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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. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When Alice is in the courtroom scene she is wearing a trench coat as newspaper photographers take pictures. In the newspaper pictures, she is not wearing the coat. See more »
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff:
What if all your deals fall through? Might be a good thing for you.
Anthony P. Kirby:
Man, you're crazy.
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff:
Well, maybe I am, but I used to be just like you once. Then one morning, when I was going up in the elevator... it struck me I wasn't having any fun. So I came right down and never went back. Yes, sir. That was 35 years ago.
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You Can't Take It With You won for Best Picture of 1938 and got Frank Capra his third Oscar for Best Director. Looking at it now it is firmly anchored in the decade that spawned it and the Oscar is a tribute to authors Kaufman and Hart and their popularity in that time. You Can't Take It With You came off a Broadway run of 838 performances for the 1936-1938 Broadway seasons.
It's a tale of two men and their families. Edward Arnold plays Anthony Kirby millionaire banker and industrialist who is obsessed with both making money and his social position, though the latter is more in deference to his snooty wife Mary Forbes. Their son James Stewart is preparing uneasily to step into his father's world. What really is Stewart's main interest is the romance he's got going with the only normal member of that other family, Jean Arthur.
Her grandfather is the second man with a family. A very extended family that all lives under one roof because that's how Lionel Barrymore as Grandpa Vanderhof likes it. He's got a daughter who writes unpublished plays, a son-in-law who likes to experiment with fireworks, a granddaughter who aspires to be a ballerina, her husband who is a xylophone virtuoso and an iceman who was so taken with the house he just quit his job and stayed there. I can't really blame Halliwell Hobbes the iceman. If I was being supported by Jean Arthur's salary as a secretary and Lionel Barrymore's investments, I'd quit working myself.
In fact I can understand Barrymore's sentiments. I had an opportunity to retire early myself and took it and don't regret it. Of course I'm not supporting a whole extended family either. Let Sanuel S. Hinds, Spring Byington, Ann Miller, and Dub Taylor go out and earn a little and then become bohemians.
Both Arnold and Barrymore are extreme in their philosophy and the play and film are weighed heavily in Barrymore's balance. But looking at it objectively, Barrymore has a more realistic outlook for most people. There are a couple of dinner scenes at the Vanderhof house and it looks like quite a feed. Who's paying for it?
This was James Stewart's first and Jean Arthur's second film with Frank Capra. Next year they would do their second and last in the much acclaimed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
In doing the screen adaptation, Capra and screenwriter Robert Riskin created a whole new character in Mr. Poppins played by Donald Meek. Poppins is an inoffensive little bureaucrat who would rather make little toys than add columns of figures all day. One meeting with Lionel Barrymore persuades Donald Meek to follow his dream. He blended so well into the Vanderhof household that Kaufman and Hart praised his creation.
Though You Can't Take It With You is dated it is still funny as all get out. And you haven't lived until you've heard Brahm's Hungarian Dance Number 5 done as a xylophone solo.
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