Alice Sycamore: You ought to hear Grandpa on that subject. You know he says most people nowadays are run by fear. Fear of what they eat, fear of what they drink, fear of their jobs, their future, fear of their health. They’re scared to save money, and they’re scared to spend it. You know what his pet aversion is? The people who commercialize on fear, you know they scare you to death so they can sell you something you don’t need.
My usual technique of Capra watching – pretending the whole thing is a fairy tale – didn’t really work with this one.
A.P. Kirby (Edward Albert) is a munitions dealer who has grand plans to buy up all his rivals (with a little assistance from the U.S. Congress). His plan depends on his ability to buy up all the property surrounding his chief rival’s factory for some reason. Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore) stands in Kirby’s way since he cannot be persuaded to sell his house for any amount of money. Vanderhof is a free spirit and prefers to live as a “lily of the field”. He and his household are devoted to doing solely what they love to do, from ballet dancing to painting to illegal fireworks manufacture.
Vanderhof’s granddaughter Alice (Jean Arthur) is secretary to Kirby’s son Tony (James Stewart). The two are madly in love and want to marry. However, Tony’s parents look down on Alice and she won’t marry without their approval. She invites the parents over for dinner to meet her family. Every possible aspect of the event goes wrong. With Spring Byington as Alice’s mother, Ann Miller as her sister and Mischa Auer as a Russian dancing instructor.
My high school’s theater arts class put on the Kauffman and Hart play and I am quite sure it was not so preachy as this movie is. There is a strong anti-big business message and quite a bit of folksy home-spun philosophy coming out of the lips of Grandpa Vanderhof. It’s not that I disagree with any of it but it sure does weigh the comedy down. The acting cannot be faulted, however. I thought Edward Arnold was particularly good.
You Can’t Take It with You won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. It was Oscar-nominated in the categories of Best Supporting Actress (Spring Byington); Best Writing, Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Sound, Recording; and Best Film Editing.