In Celebration of National Classic Movie Day: “My Favorite Classic Movie” Blogathon — You Can’t Take It With You

“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.”  
-Grandpa Vanderhoff

You can't take it with you


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…


you can't take it with you castLionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold

Featured Cast:
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


James stewart, jean arthur and frank capra behind the scenes in you can't take it with youJames Stewart, Jean Arthur and Frank Capra on the set

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)…


Frank Capra receives the Academy Award for You Can't Take it With YouFrank Capra receives Best Director Oscar in 1939 at the 11th Annual Academy Awards

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:

You Can't Take It With You Edward Arnold as Anthony P. KirbyBusiness mogul Anthony P. Kirby… with great power comes great ulcers…

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)


james stewart and edward arnold, you can't take it with youFather and son at the office…

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:

You Can't Take It With You, Mr. Poppins, Donald Meeks and Lionel BarrymorGrandpa Vanderhof strikes up a conversation with worker-bee Mr. Poppins (Donald Meek)…

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? 


You Can't Take It With You, Mr. Poppins, Donald Meeks and Lionel BarrymorHow many times have we all said ‘someday’…

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:

you can't take it with you, jean arthurTony proposes…

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…


You Can't Take it With You, Lionel Barrymore and Jean ArthurAlice reveals to Grandpa that she’s in love…

Grandpa: Can’t even talk about him, can you?
Alice: Not rationally.
Grandpa: Well, who’s asking you to be rational?


Love of family:

You Can't Take it With You, Lionel Barrymore and Jean ArthurSpecial moment between Grandpa and Granddaughter… 

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…

You Can't Take it With You, Lionel Barrymore and Jean ArthurAppreciating loved ones and their beloved 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:

you can't take it with you, Grandpa Vanderhof saying graceGrandpa giving thanks…

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.


Being happy:

You can't take it with you, ann miller dancingAlice’s sister Essie practices her dancing while her dance teacher looks on…

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:

you can't take it with you, the kirbys come to visitThe Kirbys come to visit…

Grandpa Vanderhof: How are business conditions?
AP: Well, it depends what side of the fence you’re on.


you can't take it with you, alice and mrs kirby in jailThe snobby Mrs. Kirby’s disdain for the ‘lowly’ Alice…

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:

you can't take it with you, mary forbes and edward arnoldA concerned Mrs. Anthony Kirby…

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!


you can't take it with you, james stewart and edward arnoldFather and son… in jail…

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…

you can't take it with you, edward arnold and lionel barrymore in jailAP 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…


‘Telling it like it is’:

you can't take it with you, edward arnold and lionel barrymore in jailGrandpa 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!


 Having good friends:

you can't take it with you, harry davenportGrandpa’s friends come to the rescue and pay his fine… 

Judge (Harry Davenport): Mr. Vanderhof, you’re a very lucky man to have so many friends.


Doing the right thing:

you can't take it with you, lionel barrymore before the judgeGrandpa 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.


Family honor and self-respect:

you can't take it with you, jean arthur gets angryAlice has had enough!

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:

you can't take it with you, jean arthur gets angry 2Alice breaks her engagement

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:

you can't take it with you, james stewart says goodbye to edward arnoldFather and Son, a heartfelt goodbye…

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 🙂

you can't take it with you final sceneAnd 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…


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


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11 Responses to In Celebration of National Classic Movie Day: “My Favorite Classic Movie” Blogathon — You Can’t Take It With You

  1. Rick says:

    Annmarie, you’ve done a marvelous job of capturing why this Frank Capra film remains so beloved. I had forgotten how many of the film’s best lines belonged to Grandpa Vanderhoff! Amazingly, I first saw YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU by mistake. I had ordered another film for a film society my wife and I were running. The library delivered the wrong movie…YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU. We watched it anyway and loved it. Now, I can’t even remember what the original movie was supposed to be! Thanks for taking part in this blogathon and for doing such a wonderful job of promoting National Classic Movie Day.

    • Annmarie Gatti says:

      Thanks so much Rick for hosting this blogathon. I always love an excuse to re-watch my favorite films — and it’s really interesting what happens when you put your thoughts to paper… it really makes you think about why these films mean so much to you…the artistry and hard work behind them…

  2. My favourite Edward Arnold performance – and I love Edward Arnold.

    I go through times when I love this movie and times when it’s not even on my radar, but I always find my way back to it. Everything you wrote tells how special it really is.

  3. You hit the nail on the head It is a film that has all the ingredients for “happy.” Great post!

  4. ClassicBecky says:

    I come from a big family, and this movie always makes me long for the days when we were all young and together. To me, this was the perfect family — crazy, poor, happy. When I was raising my boys, I had to work, two jobs for a while, and wished that I could have done what Grandpa did — “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.” What a perfect life this movie depicts, at least in my opinion. And I just love Jean Arthur in anything. I really liked your creative way of reviewing this film.

  5. ErinW says:

    My favorite moment in this movie is, I think, the introduction of the Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur characters, when they are canoodling in his office, and he playfully won’t let go of her hands to let her answer the phone, so she nudges it off the hook with her head and sort of curls her head into the desk to take the call anyway. It’s so unusual and adorable.

    Though I also love the benign chaos of the family, like how Ann Miller dances while she sets the table, and how Spring Byington seems to be using a kitten as a paperweight for her typed pages.

  6. This is such a terrific film, with endearing, quirky characters. I’m so glad you chose it for the blogathon. I don’t think it gets the attention it deserves these days.

  7. Cameron says:

    Wonderful review! The quotes you chose were terrific! It always makes me chuckle when they say that Ann Miller “stinks” at dancing! Spring Byington is so great in this, and I think Arthur and Stewart are a lovely pair. The whole thing is a zany, tender mess that all works perfectly!

  8. A great selection Annmarie for this occasion – this film really is a treasure. It represents the best in ensemble acting and a heartwarming story. Frank Capra is one of my favorite directors and this is one of his best films. Thanks covering it so well.

  9. Kim says:

    I definitely agree with your take on this film. Yes, it fits the standard screwball comedy guidelines, but there’s so much heart and truth in it too – that’s something you don’t find as often in the genre. I actually saw this on Broadway last year with my mom. I hadn’t see the film in years, and I watched it beforehand again – my mom watched it for the first time afterwards. Though the Broadway play was fantastic and it’s a story well suited for today’s times as well, we both preferred this version. I mean, with the cast, the screenplay, and the direction, there’s not much you can do to top it!

    • Annmarie Gatti says:

      I have to agree. I saw the play on Broadway as well, and although it was good, in my humble opinion, the film far exceeds it in scope and meaning…

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