You Can't Take It With You

1938, Movie, NR, 126 mins


Frank Capra took the phenomenally successful (if somewhat overrated) Kaufman-Hart stage play "You Can't Take It with You" and turned it into this well-received (if somewhat overrated) film. Amazingly, it garnered Capra his third Oscar for Best Director, as well as winning the Best Picture Oscar (it was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress [Byington], screenplay, cinematography, editing, and sound recording).

Barrymore is the eccentric patriarch of a clan of frustrated artists who decided 30 years earlier to retire from the rat-race and use his fortune to encourage friends and family to pursue vocations that really interest them. He has taken up painting, which he does badly, but at least he enjoys himself. His daughter, Byington, has taken up writing mystery novels; her husband, Hinds, tinkers with explosives in the basement. Their daughter Miller desires to be a ballet dancer, and her cynical Russian teacher, Auer, follows her around barking instructions. Miller's husband, Dub Taylor, practices playing the xylophone, while Barrymore's friend Meek invents new toys and party masks. The huge house is a frenzy of bizarre activities and in the center of it all is Barrymore's other granddaughter, Arthur, who is pursuing a relatively normal life by working as a receptionist in the offices of Arnold, a powerful businessman who wants to have Barrymore's mansion torn down so he can build on the property. Arthur is in love with Arnold's son Stewart, who fears that his father will never approve of a girl from such a family. The couple decides to arrange a dinner for the families to be held at Arthur's house, and Barrymore commands the clan to tone down their normal antics in order to make a good impression on Arnold and his stuffy wife, Mary Forbes. Unfortunately, there is confusion over the date of the dinner, and Stewart shows up with his parents a day early. The ensuing madness is unrestrained and hilarious.

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU is an entertaining, if saccharine film, packed with enough loony activity to keep the laughs coming from start to finish. Capra assembled a superb cast of players, and all score solidly in their roles, even if their behavior doesn't today seem as anarchic as it must have then. Capra himself, however, doesn't do as well, turning out a stagey product that represents one of his lesser directorial efforts. Perhaps the most amusing character in the film is Meek, a milquetoast of a man who enjoys sneaking up on family members and scaring them with his latest Halloween mask. YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU was the first film for veteran actor Barrymore in which the crippling arthritis which would soon put him in a wheelchair became evident. To remedy the situation, Capra had a fake leg cast put on the actor and explained it by having him state that he broke his leg while sliding down a bannister--just the kind of reckless, carefree act one would expect from his character. Character actor Dub Taylor, who has appeared in hundreds of films and television shows, made his acting debut in this film. leave a comment

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