You Can’t Take it with You (1938) starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, & Lionel Barrymore

This Frank Capra feel-good film (a screwball comedy) won the Best Picture Oscar; it was adapted from a V popular Pulitzer Prize-winning play. A stenographer at a bank- Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur- looking V youthful at age 38) and her VP boss- Tony Kirby (Jimmy Stewart, just 31 and NOT yet a star)- are deeply in love after 5 mos. of seeing each other. His cranky/ millionaire father, Kirby Sr. (Edward Arnold) needs to buy one last house in a 12 block area for a big weapons manufacturing deal. This house is owned by Alice’s kind/free-spirited grandfather- Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore). Barrymore as Grandpa (as everyone calls him) had arthritis and a hip injury; the script was altered, so that his character had a sprained ankle, and he could walk w/ crutches. The Vanderhof family is considered eccentric; they don’t care for money, status, so work at ONLY what they enjoy. When Tony proposes to Alice, she says he should come meet her (unconventional) family w/ his (snobbish) parents. Tony decides to visit the night before the planned event… and craziness ensues!

I watched this film for the 3rd time last week; I esp. liked the scenes of Stewart wooing (or courting) Arthur; they were V cute as a couple and had great charisma. They later starred in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. At this time in Hollywood, she was more famous that him! The scene in night court foreshadows a scene in the later (more famous film)- It’s a Wonderful Life-  all of the Vanderhof family’s friends chip in to pay off his fine. Even Grandpa’s dinnertime prayers remind the viewer of a simpler and kinder type of world.

[1] 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. 

[2] Capra emphasises his favourite theme of the little guy up against the world and succeeds…

[3] You have to be in a mood to watch this, willing to suspend all belief in reality and succumb to the notion that doing nothing for a living is better than having an honest job or worrying about the rent.

[4] This movie leaves a huge smile on my face and I think, unless you’re an extreme cynical type, it will do the same for you. It’s a warm, uplifting comedy with romance, drama, and lots of little bits for people who like “windows into the past.” Just a real treat for anyone who loves getting lost in classic films.

=Excerpts from IMDB reviews

3 thoughts on “You Can’t Take it with You (1938) starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, & Lionel Barrymore

    • I think it has the advantage of not requiring a lot of sets. (And I’m sure these days the performance rights are very affordable, lol.)


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