“Maybe it’ll stop you trying to be so desperate about making more money than you can ever use . You can’t take it with you, Mr. Kirby. So what good is it? As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends.” -Grandpa Vanderhoff
You Can’t Take It With You — How do I love thee, let me count the ways…
I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this movie. And although it’s always simply ‘listed’ as a romantic screwball comedy, I find it to be a profoundly moving film that is as relevant today as it was over 75 years ago when it first hit the big screen.
But…I didn’t always feel that way. I distinctly remember seeing it at a revival theater when I was young, and, although I liked it, I certainly didn’t love it. It seemed a little too zany and ‘loud’ for me at the time, and quite frankly all that ‘stuff’ about power and money and work, well I just couldn’t relate to it…at least not yet…
However fast forward ‘a few’ years to now, and I will say that, without-a-doubt, You Can’t Take It With You is one of my all-time favorite movies — yes, it’s even in my Top Ten. So, what is it that I truly love about this film??? Well, really, it’s so many things — Frank Capra’s ‘common man triumphs’ signature direction, Robert Riskin’s touching screenplay (adapted from the 1936 Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name), the stellar cast of veteran and character actors and their simple yet heartfelt scenes — and at the very top of my list — the messages and themes throughout the film. In a nutshell, this film makes me think about life, about my life and what’s really important… the love of family and friends over the love of power and money, the idea that you should love your work, enjoy the little things in life, trust in the Almighty, and be thankful for everything you have — some pretty profound ‘stuff’ for a zany screwball comedy!
But not to get too serious here, I mean it is a screwball comedy after all, there’s also lots of fun in the way the messages are delivered — imagine the idea of going to work and deciding that, since you’re not having fun anymore, you’re just going to hit that elevator ‘down’ button and go home, never to return to that office again. Oh, if only!!! Or being able to grill the IRS Man about how your money is being spent by the government! I mean, why shouldn’t you, it is your money isn’t it?
So, that said, let’s celebrate the profound messaging from You Can’t Take It With You, with a mix of serious and fun quotes from the film…
Business mogul Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold) aka AP
AP: We’re going ahead exactly as we planned. It’ll be the largest individual monopoly in the world gentlemen, if we’re smart.
AP: $10,000 a year for doctors and I’m still taking this stuff. (bicarbonate of soda)
AP with his son Tony (James Stewart), who he just made his new VP
AP: Say, Tony, do you realize there won’t be a bullet, gun or cannon
made in this country without us?
Tony: Dad, now don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the sling shot market.
AP’s Real Estate Agent, John Blakeley (Clarence Wilson), who has run into some trouble securing 12 blocks of real estate that AP MUST HAVE to further his big business deal..
Blakeley: I’ll make him sell if I have to drive him out with stink bombs. Listen, a fortune’s been invested in those 12 blocks, and behind us is one of the most powerful men in the country — and a silly old man with that silly little house is holding up the whole business…
Meanwhile, lovable Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore) tries to persuade Blakeley’s nervous worker-bee accountant Mr. Poppins (Donald Meek) to follow his passion…
Grandpa Vanderhof: You like this?
Mr. Poppins: Like it?
Grandpa Vanderhof: This work you’re doing?
Mr. Poppins: Oh no, my goodness, no. Landsakes, what am I saying?
Grandpa Vanderhof: Then why do you do it?… Isn’t there something else you’d rather be doing than this?
Mr. Poppins likes to invent things!
Grandpa Vanderhoff: What do you mean, fooling around with all these dull figures? Seems to me Mr. Poppins, that THIS is the kind of work
you ought to be doing (inventing things).
Mr. Poppins: Someday I’m going to do nothing else,
someday…when my ship comes in…
Tony Kirby with secretary and soon-to-be fiancee, Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur)
Tony: Sometimes you’re so beautiful it just gags me. Maybe you’re not real, maybe you’re a phantom or something. I keep expecting you to vanish.
A tender proposal…
Tony: I talked about you so much that she (mother) finally said ‘well now the next thing I expect to hear from you is that you’re going to marry the girl’
and I said ‘yah, that’s it exactly!’
Alice: What’d she say?
Tony: Nothing, nothing.
Alice: Just fainted dead away?
Tony: No, no, no she took it standing up…
Tony: You know if you scratch under the surface here
you’ll find a proposal lying around…
A worried Mrs. Anthony Kirby (Mary Forbes)…
Mrs. Kirby: I wouldn’t mind his carrying on right in the office but he’s getting serious about her… He talked to me for hours about her last night…
AP: The girl’s a stenographer. Boys like Tony don’t marry stenographers.
Mrs. Kirby: Anthony, we’ve got to do something about this girl!
Grandpa comforts his neighbors, who are all worried about getting thrown out of their homes
Grandpa Vanderhof: Now wait just a minute, don’t get excited… If they’re buying this property up for a factory, they’ll need every foot of ground, won’t they?
Neighbor: I guess so.
Grandpa Vanderhof: Well now suppose I won’t sell them my place, what’re they going to do?… It’ll take more than money to make me sell my property. Now go on back to work, stop cluttering up the street, we’ll all be arrested.
Grandpa: In love, huh?
Alice: Well,uh… Well, I…
Grandpa: Well, I… My foot. Either you are or you aren’t. Let me look at your eyes. Oh yes, of course… Now, come on now, tell me all abut it. What kind of a boy is he?
You have fun together?
Grandpa: Can’t even talk about him, can you?
Alice: Not rationally.
Grandpa: Well, who’s asking you to be rational?
Grandpa talks about Alice’s Grandmother…
Grandpa: Listen, when I was courting your Grandmother, it took me two years to propose. You know why? The moment she’d walk into a room, my knees buckled. Blood would rush up into my head and the walls would start to dance.
Twice I keeled over in a dead faint.
Grandpa: Nothing phenomenal about it. I just had it bad, that’s all. I never got over it either. Right up to the very last, she couldn’t walk into a room without my heart going thump, thump, thump.
Grandpa and Granddaughter loving Grandma and their home…
Alice: I wish I’d known her. What was she like?
Grandpa: Look in there (points to mirror).
Grandpa Vanderhoff: I can still hear the tinkle of her thin little voice, see her eyes laughing. That’s the reason I’ve lived in this house so many years — could never move out — would be like moving out on grandma.
Grandpa Vanderhof having some fun with IRS Agent Wilbur G. Henderson (Charles Lane)
Henderson: Now Mr. Vanderhoff, that’s a very serious thing,
not filing an income tax return.
Grandpa Vanderhof: Well, now suppose I do pay you this money? Mind you, I don’t say that I’m going to, but just for the sake of argument — what’s the
government going to do with it?
Henderson: What do you mean?
Grandpa Vanderhoff: Well, what do I get for MY money? For instance, if I go into a dept store and buy something, why there it is, I can see it.
What are they going to give me?
Alice’s free-spirited family and friends — including her mom Penny Sycamore (Spring Byington) painting a portrait, her married sister Essie Carmichael (Ann Miller) dancing in her ballerina costume, and dancing teacher Kolenkhov (Mischa Auer), among others…
Grandpa Vanderhof: How’s Essie doing?
Boris Kolenkhov: Confidentially, she stinks.
Grandpa Vanderhof: Oh well, as long as she’s happy.
Grandpa being thankful..
Grandpa: Well, Sir, here we are again. We’ve been getting along pretty good for quite a while now – we’re certainly much obliged. Remember all we ask is just to go along the way we are, keep our health; as far as anything else is concerned, we leave that up to you. Thank you.
Alice talking to Tony about Grandpa…
Alice: He (Grandpa) just suddenly left business one day. He started up in the elevator, turned around and came right down again — and never went back. He could have been a rich man, but said he wasn’t having any fun.
Alice Sycamore: You know he (Grandpa) says most people nowadays are run by fear. Fear of what they eat, fear of what they drink, fear of their jobs, their future, fear of their health. They’re scared to save money, and they’re scared to spend it. You know what his pet aversion is? The people who commercialize on fear, you know they scare you to death so they can sell you something you don’t need.
The Kirbys come to visit the Sycamores… on the wrong night…
Grandpa Vanderhof: How are business conditions?
AP: Well, it depends what side of the fence you’re on.
Won’t tell you why — but the Kirbys and Sycamores end up in jail together…
Mrs. Anthony Kirby: You needn’t waste your time trying to protect me. That won’t help. If you had any sense, young woman, you’d stay where you belong
and stop being ambitious!
Father and Son… in jail…
AP: Well, I’ve got you to thank for this. I hope it’ll teach you a lesson,
fooling around with stenographers…
Tony: Now listen Dad, I intend to marry that girl.
AP: Yeah, I know, I know, I was going to marry a waitress once. Fortunately
my father knocked it out of me.
AP and Grandpa… in jail…
AP: You know what’ll happen if the newspapers get a hold of this. It’ll jeopardize the biggest deal of my career!
Grandpa Vanderhof: And what if it does fall through? What if all your deals fall through? Might be a good thing for you.
Anthony P. Kirby: Man, you’re crazy.
Grandpa Vanderhof: Well, maybe I am. I used to be just like you once. Then one morning, when I was going up in the elevator… it struck me I wasn’t having any fun. So I came right down and I never went back. Yes, sir. That was 35 years ago.
Anthony P. Kirby: Admirable. And you haven’t done anything since huh?
Grandpa Vanderhof: Oh yes, yes, yes… Oh just the things I wanted to do… collected stamps, went to the zoo when I got the notion, took up the harmonica, and even found time to notice when spring came around…
Grandpa loses his cool…
Grandpa Vanderhof: Scum, are we? What makes you think you’re such a superior human being? Your money? If you do, you’re a dull-witted fool, Mr. Kirby. And a poor one at that. You’re poorer than any of these people you call scum, because I’ll guarantee at least they’ve got some friends. While you with your jungle and your long claws, as you call ’em, you’ll wind up your miserable existence without anything you can call friend. You may be a high mogul to yourself, Mr. Kirby, but to me you’re a failure – failure as a man, failure as a human being, even a failure as a father. When your time comes, I doubt if a single tear will be shed over you. The world will probably cry, “Good riddance.” That’s a nice prospect, Mr. Kirby. I hope you’ll enjoy it. I hope you’ll get some comfort out of all this coin you’ve been sweating over then!
Grandpa’s friends pay his fine…
Judge: Mr. Vanderhof, you’re a very lucky man to have so many friends.
Not so easy, for the Kirbys…
Mrs. Anthony Kirby: Haven’t we been embarrassed enough? Seems to me a little more respect should be shown for our position!
Grandpa tries to save the day…
Grandpa Vanderhof: Your Honor, please… Mr. Kirby came to see me
about buying my house…
Judge: About buying your house?
Grandpa Vanderhof: Yes, you see, he’s been interested in the property for some time now and, well he just came there to talk the deal over, that’s all.
Grandpa, I won’t stand for it! I won’t stand for our being humiliated like this! They’re ashamed to say why they were there. They’re ashamed to admit they came to look my family over to see if I was good enough to marry their precious son!
Alice: You know I’ve decided it’s your family that isn’t good enough! Why I wouldn’t be related to a bunch of snobs like that for anything in the world. Your mother’s all in a dither because of her social reputation.
The Crowd: That’s telling them Alice. Who do they think they are!
Alice: Your reputation’s safe as far as I’m concerned – and so is your son’s — and so is your old man’s!
Well, Tony Pleads, Alice Spurns, AP Fumes and Mrs. Kirby Faints… Then Cinderella (Alice) flees the city, leaving Tony and her beloved family behind…
Alice is gone now, and her family is struggling to recover… Will they ever be free-spirited and happy again? Will Grandpa decide to sell the house after all, leaving his wonderful memories behind? Will all the neighbors lose their homes too? Will AP’s big business deal get inked? Will Tony ever be able to find Alice and win her back?
Now, I don’t want to ruin absolutely everything for you, so I will essentially stop here with the storyline, except for one more scene near the end of the film which just breaks my heart…
Tony Kirby: I came in here to say goodbye.
Anthony P. Kirby: Goodbye? Are you serious?
Tony Kirby: Yes I’m serious. I don’t want any part of this, Dad. I never did.
Anthony P. Kirby: You can’t do this — after all the plans I made for you…
Tony Kirby: Dad, if I can just make you understand this… I think this business is great — it’s good for you because you like it. I don’t and I never will. Oh, I… I’ve tried to talk to you so many times about it, but I… I just couldn’t get it out. I… I used to be able to talk to you dad, but lately… (he’s at a loss for words) I’ll probably be gone before you get home tonight. Goodbye Dad.
Okay, I lied, but I can’t help it. So here I am, ruining the ending for you. But, this is a Frank Capra film, so we all know that somehow love will triumph…
And Grandpa says one Final Thank You…
Grandpa Vanderhof: Well, sir, here we are again. We’ve had quite a time of it lately, but it seems that the worst of it is over… Anyway, everything’s turned out fine, as it usually does. Alice is going to marry Tony; Mr. Kirby, who’s turned out to be a very good egg, sold us back our house – he’ll probably forget all about big deals for a while. Nobody on our block has to move; and, with the right handling, I think we can even thaw out Mrs. Kirby here. We’ve all got our health; as far as anything else is concerned, we still leave that up to you. Thank you…
A big Thank You to Kellee (@IrishJayhawk66) of Outspoken & Freckled, Paula (@Paula_Guthat) of Paula’s Cinema Club and Aurora (@CitizenScreen) of Once Upon a Screen for hosting this fun 31 Days of Oscar event! There are so many more wonderful Classic Bloggers participating in this event so please be sure to check out the other entries.
–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub