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You Can't Take It with You (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

You Can't Take It with You
You Can't Take it With You film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Capra
Screenplay byRobert Riskin
Based onYou Can't Take It with You
1936 play
by George Kaufman and Moss Hart
Produced byFrank Capra
CinematographyJoseph Walker
Edited byGene Havlick
Music byDimitri Tiomkin
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release dates
  • August 23, 1938 (1938-08-23) (int'l press preview)[1]
  • September 1, 1938 (1938-09-01) (New York City)[2]
  • September 29, 1938 (1938-09-29) (U.S.)
Running time
126 minutes
CountryUnited States
BudgetUS$1,644,736 (est.)[3]
Box office
  • US$2,137,575 (U.S. rentals)[4]
  • US$5,295,526 (int'l rentals)

You Can't Take It with You is a 1938 American romantic comedy film directed by Frank Capra and starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, and Edward Arnold. Adapted by Robert Riskin from the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart,[5] the film is about a man from a family of rich snobs who becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured, but decidedly eccentric family.

A critical and commercial success, the film received two Academy Awards from seven nominations: Best Picture and Best Director for Frank Capra. This was Capra's third Oscar for Best Director in just five years, following It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936).

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  • You Can't Take It With You (1938) - Harmonica Duet Scene (10/10) | Movieclips
  • You Can't Take It With You (1938) - You Can't Take It With You Scene (8/10) | Movieclips
  • You Can't Take It With You (1938) - You Are So Beautiful Scene (2/10) | Movieclips
  • You Can't Take It With You (1938) - Crazy Family Scene (6/10) | Movieclips



A successful banker, Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold), has just returned from Washington, DC, where he was effectively granted a government-sanctioned munitions monopoly, which will make him very rich. He intends to buy up a 12-block radius around a competitor's factory to put him out of business, but one house is a holdout to selling. Kirby instructs his real-estate broker, John Blakely (Clarence Wilson), to offer a huge sum for the house, and if that is not accepted, to cause trouble for the family. Meanwhile, Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore) convinces a banker named Poppins to pursue his dream of making animated toys.

Kirby's son, Tony (James Stewart), a vice president in the family company, has fallen in love with a company stenographer, Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur). When Tony proposes marriage, Alice is worried that her family would be looked upon poorly by Tony's rich and famous family. In fact, Alice is the only relatively normal member of the eccentric Sycamore family, led by Vanderhof. Unbeknownst to the players, Alice's family lives in the house that will not sell out.

Kirby and his wife (Mary Forbes) strongly disapprove of Tony's choice for marriage. Before she accepts, Alice forces Tony to bring his family to become better acquainted with their future in-laws, but when Tony purposely brings his family on the wrong day (reasoning that he would rather the two families meet as they are, not in a formal 'stuffed-shirt' setting), the Sycamore family is caught off-guard, and the house is in disarray. As the Kirbys are preparing to leave after a rather disastrous meeting, the police arrive in response to what they perceive as printed threats on flyers by Grandpa's son-in-law, Ed Carmichael. When the fireworks in the basement go off, they arrest everyone in the house.

Held up in the drunk tank preparing to see the night-court judge, Mrs. Kirby repeatedly insults Alice and makes her feel unworthy of her son, while Grandpa explains to Kirby the importance of having friends, and that despite all the wealth and success in business, "you can't take it with you". At the court hearing, the judge (Harry Davenport) allows for Grandpa and his family to settle the charges for disturbing the peace and making illegal fireworks by assessing a fine, for which Grandpa's neighborhood friends pitch in to pay. He repeatedly asks why the Kirbys were at the Vanderhof house. When Grandpa, attempting to help Kirby, says it was to talk over selling the house, Alice has an outburst and says it was because she was engaged to Tony, but is spurning him because of how poorly she has been treated by his family. This causes a sensation in the papers, and Alice flees the city.

With Alice gone, Grandpa decides to sell the house, thus meaning the whole section of the town must vacate in preparation for building a new factory. Now, the Kirby companies merge, creating a huge fluctuation in the stock market. When Kirby's competitor, Ramsey (H. B. Warner), dies after confronting him for being ruthless and a failure of a man, Kirby has a realization he is heading for the same fate, and decides to leave the meeting where the signing of the contracts is to take place.

As the Vanderhofs are moving out of the house, Tony tries to track down Alice. Kirby arrives and talks privately with Grandpa, sharing his realization. Grandpa responds by inviting him to play "Polly Wolly Doodle" on the harmonica that he gave him. The two let loose with the rest of the family joining in the merriment, and with Alice taking Tony back. Later, at the dinner table, Grandpa says grace for the Sycamore family and the Kirbys, revealing that Kirby has sold back the houses on the block.



James Stewart and Jean Arthur in You Can't Take It with You
James Stewart and Jean Arthur in You Can't Take It with You

In November 1937, Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures bought the film rights of the original play for $200,000 ($3,589,000 in 2019).[6]

After seeing actor James Stewart portray "a sensitive, heart-grabbing role in MGM's Navy Blue and Gold", Frank Capra cast Stewart for the role of leading male character, Tony Kirby, to "[fit] his concept of idealized America".[7]

Barrymore's infirmity was incorporated into the plot of the film. His character was on crutches the entire movie, which was said to be due to an accident from sliding down the banister. In reality, it was due to his increasing arthritis – earlier in the year he had been forced to withdraw from the movie A Christmas Carol.[8]

Ann Miller, who plays Essie Carmichael (Ed Carmichael's wife), was only 15 when You Can't Take It with You was filmed.


Frank Nugent of The New York Times called the film "a grand picture, which will disappoint only the most superficial admirers of the play".[9] Variety called it "fine audience material and over the heads of no one. The comedy is wholly American, wholesome, homespun, human, appealing, and touching in turn." The review suggested that "it could have been edited down a bit here and there, though as standing it is never tiresome".[10] Film Daily wrote: "Smoothly directed, naturally acted and carefully produced, 'You Can't Take It With You' has all the elements of screen entertainment that the fans could wish for."[11] "Excellent", wrote Harrison's Reports. "Robert Riskin did a fine job in adapting it from the stage play for he wisely placed emphasis on the human rather than on the farcical side of the story; yet he did this without sacrificing any of the comedy angles."[12] John Mosher of The New Yorker thought that the stage version was superior, writing that many of the story's new additions for the screen made the film "a long one and at times a ponderous thing, the more so the further from the play the screen version strays".[13]

Reviewing the film in 2010, James Berardinelli wrote that it "hasn't fared as well as the director's better, more timeless offerings" due to the dated nature of screwball comedies and the "innocence permeating the movie that doesn't play as well during an era when audiences value darkness in even the lightest of comedies. Still, You Can't Take it with You provides a pleasant enough two hours along with a reminder of how era-specific the criteria for winning an Oscar are".[14]

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 95% from 76 reviews and an average rating of 7.50/10. The consensus summarizes: "It's predictably uplifting fare from Frank Capra, perhaps the most consciously uplifting of all great American directors – but thanks to immensely appealing performances and a nimble script, You Can't Take It with You is hard not to love."[15]

Academy Awards



You Can't Take it with You was adapted as a radio play on the October 2, 1939, broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with Edward Arnold, Robert Cummings and Fay Wray.

In popular culture

A line from this film, "Confidentially, she stinks!", said by Kolenkov the ballet master about one of his students, was used in a few Looney Tunes cartoons from the 1940s.[17]

Digital restoration

In 2013, Sony Colorworks and Prasad Corporation digitally restored the film, removing dirt, tears, scratches and other artifacts to emulate the film's original look.[18][19]


  1. ^ "Notes". Turner Classic Movies. Turner Entertainment Networks. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  2. ^ "A World Premiere of World Importance! (Advertisement)". Film Daily. New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc.: 8–9 August 25, 1938.
  3. ^ "Top Films and Stars". Variety. January 4, 1939. p. 10. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  4. ^ Joseph McBride, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success University Press of Mississippi, 1992 p 381
  5. ^ ​You Can't Take It With You​ at the Internet Broadway Database
  6. ^ Sklar, Robert; Zagarrio, Vito. Frank Capra: Authorship and the Studio System. ISBN 9781439904893. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  7. ^ Thomas, Tony (January 1997). A Wonderful Life: The Films and Career of James Stewart – Tony Thomas. ISBN 9780806519531. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  8. ^ Guida, Fred (1999). A Christmas Carol and Its Adaptations: A Critical Examination of Dickens's Story and Its Productions on Screen and Television. McFarland. pp. 95–98. ISBN 978-0-7864-2840-3.
  9. ^ The New York Times Film Reviews, Volume 2: 1932–1938. New York: The New York Times & Arno Press. 1970. p. 1527.
  10. ^ "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc. September 7, 1938. p. 12.
  11. ^ "Reviews". Film Daily. New York: Wid's Films and Film Folk, Inc.: 9 August 26, 1938.
  12. ^ "You Can't Take It with You". Harrison's Reports. New York: Harrison's Reports, Inc.: 150 September 17, 1938.
  13. ^ Mosher, John (September 10, 1938). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp. p. 79.
  14. ^ Berardinelli, James (May 6, 2010). "You Can't Take it with You". Reelviews. Retrieved September 14, 2015.
  15. ^ "You Can't Take It with You". Rotten Tomatoes.
  16. ^ "The 11th Academy Awards (1939) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  17. ^ "The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion: C".
  18. ^ "Sony Pictures' Rita Belda on Film Grain, 4K, and Restoring a Screwball Classic". Studio Daily. December 23, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  19. ^ Altman, Randi (November 18, 2013). "Capra's classic 'It Happened One Night' restored in 4K – postPerspective – Randi Altman's". postPerspective. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  • Hart, Moss; Kaufman, George S. (1936). You Can't Take It with You (Archival manuscript ed.). New York: Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. OCLC 44091928.

External links

This page was last edited on 19 March 2023, at 12:26
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