You Can't Take It with You (1938)

126-127 mins | Screwball comedy | 29 September 1938

Director:

Frank Capra

Writer:

Robert Riskin

Producer:

Frank Capra

Cinematographer:

Joseph Walker

Editor:

Gene Havlick

Production Designer:

Stephen Goosson
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HISTORY

The play You Can't Take It with You won the Pulitzer Prize for the 1936-37 season, and was still playing on Broadway when this film was released. A 23 Dec 1936 HR news item reported that Paramount had "taken an option" on the play, but no further information about Paramount's involvement has been found. According to the film's production notes, Columbia paid $200,000 for the film rights to the play. Although a HR news item stated that Tony Labriola was being tested for a part in the picture, his participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA Director Joseph I. Breen was concerned about the interactions between "Donald" and "Rheba" and their employers, the Vanderhof family. In a letter to Harry Cohn, Breen stated: "[when] showing the negro characters Reba [sic] and Donald, care should be taken to avoid objection in Southern sections of this country where the showing of negroes in association with whites has sometimes been subjected to criticism by the public generally and to deletion by political censor boards. Such criticism has been based on the feeling that negroes in pictures have been shown on terms too familiar and of 'social equality.'"
       You Can't Take It with You marked the screen-acting debut of Dub Taylor. The film received Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director and was nominated for Supporting Actress (Spring Byington), Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing and Sound Recording. It was also voted one of the ten best pictures of 1938 by the FD ... More Less

The play You Can't Take It with You won the Pulitzer Prize for the 1936-37 season, and was still playing on Broadway when this film was released. A 23 Dec 1936 HR news item reported that Paramount had "taken an option" on the play, but no further information about Paramount's involvement has been found. According to the film's production notes, Columbia paid $200,000 for the film rights to the play. Although a HR news item stated that Tony Labriola was being tested for a part in the picture, his participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA Director Joseph I. Breen was concerned about the interactions between "Donald" and "Rheba" and their employers, the Vanderhof family. In a letter to Harry Cohn, Breen stated: "[when] showing the negro characters Reba [sic] and Donald, care should be taken to avoid objection in Southern sections of this country where the showing of negroes in association with whites has sometimes been subjected to criticism by the public generally and to deletion by political censor boards. Such criticism has been based on the feeling that negroes in pictures have been shown on terms too familiar and of 'social equality.'"
       You Can't Take It with You marked the screen-acting debut of Dub Taylor. The film received Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director and was nominated for Supporting Actress (Spring Byington), Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing and Sound Recording. It was also voted one of the ten best pictures of 1938 by the FD Poll of Critics. A NYT article states that the picture was shot at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, CA in sight of the sets constructed for Lost Horizon , Capra's previous film. On 23 Aug 1938, Columbia held a special, international press preview of the film. On that same day, Capra's three-year-old son John died of a cerebral hemorrhage. According to Capra's autobiography, he originally wanted Fay Bainter for the role of Penny Sycamore. Modern sources list the following technical credits: Casting dir Bobby Mayo; and Cam crew William Jolley, Sam Rosen, Lee Davis, and Victor Scheurich. Also listed are the following cast members: Edward Hearn ( Court attendant ); Eddy Chandler ( Plainclothes policeman ); and John Hamilton and Major Sam Harris ( Diners ). On 2 Oct 1939, Edward Arnold and Robert Cummings performed a radio broadcast of You Can't Take It with You for Lux Radio Theater . The play has been revived many times, including television presentations such as The Fabulous Sycamores , a segment of the NBC Network's Ford Theater , broadcast in 1955, directed by Edward Buzzell and starring Cecil Kellaway as "Grandpa"; a 1979 CBS presentation of the play directed by Paul Bogart and starring Art Carney as "Grandpa"; and a 1980s Broadway revival, taped and shown subsequently on television, directed by Ellis Raab and starring Jason Robards as "Grandpa." More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 Aug 38
p. 3.
Film Daily
26 Aug 38
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 36
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 37
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 38
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 38
p. 48.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 38
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 38
pp. 1-3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 39
p. 1.
Motion Picture Daily
24 Aug 38
pp. 1-2.
Motion Picture Herald
18 Jun 38
p. 37.
Motion Picture Herald
27 Aug 38
p. 52.
New York Times
23-May-37
---
New York Times
15-May-38
---
New York Times
21-Aug-38
---
New York Times
2 Sep 38
p. 21.
New York Times
24 Feb 39
p. 14.
New York Times
25 Feb 39
p. 14.
Variety
7 Sep 38
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
[Art dir] assoc
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Miss Arthur's gowns
Miss Arthur's gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Press rep
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play You Can't Take It with You by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart (New York, 14 Dec 1936).
SONGS
"Polly-Wolly-Doodle," traditional.
DETAILS
Release Date:
29 September 1938
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 1 September 1938
Production Date:
25 April--29 June 1938
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
6 September 1938
Copyright Number:
LP8269
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Victor High Fidelity Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
126-127
Length(in feet):
11,571
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
4387
SYNOPSIS

Anthony P. Kirby, a ruthless banker, is establishing a government-sanctioned munitions monopoly by buying all the land surrounding a competitor's factory, thereby forcing him out of business. His only obstacle is Grandpa Martin Vanderhof, an eccentric who refuses to sell his home. Grandpa's spirited family consists of his daughter, Penny Sycamore, a playwright; her husband Paul, who constructs fireworks; their daughter, Essie Carmichael; Essie's husband Ed, who delivers Essie's homemade candies; and their other daughter, Alice, stenographer to Kirby's son Tony. Tony and Alice are in love, much to the dismay of Tony's mother, whose snobbishness dampens Alice's enthusiasm when Tony proposes to her. That night, Tony meets Alice's family for the first time and is charmed by them. Alice asks Tony to bring his parents to her house for dinner, but Tony, fearing that her family will put on a false front, comes a night early. Chaos ensues, as neither family is quite prepared for the other. Just as the Kirbys are leaving, the police arrive to arrest Ed for flyers he put in Essie's candy boxes, which advertise Paul's fireworks but which the police mistake for Communist propaganda. Just then the fireworks in the cellar are inadvertently set off, and everyone runs out of the house. They are all taken to jail, where Kirby insults the other prisoners and Grandpa loses his temper, telling Kirby he is a failure because he has no friends. Kirby is affected but remains silent, even when Grandpa gives him a harmonica as an apology. They are brought before the night judge, who dismisses the disturbing the peace charge against Grandpa, but fines ... +


Anthony P. Kirby, a ruthless banker, is establishing a government-sanctioned munitions monopoly by buying all the land surrounding a competitor's factory, thereby forcing him out of business. His only obstacle is Grandpa Martin Vanderhof, an eccentric who refuses to sell his home. Grandpa's spirited family consists of his daughter, Penny Sycamore, a playwright; her husband Paul, who constructs fireworks; their daughter, Essie Carmichael; Essie's husband Ed, who delivers Essie's homemade candies; and their other daughter, Alice, stenographer to Kirby's son Tony. Tony and Alice are in love, much to the dismay of Tony's mother, whose snobbishness dampens Alice's enthusiasm when Tony proposes to her. That night, Tony meets Alice's family for the first time and is charmed by them. Alice asks Tony to bring his parents to her house for dinner, but Tony, fearing that her family will put on a false front, comes a night early. Chaos ensues, as neither family is quite prepared for the other. Just as the Kirbys are leaving, the police arrive to arrest Ed for flyers he put in Essie's candy boxes, which advertise Paul's fireworks but which the police mistake for Communist propaganda. Just then the fireworks in the cellar are inadvertently set off, and everyone runs out of the house. They are all taken to jail, where Kirby insults the other prisoners and Grandpa loses his temper, telling Kirby he is a failure because he has no friends. Kirby is affected but remains silent, even when Grandpa gives him a harmonica as an apology. They are brought before the night judge, who dismisses the disturbing the peace charge against Grandpa, but fines him $100 for possession of fireworks. Kirby's lawyers offer to pay the fine, but Grandpa's friends pay it instead. The judge will not dismiss the disturbing the peace charge against the Kirbys, however, unless they explain why they were there. Because Mrs. Kirby forbids her husband to reveal the truth, Grandpa covers for them by saying it involved buying the house. Alice then tells the judge the truth and tells Tony to forget their romance, while reporters push in and cause a small riot. Soon after, Alice disappears and not even her family knows where she is. When Alice writes to tell them that she is in the country and that she will never return, Grandpa sells the house so that the family can be together. Kirby's plans progress because of the sale, and just before the board meeting where he will announce the final settlements, he is visited by Ramsey, the competitor he ousted, and Tony. Ramsey warns Kirby that he will die friendless, while Tony tells him that he is quitting the firm and leaving home. Shaken by news of Ramsey's death from heart failure moments later, Kirby is unable to attend the board meeting. Back at Grandpa's house, everyone is packing when Tony arrives. Alice arrives also, and although she is distraught that Grandpa sold the house, she locks herself in her room rather than talk to Tony. When Kirby shows up, seeking Grandpa's advice on how to win back Tony, Grandpa suggests they play a duet of "Polly-Wolly-Doodle" on their harmonicas, and their music cheers everyone up. The dancing and singing begin again, and when Tony and Alice appear, astonished at what they see, Kirby nods his approval at them. Later, at dinner, Grandpa says grace, thankful that the house has been sold back to him and harmony has been restored. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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