You Can’t Take It with You (1938)

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Nice, smart old comedy


Movie Info

Movie Name:  You Can’t Take It with You

Studio:  Columbia Pictures

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  August 23, 1938

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Harmonicas equal happiness!

Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold) is on the verge of the biggest business deal of his life…unfortunately, one family who refuses to sell their home is holding up the whole process.  Little does Kirby know that the secretary his son Tony (James Stewart) is dating is the granddaughter of the home’s owner Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore).  As Tony and Alice (Jean Arthur) fall in love, Tony is about to meet her bohemian family who lives life to the fullest…but his disapproving parents have other ideas for his future.


Don’t trust crazy Russians

Directed by Frank Capra, You Can’t Take It with You is an adaption of the Pulitzer Prize winning 1936 stage play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.  The movie won Academy Awards for Best Picture (Outstanding Production) and Best Director with nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Spring Byington), Best Writing—Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Recording.

You Can’t Take It with You is just one of those nice stories with a wacky family.  Movies like Meet Me in St. Louis and The Royal Tenenbaums borrowed ideas from this type of story for their own films, but You Can’t Take It with You is one of the original versions of this type of film.


I am going to run far away from your family!

The movie is almost a screwball type comedy.  You have characters that are so out of touch with reality, and it is presented as a good thing.  I know you are supposed to think that it is refreshing that the characters do what they want, but sometimes doing what you want has consequences…something these characters never suffer.  I don’t want to pay taxes but if I didn’t pay them, I’d go to jail.  I know it might be a bit square to side with the “man”, but I feel that Barrymore’s character is a bit out of line.  Plus, body slamming an old man (as seen by the crazed Kolenkov) probably isn’t the best way to behave in public or private.


Nothing better than a hoedown!

The cast is great.  Both Jean Arthur and James Stewart are charming as the young couple in love, and Capra went back to these actors again the next year for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  Barrymore was so disabled by arthritis that his character was subjected to crutches from “sliding down the bannister”, but he supposedly needed shots frequently during filming to deal with the pain.  Once again, I find myself siding with Edward Arnold and his flustered wife Spring Byington during the movie not because of their snootiness, but because the family’s behavior isn’t acceptable.

Movies based on stage plays often aren’t the flashiest movies and You Can’t Take It with You is in that boat.  The film only has a few locations and most of the sets appear pretty basic.  I can’t hold it against the film however because it is what the movie needed.

You Can’t Take It with You is one of the better old comedies to win the Best Picture.  The movie has aged, but it hasn’t lost its charm.  If you can tolerate the somewhat frustrating family, you will enjoy it.  The movie was turned into radio show and then later remade in 1979 for television.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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