I think most people are embarrassed by their family at one point or another. It’s almost natural at some ages. But when we grow out of that and can step back and see that we love our folks for all the odd things we used to be shy about, what a great revelation.
In Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take it With You, greedy company owner Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold) is about to create a monopoly, all he needs is to buy one last house. His son, and therefore vice president, Tony (James Stewart), is less interested in business and is seeing his stenographer, Alice (Jean Arthur). As he talks of marriage there is that need to meet her family.
Alice’s grandfather, Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore), owns that last house that Kirby needs for his monopoly. Inside that house, holds a family doing whatever it is they love most. Alice’s mother is writing a play, her father builds fireworks, and her sister dances to her heart’s delight. The family’s house is always buzzing with music, movement and visiting friends. When Tony first meets everyone, he’s bowled over seeing everyone doing just as they please with no interest or concern with money. We can see an instant admiration for the idea, but with his business upbringing becomes confused by it.
As the big day for the Kirbys to come over and meet the Vanderhofs nears, Alice politely asks her sister not to dance, nor her mother to talk about her play. It’s normal for us to sweep a few things under the rug when we’re expecting company. However, Tony wants his parents to meet Alice’s family in their natural state and brings them over a day early, acting like he got the days mixed up. He could not have come over to a more hilarious scene. The rest of the film is a wonderful misadventure and comparison of the miserably rich and happily poor families.
One of my favorite moments is the way Mr. Kirby is portrayed when he first meets the Vanderhofs. He looks like a miserable toad stewing in unsavory mud. The family offers him a chair, that every time he moves a certain way it hit him in the back of the head. He sinks deeper in his muck with every annoying jolt. The family tries to be friendly and make polite conversation, but it turns to the fact that Kirby has horrible indigestion, which they diagnose as ulcers. I doubt a more miserable creature had ever entered that happy home.
You Can’t Take it With You is full of wonderfully fun moments and great values about the importance of family and living happily. As kids, we are encouraged to pursue whatever it is that we love to do. Sadly, as we grow into adulthood and find our lives ruled by money, that can become more difficult. This film may be a little unrealistic, but it puts everything into the correct perspective. I’d rather be a happy film-blogger than an office slave caged in a cubical, I’m thankful for this opportunity and no one has scolded me for it yet.
“Well, Sir, here we are again. We’ve been getting along pretty good for quite a while now – we’re certainly much obliged. Remember all we ask is just to go along the way we are, keep our health; as far as anything else is concerned, we leave that up to you. Thank you.”