Classic Movie Countdown: Best Picture #’s 16 and 15 — You Can’t Take It with You (1938) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

16. You Can’t Take It with You (1938)

Other Nominated Films:
The Adventures of Robin Hood, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Boys Town, The Citadel, Four Daughters, Grand Illusion, Jezebel, Pygmalion, Test Pilot

My first exposure to You Can’t Take It With You was during high school in the form of a school play. I can’t say that I was much impressed with the performance, but then again, it was a high school play. In any event, when I discovered that You Can’t Take It With You was a Best Picture winner, I was, well,…not so excited about having to watch it (I’ll admit, this wasn’t one of my brighter moments.) This is a great film on every level, and while it may be loud at times and somewhat zany, You Can’t Take It With You is a charming, uplifting film with a powerful and wonderful message: you don’t need money or luxuries to be happy; all you need is the love of your family and friends.  The film, with its uplifting message, was very well received upon its release in 1938, a time when the country was struggling through the tail end of the Great Depression (as a matter of fact, it was the highest-grossing film of the year). But I also find that the film is relevant in today’s world: a time when people are struggling with high unemployment, an uncertain stock market, bad mortgages and the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.  You Can’t Take It With You was the first of two collaborations between Frank Capra, Jean Arthur and James Stewart, as they would all work together again in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  It was also the first Best Picture winner to be adapted from a Pulitzer Prize winning play.  One last observation:  Lionel Barrymore’s character, Grandpa Vanderhof, is the ultimate good-natured, anti-materialist, compassionate, family-loving man — the exact opposite of the character (Mr. Potter) he played in yet another Frank Capra classic – It’s a Wonderful Life.

Nominated for 7 Oscars, Winner of 2
Best Director - Frank Capra (WON)
Best Picture - Columbia (WON)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Spring Byington
Best Cinematography - Joseph Walker
Best Film Editing - Gene Havlick
Best Sound, Recording - John P. Livadary (Columbia SSD)
Best Writing, Screenplay - Robert Riskin

Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: 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.

15. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

Other Nominated Films:
The Big House, Disraeli, The Divorcee, The Love Parade

One of the greatest anti-war films to ever be made, All Quiet on the Western Front is a profound and harrowing account of warfare during World War I. Unlike most war films that, well, I’m used to seeing however, All Quiet on the Western Front focuses on warfare from the eyes of German soldiers, instead of American soldiers. The film opens in the classroom of a boys’ high school in Germany while the teacher is giving an impassioned speech about the glory of war and the privilege of serving your country. But as the film goes on, those same boys enlist, are put on the front lines, and learn that there is no glory in war — only death. For most of the film, we’re being led through the war by Paul Bäumer (Lew Ayres), who witnesses death first hand when he kills a man in a ditch and is forced to stay behind with the corpse so he doesn’t expose himself to the enemy. It’s when Paul takes a brief trip home while on furlough that we discover the true effect the war has had on him. He visits the same classroom he once sat in and tells the young men there to get out while you can — in one of the most memorable speeches in film. I believe I’ve said just about enough on what happens in the film. All Quiet on the Western Front had a massive impact on several countries, one of them being Germany. Due to the anti-war and anti-German messages in the film, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party actually banned the film from Germany in the 1930′s and early 40′s. All Quiet on the Western Front will always be one of the greatest War Films of all time.

Nominated for 4 Oscars, Winner of 2
Best Director - Lewis Milestone (WON)
Best Picture - Universal (WON)
Best Cinematography - Arthur Edeson
Best Writing, Achievement- George Abbott, Maxwell Anderson, Del Andrews

Paul Bäumer: We’ve no use talking like this. You won’t know what I mean. Only, it’s been a long while since we enlisted out of this classroom. So long, I thought maybe the whole world had learned by this time. Only now they’re sending babies, and they won’t last a week! I shouldn’t have come on leave. Up at the front you’re alive or you’re dead and that’s all. You can’t fool anybody about that very long. And up there we know we’re lost and done for whether we’re dead or alive. Three years we’ve had of it, four years! And every day a year, and every night a century! And our bodies are earth, and our thoughts are clay, and we sleep and eat with death! And we’re done for because you can’t live that way and keep anything inside you! I shouldn’t have come on leave. I’ll go back tomorrow. I’ve got four days more, but I can’t stand it here! I’ll go back tomorrow! I’m sorry.


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