You Can’t Take It With You (1938)


The son of a cold-hearted tycoon gets engaged to his secretary whose family are the antithesis of everything his snobbish upper class parents believe in.

Essentially a class comedy from Frank Capra, You Can’t Take It With You is one of those films that expounds the philosophy of “money isn’t everything” and – being a Capra film – you know right from the outset how it’s going to end. James Stewart and Jean Arthur make a cute couple, although I couldn’t help the feeling that Stewart’s character saw nowhere near enough screen time, spending most of it standing in the background smirking at the proceedings. Capra usually treads the line between sincerity and sentimentality with supreme skill, but this story felt rather too contrived to me. Jean Arthur’s family felt too forced into screwball wackiness to the point where I found them irritating rather than endearing and Edward Arnold’s change of heart at the end was much too convenient and unconvincing. I would also have to say that I found the “hero” of the piece Lionel Barrymore a little too self righteous for my tastes; I personally thought his spiteful attack on Edward Arnold in the jail cell came across as plain obnoxious.

Not funny enough to be considered screwball comedy and too implausible to be considered drama, this is far from Capra’s best.



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