You Can’t Take It With You parents guide

You Can’t Take It With You Parent Review

Overall B

Tony Kirby’s (Jimmy Stewart) and Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) may think they are the perfect match, but the different priorities between his wealthy parents and her eccentric family may tear the two apart.

Violence B-
Sexual Content B+
Profanity A-
Substance Use C+

You Can’t Take It With You is rated Not Rated Approved

Movie Review

What happens when a man of good family and great wealth falls in love with a nobody that has nothing? Major objections result – that’s what.

NEW: Listen to our Parent Previews Podcast and take control of media and technology in your family!

And so it is for Tony Kirby’s (Jimmy Stewart), son of business tycoon Anthony B. Kirby (Edward Arnold) who is on the brink of the most lucrative deal of his career. (Kirby Sr. just needs one ornery holdout to agree to sell his property). Yet despite the prospect of enormous profits, Tony Jr. is more interested in in his new secretary Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) than on being the vise president of Dad’s growing company.

Alice, on the other hand, is afraid their differences in social status might present a barrier to a possible future together, so she suggests Tony bring his parents to meet her relatives before the pair announces an engagement. Knowing just how eccentric her clan really can appear, Alice has reason to worry. The heart of her home is her grandfather, Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore) a strong proponent of perusing one’s passions rather than the almighty dollar. Consequently, her mother (Spring Byington) is consumed by her hobbies of writing and painting. Still, those pursuits are far less alarming than her father’s (Samuel S. Hinds) rocket building or her brother-in-law’s (Dub Taylor) fetish for printing revolutionary brochures. Then there is her sister (Ann Miller) who fancies herself a ballerina, an intense Russian dance teacher (Mischa Auer), and a couple other regular guests with equally crazy pastimes. With these concerns in mind, Alice makes the household swear they will be on their best behavior when her important visitors arrive.

But Tony is confident in his ability to get whatever he wants from his doting parents. Certain their concessions will extend to being allowed to marry whomever he choses, he intentionally gives his folks the wrong date for the party to ensure they see his perspective in-laws in their true character.

When the snobbish Kirby’s arrive for dinner a day ahead of schedule, they do indeed catch the Sycamore entourage unprepared. The bad situation gets progressively worse, offending Tony’s priggish mother (Mary Forbes), and ruffling Alice’s working-class pride. Tensions get even more explosive when Kirby Sr. learns that Grandpa Vanderhof is the man who has refused to sell his house to make room for his proposed factory.

Anyone familiar with Director Frank Capra’s work will see his signature written all over this screenplay. Touting his favorite themes of the importance of friends over fortune and family over fame, the script reminds the greedy Anthony B. Kirby (and the audience too) that when it comes to monetary gains, we can’t take it with us. The anti-materialistic message of this 1938 movie played very well to its depression-era audience, and won the film two Oscars (Best Picture and Best Director).

Today’s viewers may be a little more critical of the production – especially those who are more familiar with another of Capra’s classics, It’s a Wonderful Life. Similarities between the two are plentiful. Many of the same cast members appear in both, and each features a scene where donations from average people saves the penniless protagonists from a heartless bigwig. Sadly, the over-the-top antics of Alice’s family and the unrealistic notion that work or pay the tax man are optional activities, pushes the plot into the realm of fantasy and robs believability from some of its well-meaning messages. Despite these flaws, one thing remains true even after all the years since the movie’s theatrical début: investing in strong relationships always pays off far better than chasing financial security. (And no one can object to that!)

Directed by Frank Capra. Starring Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore. Running time: 126 minutes. Theatrical release November 3, 1938. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in You Can’t Take It With You here.

You Can’t Take It With You Parents Guide

How do you feel about Mr. Vanderhof’s advice about spending time in the pursuit of your passions? What are some of the benefits of this philosophy? What are some of possible pitfalls? How do you try to balance work and play in your life?