Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"You Can't Take It With You" with James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore and Jean Arthur (1938)

I haven't seen this film in years. It was on the shelf at the library, and I remembered it with such affection, that I had to take it home. Martin Vanderhof, played by Lionel Barrymore, owns the one piece of land that industrialist Anthony P. Kirby, played by Edward Arnold, needs to secure a defense contract that will make him the largest producer of war materials in the world. But money is no object to Martin Vanderhof, who wants to live life and enjoy what he has. He has no intention of selling his home. He lives with his daughter, and granddaughter Alice Sycamore, played by Jean Arthur, along with a host of very unusual people, with ambitions and dreams to match their unusual personalities.

Tony Kirby, played by James Stewart, is the son of Anthony P. Kirby, and engaged to Martin Vanderhof's granddaughter, Alice. Complications, of course, arise when the Kirby's show up one night early for a dinner engagement. This mishap was arranged by Tony Kirby in order that his family see the Sycamore family, and Martin Vanderhof, just as they are in this wonderful look at society and the values we all place upon the things that are dear to us.

For instance, in this film, made in 1938, a man who owns his property could not be forced to move. Today, under eminent domain, he would be forced to sell his property to make way for any private enterprise that would create a larger tax revenue.

This is a wonderful comedy in the tradition of Frank Capra, assembled with the usual cast of character actors, all ably assisted with a script by playwrights George Kaufman and Moss Hart, and a flawless screenplay of all the madness by Robert Riskin. With his usual flair for perfection in full gear, the flawless direction by Frank Capra drives this film home.

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