiered in 1938. Although Paramount Pictures was first to take an option on the play, it was Columbia that turned it into a movie. The film won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director and was nominated for Supporting Actress (Spring Byington), Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing and Sound Recording (sound design). This was the third Best Director Oscar that Frank Capra won. His first two were for It Happened One Night (1934), and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936).  He had been nominated for his film Lady for a Day in 1933 and Frank was confident he was going to win. He was embarrassed at that Academy Award ceremony when the announcer Will Rogers said “Come up and get it, Frank!” Capra shot up from his table to applause and was almost to the dais when he saw the spotlights on another director – Frank Lloyd, who was the actual winner for Cavalcade. With four nominations for his film Capra didn’t win a single award. Yet besides his three regular Oscars and numerous nominations, Frank Capra won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy in 1982.






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