For film-goers and movie fans that are from my generation, it is easy for classic films to get lost in the shuffle. Ask someone my age, what the best movie of all time is, they’re likely to say Pulp Fiction. I’m here to suggest that they’ve missed out if they haven’t rented the classic “You Can’t Take It With You.”
Capra’s storytelling is flawless. He very cleverly sets up the two very different families, the Sycamores, a large offbeat, free-spirited family that dance, make fireworks, paint, write novels, and construct toys with equal joy, laughing their way through the Depression with much love & great contentment. And the Kirbys are a stiff, mean spirited, up tight banking family intent on taking over their neighborhood.
Tony Kirby (James Stewart) loves Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) no matter what, and doesn’t want her or her family to put on a show to impress his family. When he surprises her by turning up a day early for a dinner engagement, the Kirbys meet the Sycamores for who they truly are, wind up in jail, and along the way, learn a little bit about being human beings.
There are several delightful scenes in the film, all beautifully filmed and connected in such a way that the story flows smoothly. Capra uses much of the same sentiment that he does in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s sweet, it’s real, and it’s a style of film making you wish would still happen today. Even the littlest things like Grandpa Sycamore’s dinnertime prayers are enough to remind the viewer of what a world could be if we kept our values simple, our wants satisfied, and ourselves happy.
Evidently, I was completely charmed by James Stewart and Jean Arthur, who are both incredibly talented, and who together make Tony and Alice an utterly credible couple. Edward Arnold was great as the stuffed shirt Anthony Kirby Sr., too. But my greatest praise would have to be reserved for Lionel Barrymore as Martin Vanderhof. You couldn’t imagine a sweeter, lovelier old man. His role, is as relevant today as it was in 1938, is a complete change from his much-better-known Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“You Can’t Take It With You” is artistic, Oscar winning comedy produced by Frank Capra. This film is rare. It will make you laugh, make you cry, and quite frankly, it’ll make you glad to be alive. Just rent it. You’ll feel good for days!