Sometimes, films regarded as classics from days of yore don’t hold up under modern day scrutiny. They can be regarded as products of their time. Then either films, regardless of their era, hold up remarkably well and function simultaneously as representatives of their time period and timeless.
Frank Capra’s “You Can’t Take It With You” falls into the latter category, as 68 years have done little to diminish the entertainment value of the eleventh winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. This is the first of three collaborations for director Capra and his star Jimmy Stewart, and it’s easy to see that there’s a chemistry there between the two.
Stewart stars as Tony Kirby, the son of successful banker Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold). Kirby’s bank has just been granted a monopoly on munitions that will make his company boatloads of cash. He wants to buy the land surrounding his competitor’s business, effectively taking him out of the game. They just need to convince one family to sell their home, a task charged to Kirby’s real estate broker John Blakely (Clarence Wilson).
Meanwhile, Tony’s interests are a little bit purer. He is in love with the company stenographer Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur), and wants to marry her. Alice is concerned about her ragtag family, including Grandpa Vanderhof (Oscar winner Lionel Barrymore) and her mother Penny (Oscar nominee Spring Byington), being approved by Tony’s white collar parents.
As it turns out, Alice’s family occupies the house that Tony’s family wishes to purchase. This sets up a natural conflict not unlike the Capulets and the Montagues. Capra does a masterful job managing the characters’ motivations and placing them within a screwball comedy. There’s an innocence here that permeates the film, which is absent from more modern offerings, and that gives it a timeless charm.
Capra is regarded as one of the finest directors in cinema history for a reason, and “You Can’t Take It With You” provides ample evidence for that assertion. It’s a true delight to revisit, and a worthy entry in the pantheon of Best Picture winners.
Three special features are presented on this Blu-ray, including a commentary track by Frank Capra Jr. & author Catherine Kellison. Also, a 25-minute feature called “Frank Capra Jr. Remembers… You Can’t Take It With You,” which is a really insightful addition. Finally, the original theatrical trailer is her as well. The packaging is very nice too, as it includes an attached booklet with production notes and cast bios. Very nice selection and presentation here.
Columbia Pictures presents You Can’t Take It With You. Screenplay by Robert Riskin, based upon the play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. Directed by Frank Capra. Starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Edward Arnold, Mischa Auer, and Ann Miller. Run Time: 126 minutes. Not Rated. Released: December 8, 2015.