“You can’t take it with you… 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.”
Anyone who knows me, knows that “You Can’t Take It With You” is one of my all-time favorite movies. And, although I’ve seen it described many times as ’zany,’ ‘madcap’ and ‘a screwball comedy’ (and it is) — for me it’s a profoundly moving film that is as relevant today as it was over 75 years ago when it was first released on the Big Screen.
So what is it about this film that tugs at my heart strings? Well, it’s a combination of things – Frank Capra’s signature direction (need I say more?), Robert Riskin’s touching screenplay (moves me vastly more than the Pulitzer Prize winning play), the stellar cast and their exquisitely heartfelt performances — and most of all – the messages and themes throughout the film. In a nutshell, this film makes me think… It makes me think about life, love, family, home, power, money, work…about enjoying the little things in life, trusting in the Almighty, and being thankful. And all this within the framework of a fun, charming and quite zany screwball comedy.
So first, a little bit about the film, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet…
Jean Arthur as Alice Sycamore
James Stewart as Tony Kirby
Lionel Barrymore as Grandpa Martin Vanderhof
Edward Arnold as Anthony P. Kirby
Mary Forbes as Mrs. Anthony P. Kirby
Ann Miller as Essie Carmichael (Alice’s sister)
Spring Byington as Penny Sycamore (Alice’s mom)
Mischa Auer as Essie’s dancing teacher
Synopsis: Stenographer Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) is in love with her boss Tony Kirby (James Stewart) who is VP of a family business run by his father, business mogul Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold). When Tony proposes marriage to Alice, the powerful and rich Kirbys must meet Alice’s family, the good-natured and eccentric Sycamores — whose patriarch is the easy-going Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore) who walked out on his job 35 years ago because he just ‘wasn’t having any fun’. The snobbish Mr. and Mrs. Kirby (Mary Forbes) think that Alice and her family spell trouble and are non-too-enthused about the engagement. When the Kirbys visit the Sycamores on the wrong night (thanks to Tony who wants his parents to see the Sycamores as they really are), chaos ensues and everyone inadvertently ends up in jail. While in jail, Kirby finds out that Grandpa’s house is the last obstacle standing between him and a huge munitions deal that will make Kirby even richer and more powerful. But if Grandpa gives in and sells his home to Kirby, it will have a domino effect on the community that will be devastating to his neighbors. While the Kirbys and Sycamores stand before the judge, some ‘telling’ words are exchanged and Alice breaks her engagement with Tony. Alice flees the city, leaving Tony and her beloved family behind… I won’t tell you how the story ends, but suffice it to say that this is a Frank Capra film after all (nuff said)…
Two Oscar Wins:
Best Film and Best Director (Frank Capra)
Five More Oscar Nominations:
Best Supporting Actress (Spring Byington), Best Screenplay (writing) (Robert Riskin), Best Cinematography (Joseph Walker), Best Sound (recording) (John P. Livadary) and Best Film Editing (Gene Havlick)
Now, I’d like to share some of my favorite scenes and quotes from the movie…
Love of power and money:
AP: 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: 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.
Follow your 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?
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…
Falling in love:
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…
Grandpa: Can’t even talk about him, can you?
Alice: Not rationally.
Grandpa: Well, who’s asking you to be rational?
Love of family:
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: 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.
Alice: I wish I’d known her. What was she like?
Grandpa: Look in there (points to mirror).
Love of house and home…
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.
Appreciation of life and trust in the Almighty:
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.
Grandpa Vanderhof: How’s Essie doing?
Boris Kolenkhov: Confidentially, she stinks.
Grandpa Vanderhof: Oh well, as long as she’s happy.
Business and class distinction:
Grandpa Vanderhof: How are business conditions?
AP: Well, it depends what side of the fence you’re on.
Mrs. Anthony Kirby: If you had any sense, young woman, you’d stay where you belong
and stop being ambitious!
Love of children, albeit mis-guided:
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!
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.
Love of what’s really important…
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…
‘Telling it like it is’:
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!
Having good friends:
Judge (Harry Davenport): Mr. Vanderhof, you’re a very lucky man to have so many friends.
Doing the right thing:
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.
Family honor and self-respect:
Alice: 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!
Standing up for yourself:
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!
Painful goodbyes and heartfelt remorse:
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.
And ‘fast forward’ to a Happy Frank Capra Ending
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…
This post is part of the My Favorite Classic Movie Blogathon in celebration of National Classic Movie Day (May 16th). Click here to view the schedule listing all the great posts in this blogathon.
A big Thank You to @classic_film of Classic Film and TV Cafe for hosting this wonderful blogathon 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