11/17/09

You Can't Take it With You (1938)

Jean Arthur (Alice), Lionel Barrymore (Grandpa), James Stewart (Tony Kirby), Edward Arnold (Anthony P. Kirby)

Directed by Frank Capra (It's a Wonderful Life)

IMDB: Alice Sycamore, the only normal person from a zany family, falls in love with her boss, Tony Kirby.

Hijinks ensue!

I rented this one on the recommendation of Leslee. I didn't even look up what it was about--just knew that it was more Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur and Frank Capra.

While I doubt that any Capra/Stewart film will ever touch my love of It's a Wonderful Life, which has been ingrained in me since my childhood, this film was a great bundle of monkey laughs. The family was absurd and lovable. The jokes came from both obvious and subtle places. And of course, Jean Artur and Jimmy Stewart were just fantastically charismatic.

However, the show belonged to Lionel Barrymore--his timing that spurs the comedy, his character's decisions that motivate the plot. I've only ever known him from his role as Potter, so this performance came as quite a delightful surprise. Lovable, whimsical, unconcerned with money, and generally adorable, he's the Anti-Potter!

The plot comes together very slowly, building up to the big showdown between the cops and the family on the night they meet the Kirbys. We saw it coming, but it was hilarious nonetheless. And of course the courtroom finale is overblown and smile-worthy.

Watching this movie, as with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, I kept seeing flashes of what would become It's a Wonderful Life. The courtroom scene when everyone comes forward to financially rescue Grandpa is like a practice run for the George Bailey finale. And here, Jimmy Stewart's performance is subdued. He's emotional, he's charming, and he's funny, but he's also third-fiddle to Arthur and Barrymore. His full potential as a leading man came to fruition with George Bailey. Here, again, is more practice.

Lovable practice! But gosh, all these oldies are making me so so so so so keen on re-watching my favorite old Christmas movies. Bring on the holidays!!

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