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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."
Take a large free-spirited family without visible means
support. Add a large mean-spirited tycoon intent on taking
their neighborhood. Mix in a romance between their daughter
his son. Sprinkle with zaniness & bake for two hours. Enjoy
This is one of those big comedy productions with a huge cast that only someone like Frank Capra could have pulled off. That he did so, winning the 1938 Best Picture Oscar, is immensely to his credit.
Hobbling on the crutches that signaled the crippling arthritis that would soon confine him to a wheelchair, Lionel Barrymore is the focal point of the film as the grandfather of a wacky clan that believes in doing whatever makes them happy. So they dance, make fireworks, bake candy, paint, write novels, and construct toys with equal joy - laughing through the Depression with much love & great contentment. Jean Arthur, James Stewart & Edward Arnold co-star, with a mammoth cast of supporting players.
This is the movie for viewers who want to feel warm & safe & cuddled & protected.
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.
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: 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. 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. 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.
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.
This is not the play. This is better.
The madcap adventures of a crazy family during the depression is a life affirming film that shows us that money isn't everything and that yes, you can't take it with you.
One of the joys of this film is the cast Lionel Barrymore, Jimmy Stewart, Ann Miller, Dub Taylor, Edward Arnold, Eddie Rochester Anderson, Misha Auer and just about every great supporting actor and actress under the sun, all acting completely and wonderfully mad. They sell the story and make you smile from ear to ear.
I can't be rational where this film is concerned.
Just see it.
You'll feel good for days.
10 out of 10.
Among all the enthusiastic reviews for this movie, it is hard to find a
sufficiency of praise for the work of Edward Arnold. A familiar face on the
screen in the thirties and forties, with his round face, solid body, and
trademark pince-nez, Arnold surpasses himself in this film
Too often type-cast as a plutocrat, Arnold nevertheless demonstrates nuance and sensitivity as a man who, despite many flaws and faults, is redeemed by his love for his son. Arnold is seldom credited with the subtlety and poignancy of his characterizations, probably because he generally played greedy capitalists in a time when greedy capitalists were even more frightening than they are (and properly so) now, but this is an omission that should be corrected. His characterization in this comedy is a powerful performance, and grossly under-appreciated. He was one of the masters of American cinematic acting, with never a false note on his performances, and it is shameful that he is not so acknowledged.
You Can't Take it With You is a very funny and entertaining film. Bringing
Up Baby is probably the only film that has ever made me laugh as hard as
this one. James Stewart and Jean Arthur are magical together, just as they
were in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. This is yet another great film by
Frank Capra and was rewarded with an Oscar for Best Picture in
Stewart comes from a rich and completely uptight family. Miss Arthur is the only relatively sane member of a very wild family. Lionel Barrymore is wonderful as the grandfather here. He is so warm and funny in this movie, it's hard to believe he's the same man who played the evil Mr. Potter in It's A Wonderful Life. Edward Arnold who was known for playing slimy villians, is great as Stewart's very wealthy and totally stuck-up father.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
My favorite american director is Frank Capra."It Happened One Night" is
first great film."Mr.Deeds Goes To Town","Mr.Smith Goes To Washington"
"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
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
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
see this film and "It's a Wonderful Life" and see for yourselfs.Mr.Potter
cruel,heartless,despicable and absolute fascinating(I still can't believe
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
magnificent)he is sweet,and equally fascinating.(Not to mention that
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
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
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
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
Mr.Ramsey.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
My Rate:1000 Out Of 10
One message. "Nothing is worth doing if you can't enjoy it, and when it's
over- you can't take it with you!"
Do any of Capra's works actually speak 'that' one particular message? Perhaps the closest to the above is "It Happened One Night". "Lost Horizon" is about rediscovery and peace of mind. "Mr Smith" is politically and small town oriented and "Mr Deeds" deals with the same except without some political yawn. George Bailey should have had a better dosage of the "You Can't Take it With You" policy in "It's a Wonderful Life".
Here is a play that exercises Frank Capra's famous adage with all humour already built in. Why shouldn't it work?
The stage version was a phenomenal success, written superbly by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. If their story is slightly lacking, look no further than the delightful cast of characters. Mr Poppins, toy and mask maker. Alice's Father who meddles with fireworks. Essie the ballerina, Penny the playwright and the wonderful Russian ballet teacher. The uptight Kirby banking corporation. Then there's the "Mr Smith" duo, Tony (Jimmy Stewart) and Alice (Jean Arthur).
The stand out performer here, is naturally the lovable Lionel Barrymore as Grandpa Vanderfhoff. Although the first film in which the damaging effects of his arthritis began to show, Capra had his leg put in a cast and had him move around on crutches. He relishes his performance.
I have heard of complaints which discuss the fact this film fails to address corruption and greed in a similar manner to "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" which successfully played its part going against the American capital. Once again, Capra emphasises his favourite theme of the little guy up against the world and succeeds, but "You Can't Take it With You" basically does not even make a mild attempt to criticise the American system of government, past or present, even though I know very little about it.
On different levels, look at this film in the light of discussing heavier issues, as the aforementioned greed and corruption. I just don't think Mr Capra would have liked it as much for one of his works to be remembered like that, especially with the basic message staring at us right in the face.
Nevertheless, it is another of Capra's life saving feel good movies. All it is encouraging us to do is to have a little fun.
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