Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

And now for my entry in the Fifth Annual Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon, we have the 1938 screwball comedy You Can’t Take It With You, starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart and Edward Arnold!

Banker Anthony Kirby (Edward Arnold) is trying to create a monopoly on munitions by buying up all the property around a competitor. However, he can’t get his hands on one home, which infuriates him. That home belongs to Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore), who refuses to sell at any price. His granddaughter, Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) works for Kirby’s son, Tony (James Stewart) and has fallen in love with him. Alice insists on Tony’s parents meeting her family, but Tony purposely brings them over for dinner the day before, in order for his parents to see what her family is really like. However, things go wrong, and they are all arrested. When Alice sees how much Tony’s mother doesn’t like her family, Alice decides to break off the engagement and disappears.

Well, since I’m doing this for a blogathon on the Barrymore family, I suppose I should have *SOMETHING* to say about Lionel Barrymore. 😉 At the time, his arthritis was really bothering him, leaving him so stiff he could hardly walk, and required hourly shots to help ease the pain. But he wanted to do the part of Grandpa Vanderhof, and decided to try doing it on crutches. It was written into the script for the movie that his character had injured his foot sliding down a bannister on a dare from his granddaughter, and, considering how well Lionel does with the part, I believe it! Sadly, even on crutches, he was still in a lot of pain, and would mainly be using a wheelchair for the remainder of his career. Like many, I mainly associate Lionel with his role as the cranky Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life, and his role here is certainly quite different from that one!

Getting into the movie itself, it’s a screwball comedy directed by Frank Capra, one of the best directors for the genre. And the movie is crammed full of many wonderful actors and actresses who can all handle the comedy well! From Charles Lane’s quick appearance as an IRS agent trying to find out why Grandpa Vanderhof hasn’t paid any income tax to James Stewart and Jean Arthur running into his parents at the restaurant to many other such wonderful moments! Of course, Edward Arnold deserves some mention, too, for portraying the redemption of his villainous Anthony Kirby, a rarity in Capra’s films. While the movie definitely deviates from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play it is based on, I like some of the changes that were made! And, of course, I have a hard time getting through this movie without getting the song “Polly Wolly Doodle” stuck in my head (but you won’t hear any complaints from me on that)! All in all, a movie I would highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Film Length: 2 hours, 6 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Easy Living (1937) – Jean Arthur – Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Dinner At Eight (1933) – Lionel Barrymore –Since You Went Away (1944)

Vivacious Lady (1938) – James Stewart – Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

Easy Living (1937) – Edward Arnold – Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)

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10 thoughts on “Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2019) on… You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

  1. I really enjoyed your look at a movie that is currently in my good graces. We’ve had that up and down relationship for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I love the movie and sometimes, I don’t. Consistent is my belief that it is one of Edward Arnold’s best performances. And that Lionel Barrymore was right to want to play Grandpa.
    – Caftan Woman

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words! Personally, I’ve only had the chance to see it a few times (hadn’t seen it before it was released on Blu-ray a few years back), but so far, I’ve enjoyed this movie every time. It may not be the best screwball comedy that Frank Capra directed, but it’s one I still enjoy just the same!


  2. Dear Neil,

    Hello! I’m Rebekah Brannan from the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society (PEPS)! We also celebrate classic films, and our main purpose is to spread awareness about the Motion Picture Production Code, which we believe was the reason behind all the great films made in the Golden Era!

    This is a very nice article about a wonderful Code film! It is very sad that Lionel Barrymore was in so much pain during this film, but he did a great job regardless. The idea of the crutches was a truly ingenious one!

    By the way, over at PEPS, we are hosting two upcoming blogathons, The Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon on November 8-10 ( and The Happy Holidays Blogathon on December 6-8 ( We would love for you to join one or both! We think that they will be a lot of fun!


    Rebekah Brannan

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Dear Rebekah,

        I’ve tried to comment and join several times (just tried one last time) with no visible success so far, so I just wanted to say here that I would like to join in the Happy Holidays Blogathon with the 1954 comedy “Susan Slept Here,” if that’s alright!


        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dear Neil,

        Thank you for continuing to reach out! I’m sorry that we didn’t receive your previous comments. We would love to include your article about “Susan Slept Here.” Please send us the link as soon as you publish the article!


        Rebekah Brannan

        Liked by 1 person

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