You Can't Take It With You


You Can't Take It With You

Critics Consensus

It's predictably uplifting fare from Frank Capra, perhaps the most consciously uplifting of all great American directors -- but thanks to immensely appealing performances and a nimble script, You Can't Take It With You is hard not to love.



Total Count: 36


Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,361
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You Can't Take It With You Photos

Movie Info

Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's whimsical Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play +You Can't Take It With You was transformed into a paean to populism by director Frank Capra and screenwriter Robert Riskin. This is the story of the zany Sycamore household, presided over by Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore), a former businessman who has turned his back on commerce to enjoy life. At the Sycamores', everyone does just what he or she pleases. Penny Sycamore (Spring Byington), Grandpa's daughter, has become a novelist because someone delivered a typewriter to her home by mistake. Penny's husband makes firecrackers in his basement with the help of Mr. DePinna (Halliwell Hobbes), an iceman who showed up at the Sycamore doorstep one day and never left. Their daughter, Essie (Ann Miller), imagines that she's a prima ballerina, even though her dour teacher, Boris (Mischa Auer), assesses her work with, "Confidentially, it steenks!" Essie's husband, Ed (Dub Taylor), who'd rather play a xylophone than work, spends his free time selling Essie's candy, wrapping each package in paper from a used printing press that dispenses anarchistic slogans. The one normal member of the household is Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur), in love with wealthy Tony Kirby (James Stewart). Naturally, when the stuffy, aristocratic Kirbys come to the Sycamores' for dinner, the event is a disaster, capped with the arrest of everyone in the household. Hart and Kaufman's third act found the previously judgmental Kirby softening his attitude toward the freewheeling Sycamore clan, admitting that he's never had so much fun in his life. Screenwriter Riskin altered the focus of the play by throwing out the third act and concentrating upon Tony Kirby's father, Kirby Sr., who as played by Edward Arnold is transformed from a stock stuffed shirt into a ruthless, grasping tycoon, eager to buy up every house on the Sycamores' block to make room for a munitions plant. The film thus became the story of Kirby's regeneration at the hands of the carefree Sycamores. Enough of the play's screwball elements are retained to compensate for Riskin's speechifying and plot distortions (though the softening of one of the play's vital ingredients, Grandpa's refusal to pay his income tax, borders on the sacrilegious). You Can't Take It With You earned several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (Capra's third Oscar).

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Jean Arthur
as Alice Sycamore
Lionel Barrymore
as Martin Vanderhof
James Stewart
as Tony Kirby
Edward Arnold
as Anthony P. Kirby
Mischa Auer
as Kolenkhov
Ann Miller
as Essie Carmichael
Samuel S. Hinds
as Paul Sycamore
Spring Byington
as Penny Sycamore
Donald Meek
as Poppins
Dub Taylor
as Ed Carmichael
Mary Forbes
as Mrs. Anthony Kirby
Clarence Wilson
as John Blakely
Josef Swickard
as Professor
Ann Doran
as Maggie O'Neill
Bodil Rosing
as Mrs. Schmidt
Charles Lane
as Henderson
Dorothy Babbs
as Dance Teacher
Pierre Watkin
as Attorney
Edwin Maxwell
as Attorney
Russell Hicks
as Attorney
Byron Foulger
as Kirby's Assistant
Ian Wolfe
as Kirby's Secretary
Kit Guard
as Inmate
James Burke
as Detective
Ward Bond
as Detective
Edward Hearn
as Court Attendant
Edward Keane
as Board member
Dick Curtis
as Strong arm man
John Ince
as Neighbor
Paul Irving
as Office Manager
Eddie Kane
as Kirby's Attorney
Gene Morgan
as Reporter
Lou Davis
as Reporter
Lester Dorr
as Reporter
Jack Gardner
as Reporter
Bill Dill
as Reporter
Bill Lally
as Reporter
Walter Walker
as Mr. Leach
Robert Greig
as Lord Melville
Edwin Stanley
as Executive
Lawrence Wheat
as Secretary
Edward Earle
as Bank Manager
Boyd Irwin
as Attorney
Pat West
as Expressman
Margaret Mann
as Neighbor
John Hamilton
as Capt. Drake
Laura Treadwell
as Mrs. Drake
Doris Rankin
as Mrs. Leach
Hilda Plowright
as Lady Melville
Jim Farley
as Police Sergeant
Edgar Dearing
as Plainclothes policeman
Lee Phelps
as Bailiff
James Millican
as Policeman
Bud Wiser
as Policeman
Jack Grant
as Policeman
Bruce Mitchell
as Policeman
Vernon Dent
as Expressman
Anne Cornwall
as Blakely's Secretary
Larry Wheat
as Secretary
Frank Mills
as Trustee
Alex Woloshin
as Russian General in Jail
Dick Rush
as Bank Guard
Jimmy Anderson
as Bank Porter
Dick French
as Bank Clerk
Carlie Taylor
as Bank Clerk
Bruce Sidney
as Bank Clerk
Arthur Murray
as Elevator Boy
Joe Bordeaux
as Taxi Driver
Mario Rotolo
as Accordion Player
Nell Roy
as Woman
Frank Austin
as Neighbor (uncredited)
Harry A. Bailey
as Neighbor (uncredited)
Beatrice Blinn
as Neighbor (uncredited)
Beatrice Curtis
as Neighbor (uncredited)
Howard Davies
as Neighbor (uncredited)
Betty Farrington
as Neighbor (uncredited)
Eddie Featherston
as Worried Neighbor (uncredited)
Bess Flowers
as Martin's Neighbor in Courtroom (uncredited)
Joe "Corky" Geil
as Child Dancer (uncredited)
Eva McKenzie
as Neighbor (uncredited)
Stella LeSaint
as Neighbor (uncredited)
Bessie Wade
as Neighbor (uncredited)
Dorothy Vernon
as Neighbor (uncredited)
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Critic Reviews for You Can't Take It With You

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (8)

Audience Reviews for You Can't Take It With You

  • Apr 26, 2016
    Frank Capra would win his third Oscar for Best Director for the 1938 Best Picture winner "You Can't Take It With You" starring James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore and Jean Arthur. The Best Picture win gave him five of the six Oscars he would win, he would win an Oscar for Best Documentary in 1943. In his film career, Capra made "rags to riches" stories about self-made men, and in tune with his political beliefs (he was a lifelong Republican who opposed Roosevelt's New Deal programs), were entirely made without the assistance of government. His characters were the common man up against those who are greedy. His films often had a moral character to them as well relying upon the goodness in human nature, the value of unselfishness and dedication to hard work and feel-goodness of his films led film critics to refer to many of his films as "Capra-corn" or "Capraesque." The film begins with Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold), a shrewd businessman, returning to New York after a trip to Washington, D.C., where he notifies his staff that his plan is in motion to become a munitions monopoly won't be interferred with by the government. Kirby realizes the threat of war and the possibility of making millions. His plan can only be realized if he is able to put a competitor out of business. He plans to do this by buying up a 12 block radius around his competitor, he is notified that there is one holdout, Grandpa Vanderhof, a kind, old gentleman played by Lionel Barrymore. Kirby gives explicit orders to his real estate broker to make him sell his property by any means possible, even force if necessary. The real estate broker John Blakely (Clarence Wilson) is a stressed out man with an eye twitch, who is denied his commission until Vanderhof sells. Kirby's son, Anthony Kirby, Jr. (James Stewart), called Tony, falls in love with stenographer Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur), who is Vanderhof's granddaughter, and proposes marriage to her. Unbeknownst to everyone is that this is the house that refuses to sell. Tony and Alice come from different worlds. Alice came from a family where her grandfather stopped working in order to have fun and taught his family to value fun over anything else. Tony has been brought up in a banker's family told that he will be a banker. Alice's family is much more accepting of Tony then his family is of them. Capra has always shown the upper class to be snobbish towards the everyday working class in his films. Alice comes up with an idea, she asks Tony to invite his family to her house to meet her family. The families are so different and contrast each other. The Sycamores are a madcap mischivous bunch just trying to enjoy life in the simplest of terms. The Kirbys are stiff, snobby and absolutely uncomfortable and embarrassed to be out of their elements in the Sycamore home. During the first meeting between the families, everything that could go wrong goes wrong. The police comes to question them about leaflets they have been printing going into the granddaughter's Love Dreams cookies that say things like "Watch out for the Revolution" and "The Red Flag is sweeping the country." The police come to the conclusion that they are Communists and suddenly dozens of fireworks go off. Now the Kirbys and Sycamores are locked up in the drunk tank in the local jail. The film leads up to a courtroom scene that shows Kirby starting to have a little change of heart, though his wife isn't exactly warming up to the idea. Lionel Barrymore is absolutely delightful as the kind grandpa Vanderhof. He steals the show amongst a great cast. The movie has some great moments, but it has a slow pace. It builds up for two hours to an unsatisfactory ending. It's a bit more dated than other great Capra films like "It Happened One Night," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and "It's a Wonderful Life." Kirby may have all the money in the world and all the power, but as Vanderhof points out to him, he has no friends. What's all that wealth worth? You can't take it with you when you're dead.
    Joseph B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 12, 2015
    In a time where It's a Wonderful Life is known now as one of the greatest films of all time, I think a lot of people forget about the greatness that is, You Can't Take it With You. Capra's films often deal a lot with the essence of community and family that trumps all. This film does just that and does it to perfection. It stars James Stewart but the entire cast is incredible. Stewart is very young and in the early stages of his career so the rest of the actors really nail each and every scene they are in. In particular, Lionel Barrymore has about as good as of a performance you can have and the entire Vanderhof family gets their time to shine. Much like It's a Wonderful Life, this film is not only very enjoyable, but it's highly re-watchable. Capra does a great job of directing his actors to some of their best performances of their career, along with creating a unique household full of what is probably one of my favorite families in film history. Everyone loves the Vanderhof's, and so do I. The film is very light hearted and I can understand if people think it could be corny, much like It's a Wonderful Life, but I don't think there's anything wrong with having a story that everyone can enjoy. It's the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet/Cinderella but it's told and structured in a unique way that really hits home. It's a predictable but really sweet script that plays out just that way on screen. I love everything about You Can't Take it With You. +Sweet story +Everyone in the family is interesting +Twist on the R&J story +Barrymore carries the film 10/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Jun 03, 2014
    A far superior effort by Capra than It's a Wonderful Life but unfortunately this film gets overshadowed. I find the Sycamore family members to be terribly wonderful in their eccentric existence. It breathes life into a lovely film.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 19, 2013
    'You Can't Take It with You' is the only Capra film I've seen that feels artificial. The reason why it isn't successful is because there's no way the Sycamore family could function the way they do. None of them have jobs, so how is it that they're all living great in a large apartment in New York City? And why did it take so long for Grandpa Vanderhof to be arrested for tax evasion? The list of improbabilities goes on and on. Of course, none of this should matter because of the film's overall message, which is incredibly sweet, but it does. The outcome of 'You Can't Take It with You' would be entirely different if realism was taken into account, but seeing as the film is essentially a fantasy that was designed to appeal to an audience looking for hope in a time of depression, I can't fault its creators for making it schmaltzy. Capra made it with the best of intentions and it shows, but in today's time, the whole thing just seems kind of ridiculous.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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