I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…

Monday, July 30, 2012

You Can't Take it with You, 1938

Not Rated

This delightful little comedy is an adaptation of a Broadway stage play and is directed by Frank Capra (who brought us one of my all-time holiday favorites eight years later, “It’s a Wonderful Life”). The story follows the eccentric Vanderhof/Sycamore/Carmichael extended family that lives in a large house in Manhattan. The granddaughter of the family, Alice, works at a bank alongside her beau Tony (who is the bank owner’s son and second in command). Mayhem and comedy ensue as Alice invites Tony (played adorably by Jimmy Stewart) and his uppity family over for dinner… only they come a night early and surprise the Vanderhofs. It turns out that Tony actually planned on having them come over a night early in order to catch the Vanderhofs in their natural state (and not trying to put on airs for his wealthy family). This, naturally, leads to a heated argument between Alice and Tony… will they get back together!? Each actor in this film performs his/her character’s uniqueness perfectly; it’s what makes this film so fun to watch. If you’re a fan of my Christmastime fave, you surely won’t be disappointed with this one.

For those of you who have seen “It’s a Wonderful Life”, you’ll see a few familiar faces in this film… for one, the lovable James Stewart (who’s also in Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”). Lionel Barrymore (Drew’s granduncle) who plays the crotchety miser Mr. Potter, plays the simple-minded but wise Mr. Vanderhof (aka Grandpa) in quite an opposite role. You’ll also recognize George Bailey’s father. I guess Mr. Capra enjoyed working with people he felt comfortable with and accustomed to… although I do know that back then, actors had contracts with studios, so he may not have had any say in the matter.

The title of the film comes from the dialogue that Mr. Vanderhof has with Mr. Kirby (the bank owner) during their surprise dinner visit. Mr. Vanderhof doesn’t see the point of stashing riches, of “making more money than you can ever use. You can’t take it with you, so what good is it? The only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends.”

Interesting little thing I noticed: while cleaning the house, one character appropriately starts whistling the tune “Whistle While You Work”. Now I’m sure you all know that this song is originally from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”, but did you know that it came out only the year before? It had already become so popular and engrained in pop culture (just like another Disney song reference in the Academy’s first comedy win “It Happened One Night”.)

This film’s win was a bit of a surprise given it was a comedy. It had an impressive seven nominations but only received two wins (including Best Director). It was up against “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, “Boys Town”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, “Four Daughters”, “The Citadel”, “Grand Illusion”, “Jezebel”, “Test Pilot”, and “Pygmalion”. I haven’t seen any of those though I’ve seen the “modern day” version of “Pygmalion”: “MyFair Lady”.


The best scene in this film is when the Kirbys come over for “dinner” and surprise the clan in all their glory. Each family member is a little oddball in their own way and you simultaneously feel embarrassment and delight in their new predicament. Since the food was not going to be ordered and made until the next day, Penny Sycamore is in a tizzy about what to do for dinner. Mr. Vanderhof seems unaffected and simply lists some items they have on hand and can prepare in a hurry: “Get some beer, canned salmon, frankfurters, canned corn, and sauerkraut”. I was crying laughing watching Mrs. Kirby’s reaction as she looks as if she’s about to vomit.


I couldn’t helped but be reminded of this Bible verse after Grandpa’s little speech to Mr. Kirby: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” Matthew 6:19-20. In today’s society, we place a lot of emphasis on material goods. Keep in mind we can’t take them with us and should be practicing important virtues of patience and love with one another here on earth.

Along those lines and at the risk of sounding cliché: money can’t make you happy. You can’t buy your happiness- it comes from within. And it’s what you do with your money, property, belongings that really matters.

I’d like to revise Mr. Vanderhof’s last part of his lesson though… you can take the love of your friends AND family and the kindness you bestowed on others. It’s important to do nice things for others (not just the people you know well).

We’re all embarrassed by our families. But remember, our individual quirks and insanities, if you will, are our own family inheritance. So c’mon- let’s put the fun back in dysfunctional! J

1 comment:

  1. My sister-in-law embarrasses me constantly. Her name starts with A and ends in I, so this movie would likely hit too close to home. Joel