You Can’t Take it With You (1938)

“To them, I’ll always be just a stenographer.”

Synopsis:
The son (Jimmy Stewart) of a wealthy businessman (Edward Arnold) tries to convince a stenographer (Jean Arthur) to marry him, despite her concerns that her eccentric household — including her grandfather (Lionel Barrymore), her mother (Spring Byington), and various semi-permanent guests — won’t meet his stuffy parents’ approval.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this winner of “Best Picture and Best Director Oscars” — an adaptation by Frank Capra of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “stage success” — is “not among Capra’s best films.” He points out that while “there are funny moments and the cast is great”, the “film is too preachy and many of the political-social points made — especially about the wonderfully peculiar character of democratic Americans — are too vague or unconvincing.” He further adds that “themes such as ‘the richest man is the one with the most friends’ are better and more honestly conveyed in Capra’s later It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).” Peary’s assessment is spot-on, as is DVD Savant’s lengthier analysis of the film’s many problematic elements — particularly the presentation of non-starring characters as brainless morons, and Capra’s preaching of:

” … a primitive form of Anarchism, one still sold by the pundits. Do your own thing, turn your back on reality. Let somebody else make the sewers work, pay the firemen, and worry about society as a whole. True love always triumphs, and the nastiest villains are really creampuffs. And no problem is bigger than one’s personal emotions. Capra is an Anarchist-know-nothing-fantasist.”

While this movie was a top box office earner in its day, it hasn’t held up nearly as well as many of Capra’s other fine works, and isn’t must-see viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur as the romantic leads

Must See?
No, though of course Capra fans and Oscar-completists will likely want to check it out.

Links:

One Response to “You Can’t Take it With You (1938)”

  1. Not must-see.

    I’ve never understood the original or on-going allure of this piece. When it was first done on Broadway (1936), it ran for 2 years. Subsequently, it has (so far) been revived on Broadway an unfathomable 5 times! – most recently in 2014 – with varying degrees of success. I believe it has been filmed for television a few times – and it seems to be a staple of community theaters and universities.

    I don’t get it.

    Perhaps the message of thumbing your nose to extreme capitalism always resonates. ~as well as the muddle-headed handling of ‘being true to your dreams’. I’ve no doubt that tons of audiences have found it ‘delightfully madcap’. I just never found it amusing or entertaining.

    A little of this thing certainly goes a long (and repetitive) way.

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