Saturday, January 21, 2012

You Can't Take It with You

Business tycoon Mr. Kirby (Edward Arnold) is just within reach of cornering the market and buying out his top competitor. With the imminent acquisition, now he wishes to buy all the neighboring houses in order to expand his empire. Now, the only thing standing in his way is Mr. Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore), an eccentric old man who abhors consumerism and has no wish to sell his quaint little house which is inhabited by an assortment of oddballs. As Mr. Kirby sends his cronies to finagle the old coot out of his house, matters grow more complicated when it comes to light that his son and heir apparent (James Stewart) plans on marrying the old coot's granddaughter (Jean Arthur)! "You Can't Take It with You" must be the film where they added corn to Frank Capra's last name in order to describe hokey fare of some of his film. This sometimes amusing but often cloying Depression era feel good film earned Capra his second directing Oscar while also taking the top prize. Arnold and Barrymore (playing the anti-Mr. Potter) are excellent in their roles as the weathered and different minded patriarchs as are Stewart and Arthur who are delightful as the bemused lovebirds. My greatest problem with this film was with the carefree members of the Vanderhof household, whose tacky behavior is often hard to stomach. Capra, and his longtime screenwriter Robert Riskin, had a reputation for finding meaning in the hokeyness of his films. In "You Can't Take It with You" Capra loses sight of greatness and lets the corn take over.