Directed by: Frank Capra (won Oscar)
Screenplay by: Robert Riskin (nominated)
Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore
My rating: 6.5
IMDb rating: 8/10
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Alexander’s Ragtime Band
La Grande Illusion
Synopsis: A young man from a wealthy family and a girl from eccentric family fall in love. His parents struggle to accept it.
Well, well, well. Here we are again. A charming movie full of charming people. Man, they really must have needed that escapism in the 1930s.
You Can’t Take It With You is, as its name suggests, all about how money can’t buy happiness. The message is a bit heavy handed at times, but I guess it struck a chord for viewers towards the end of the Great Depression.
But, oddly, the banker in this one isn’t such a bad guy. He’s not a sneering avaricious villain, he’s just a man with his priorities slightly skewed, who got caught up in success.
This film got Frank Capra his third and final Oscar (the other two were for It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town) and while it’s not his most famous film (It’s a Wonderful Life, anyone?), it shows just how adept he was at showing heart and sympathy for the underdog.
While the story is ostensibly about the romance between James Stewart’s Tony and Jean Arthur’s Alice, it’s really the story about Lionel Barrymore’s open-minded and kindly Martin Vanderhof (Alice’s grandfather) charming Edward Arnold’s arch-capitalist Anthony P Kirby (Tony’s dad).
Barrymore’s Vanderhof has a household overrun by eccentric characters pursuing their passions because it makes him happy to see everyone being happy. The house is so whimsical there’s a trained crow living with them.
Some parts were genuinely funny, and the ending, as sentimental and unsurprising as it may have been, still caused a little eye moisture.
The cast of characters in the Vanderhof household really steal the show. There’s the granddaughter who dances while doing everything, the playwright daughter-in-law who has to continually lift a kitten from her manuscript and the basement full of firecracker-producing tinkerers. There are also two black characters who, although one of them works for the family, appear to be pretty much treated as equals, which was a pleasant surprise for something from the ’30s.
It’s a silly screwball comedy, with a few contrived romantic obstacles, but it’s just so much damn fun.
Bottom line: A heartwarming story full of lovable characters. Thoroughly Capra. Watch it.
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