Director, Frank Capra topped off a decade’s worth of exploring threads for the common man with You Can’t Take It With You (1938); his revisionist take on a 1936 Broadway dazzler, co-written by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. The play, an instant smash hit, would continue to 838 performances, running concurrently with the movie; a decidedly different experience altogether. Alas, the movie’s premiere had been preceded by a modicum of bad blood between Capra and Columbia Studio president, Harry Cohn; a genuine pity too, since Capra’s association with the studio had elevated Columbia’s status from B-grade poverty row to A-list minor competitor to rival the likes of MGM, Warner Bros. and 2oth Century-Fox. While these other leviathans flooded the market with their myriad of treasures from a seemingly bottomless wellspring of homegrown talent, Columbia’s good fortunes teetered - almost precariously – on the fate of the next Capra picture. Cohn undeniably knew the strength of Capra’s drawing power at the box office; enough to pilfer and slap his name onto the press and promotion of other Columbia pictures marketed abroad; pictures Capra had absolutely no part in making. Tantamount to fraud, Cohn might have sneaked off without incident, if only Capra had not taken his family on vacation to Britain in the fall of 1936, immediately following the lackluster box office returns on Lost Horizon (1936) his one departure from what had, by 1938, become something of a formula, affectionately labeled ‘Capra-corn’, his recipe for success.
But in Britain, Capra was informed by one of the distributors that his ‘latest’ picture – If You Could Only Cook (1935) was proving something of a disappointment. As Capra knew nothing of the picture (actually directed by William A. Seiter), he immediately telephoned Harry Cohn to make his inquiries and voice his displeasure. Capra had endured much under Cohn’s tyranny, but this was the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back. To say Lost Horizon had drained virtually every ounce of Capra’s creative energy is a bit much. Yet, there is little to deny the making of Columbia’s most ambitious and costly picture to date had been more than trying on Capra’s patience, generating considerable friction and animosity between him and Cohn. While Lost Horizon remains an irrefutable masterpiece, it was decidedly ahead of its own time; its formidable scale-tipping budget, coupled with Cohn’s chronic meddling on Capra’s final edit, resulted in a very unpleasant work experience all around. And the picture’s inability to recoup its outlay had not sweetened Cohn on the prospects of green-lighting Capra’s other pet project: a bio-pic about Frédéric Chopin. Repeatedly stalling Capra’s ambitions to pursue the project, Cohn would eventually put his foot down and cancel it outright. Still, Cohn’s faith in Capra remained unshaken. Here was an artist who could seemingly turn lead into gold. Capra’s impressive string of successes throughout the 1930’s had afforded him unprecedented autonomy. And Capra, having already been to the theater and fallen under the spell of You Can’t Take It With You, was as eager to direct a movie version of it. But now, the rift over Cohn’s exploitation of Capra’s name on other movies released in the foreign markets, simply to sell them to distributors under a false pretext, had incredibly soured Capra on ever trusting Harry Cohn again. In fact, Capra could not stand for it. He immediately demanded a release from his Columbia contract.
In these days of indentured servitude, breaking a studio contract was virtually impossible. Each man believing the law was on his side, neither Cohn nor Capra budged on the matter; Cohn insisting Capra would finish out the terms of his contract with two more pictures. But Cohn had underestimated Capra’s resolve. Capra sued Columbia for breach of contract; Cohn and his high-priced attorneys successfully delaying the inevitable by getting a judge to change the venue no less than three times; first, from Hollywood to New York; then, from New York to London, England. Although frustrated by this stalemate, and unable to work anywhere else in Hollywood while the details were being ironed out, Capra nevertheless held steadfast to his principles. Eventually, the inevitable could be delayed no more. Capra was right. What Cohn had perpetuated was fraud. The only way out was to get Capra to drop his lawsuit. Arriving at Capra’s home in what Frank Capra Jr. would later describe as ‘the longest limousine you’ve ever seen’, Cohn first employed intimidation tactics to get Capra to back down. When these failed to be persuasive, Cohn reverted to tearful repentance, throwing himself at Capra’s mercy, and appealing to the director’s sense of fair play. After all, in as much as Capra had made Columbia a lot of money and elevated its prestige within the industry, none of it would have been possible without Cohn’s support and belief in his talents. Exactly how much of Capra’s stubbornness in withstanding Cohn was Capra’s own positioning to gain even greater autonomy at Columbia remains open for debate. What is for certain is Capra made only two more pictures for Columbia after dropping his lawsuit; the two necessary to round out his contract, before leaving Cohn and Columbia for good to pursue other avenues and dreams.
The first of this two picture commitment was You Can’t Take It With You – an infinitely smoother 58 day shoot, firmly establishing James Stewart as a star of the first magnitude and leading to a life-long friendship between Stewart and Capra, resulting in two more memorable screen outings; 1939’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, and 1946’s It’s A Wonderful Life. It is interesting to note one of the familiar threads running through Capra’s body of work is his overriding contempt for wealthy authority figures – always depicted as miserly, corrupt and a threat to the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And although Capra’s compassion for the common man would be misinterpreted as favoring a communist slant, he was never indicted by HUAC for these predilections. Toiling with his favorite screenwriter, Robert Riskin (regrettably, the last of their collaborations) the cinematic incarnation of You Can’t Take It With You allows Capra his greatest latitude to rail against America’s particular brand of classicism; pitting the shy and retiring ‘every man’, about to be stomped upon by millionaire ‘fat cats’ for the sake of pure profit.
The play’s focus is unquestioningly the romantic folly between Tony Kirby, heir apparent to his father’s industrial fortune, and Alice Sycamore, a congenial worker bee, heralding from a house of lovable screwballs that, oddly enough, neither work for a living, nor are supported by any form of governmental assistance to get by and pursue their dreams. Capra’s film is more directly and telescopically zeroed in on the classically inspired David vs. Goliath triumph. Indeed, the third act to his filmic adaptation bears no earthly resemblance to its Broadway origins. And yet, Capra and Riskin’s revisions neither hamper nor obstruct the play’s overall impact. Harry Cohn may have bristled over Capra’s cheek at ‘reinventing the wheel’; but this time the fiery mogul kept his thoughts to himself - mostly. Besides, apart from Lost Horizon’s box office disappointment, Capra had an unimpeachable record at Columbia. Four of his last five pictures not only made a ton of money for the studio – along the way earning a whopping 21 Oscar-nominations (and winning eight) – they had also elevated Columbia’s prestige within the industry.
With its Pulitzer Prize-winning pedigree, You Can’t Take It With You is thematically right up Capra’s alley, returning him to his favorite milieu: the downtrodden and struggling middle class during the Great Depression. However, the picture’s third act is something of a reprieve for ruthless capitalism; a notion much to do with Capra’s own immigrant experience. Indeed, Capra’s rise to prominence at Columbia, while swift and seemingly assured, in retrospect had been preceded by a dark and fallow period in which he struggled to find gainful employment – even a steady job – at times, almost crippled by his own emasculating self-doubt for nearly ten long years. Now, at the top of the proverbial food chain, Capra was humbled by how far he had come, and even more willing to emphatically point out how nearly impossible his attainment of the American dream was for many others still slogging it in the daily grind. Incontrovertibly, Capra’s commiserations are with this common man, precisely because he had been one. Even after his successes, he never quite forgot from whence he had cometh. Capra’s message and timing could not have been more perfect. His pictures struck a chord with Depression-challenged audiences; his morality and homespun ideals, perfectly in sync with the paying public’s appetite to see depictions of life as they knew it on the screen; albeit, with Capra’s inimitable ability to effortlessly move between the relative severity of the drama and lithe comedy to provide for the axiomatic ‘happy ending’.
The characters who inhabit most any Capra movie are usually a cross between the hoity-toity rich – generally played as misguided figures of fun or growling villains; either way, in need of a good head-shake (and getting it, as well as their just deserts in the penultimate showdown) – and ever-so-slight variations on an archetypal solid, hard-working American dreamer; usually depicted as a bucolic bumpkin, come to the big city as the proverbial ‘fish out of water’ destined to have his heart and head matured, but his spirit and blind-eyed optimism never broken and, in fact, affirmed; Capra always illustrating the infallibility of a stout-heart, keen mind, and, starry-eyed outlook on life. “Maybe there never was an America,” director, John Cassavetes once pondered, “Maybe it was all Frank Capra.” Indeed, Capra’s notions of what America was – and could become with the solidarity of its citizens – had, by 1938, shaped a generation’s faith in itself. The ‘Capra-esque’ quality retrofitted to most interpretations of his body of work, speaks to three principles: faith in humanity at large, conviction in one’s self-reliance, and uncompromising belief in a brighter future, usually perceived under a guise of flag-waving patriotism.
Interestingly, and quite unlike the play, the hero in You Can’t Take It With You is not leading man – James Stewart’s Tony Kirby, who cannot even get off his lump to defend the honor of the woman he supposedly loves until the eleventh hour when others – including the lady in question – have already spoken up in their own defense. Marginally heroic is Lionel Barrymore’s Grandpa Martin Vanderhof, whose clear-eyed – if bromidic – philosophies of living simply often take center stage, both in the comedic and dramatic portions of the story. Yet, Capra makes an even more unorthodox decision here; to transform Tony’s boorish industrialist/banker father, Anthony P. Kirby (magnificently realized by Edward Arnold) from villain to the hero of the piece in the third act. Confronted thrice with the realization he has sacrificed familial happiness strictly to acquire more affluence (first by Grandpa, then by a dying industrialist, Ramsey, played by H.B. Warner, and finally, his own son’s decision to leave the company to marry the girl he loves) – Anthony’s purpose in life is shaken to its very core; Capra resolving that in having given his family everything, Anthony has reduced them all to nothing beyond their misperceived monetary value.
Edward Arnold is today sadly underrated among movie legends; a portly, jowl-faced actor with a face like a tree-full of owls, boosted to overnight stardom via his role as Jim Brady in 1935’s Diamond Jim (later reprised for the movie, Lillian Russell, 1940). Arnold’s undeniable specialty was playing complex rogues and authority figures. Despite being branded ‘box office poison’ in a scathing article published in Variety in 1938, Arnold worked steadily throughout his lengthy career – often on two pictures at once – appearing in more than 150 movies throughout his distinguished career. He was a favorite of Capra’s, who affords Arnold the best of both worlds in You Can’t Take It With You; his Anthony Kirby, begun as a self-appointed popinjay of Wall Street, greedy, plotting and thumbing his nose at even the remotest consideration homespun sentimentality might outweigh his stern and enterprising prospects; his galvanized resolve shattered by Grandpa Vanderhof’s prophetic condemnation of his methods and later, Ramsey’s impassioned declaration about the road to riches also leading a man to ruin. It is Arnold’s infallible intelligence that allows us past both his imposing girth and this outward Teutonic tyranny; something behind the eye, a glint of sadness or even remorse, perhaps, mingling with a more intuitive understanding seeping into his subconscious. The best moments in Arnold’s performance are arguably unearthed in his quiet, gradual, though steady and probative reactions to this humiliation heaped upon his Teflon-coated character by Grandpa during the courtroom scene, or even better still, as his Anthony steadily thaws out from his implacably Vathek need to consume everything in his midst, merely to prove his bullish status as master of all he surveys.
Capra gives us some hint as to where the accent of this denouement is headed: You Can’t Take It With You opening with Anthony Kirby’s arrival at his financial institution flanked by sycophantic ‘yes men’ fawning and preening in his presence as the undisputed wolf of Wall Street. Indeed, Kirby can afford to gloat. His trip to Washington has resulted in a grant to pursue a government-sanctioned munitions monopoly, guaranteed to quadruple his already sizable wealth. To this end, Kirby intends on buying up a twelve-block radius around his competitor, Ramsey’s factory, thus thwarting his plans for expansion and squeeze him out of the business altogether. One holdout to his plan is Grandpa Vanderhof; contented to remain in the old neighborhood. Grandpa’s resolve gives the other residents sincere hope they too can withstand the bullying from Kirby’s shifty-eyed real estate broker, John Blakely (Clarence Wilson), who has offered each and every one of them a sizable payout to decamp their premises at once. Herein, Capra reiterates another inherent difference between the rich and middle class; Kirby’s ‘loner’ quality pitted against the communal e pluribus unum of the masses.
Unbeknownst to Anthony, his son, Tony (James Stewart), whom he has newly appointed VP, has fallen madly in love with his stenographer, Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur); Vanderhof’s granddaughter. In one of too few romantic interludes featured in the picture, Tony and Alice coo and moon at one another across a desk in Alice’s office; Meriam Kirby (Mary Forbes) stumbling upon her son’s flirtations, which she immediately finds distasteful. Tony assures Alice there is nothing he cannot have if he screams loud enough; a defensive mechanism he learned as a child. To illustrate this power, Kirby screams at an unsuspecting page, frightening the poor young man half out of his wits. Meanwhile, in another part of the Kirby building we meet Grandpa Vanderhof. Almost immediately, he takes an interest in Mr. Poppins (Donald Meeks), an unprepossessing bean counter. Poppins is the nervous sort, but fascinated by Vanderhof’s open invitation to set up shop in his home’s basement to pursue his passion for making wind-up novelties for children.
We meet the rest of Vanderhof clan; the effervescent, but scatterbrained Penelope ‘Penny’ Sycamore (Spring Byington), who took up playwriting simply because a typewriter was accidentally delivered to the house by the U.S. mail service; stern ballet master, Potap Kolenkhov (Misha Auer) and his atrociously bad pupil, Essie Carmichael (Ann Miller) and her husband, Ed (Dub Taylor), and, fireworks inventors, DePinna (Halliwell Hobbes) and Grandpa’s son, Paul (Samuel S. Hind). Also in the mix are devoted domestics, Donald (Eddie Rochester Anderson) and Reba (Lillian Yarbo). As Grandpa has repeatedly refused offers to buy up his property, Anthony Kirby sends IRS agent, Wilbur G. Henderson (Charles Lane) to investigate the fact no one living at that address seems to have paid any personal income tax in a very long while. Confronting Grandpa on the matter, Henderson is startled when Grandpa defiantly refuses to support the government in their squandering of his money to indulge in their programs he neither supports nor even considers charitable works. “Not with my money!” Grandpa emphatically declares.
Meanwhile, the youthful romance between Tony and Alice is met with blind-eyed acceptance by the Sycamores, though decidedly frowned upon by the very snobbish Mrs. Kirby, who orders her husband to take immediate action against the pending nuptials. In the meantime, Capra indulges in a bit of playfulness; Tony and Alice caught unawares by a small group of street-savvy children offering swing lessons for a quarter in Central Park. Impetuously, Alice accepts the wager and proves a quick study; Tony, following her cue before a police officer arrives to break up their party. Alice suggests she can never entertain his impromptu proposal unless they have the full support of both families. To improve these prospects, Alice suggests Tony bring his mum and dad over for dinner. Alas, this plan turns rancid when Tony deliberately brings Anthony and Meriam to the house on the wrong day; the Sycamores, caught entirely off-guard with the house in total disarray. Penny attempts to do damage control, as does Alice. But when Anthony suggests in casual discussion he was a fairly good wrestler in his youth, Potap decides to take him up – and pick him up - literally, hoisting and spinning Anthony on his shoulders, before dropping him to the ground as the rest of the family looks on in horror. Unharmed, though nevertheless disorientated, Mr. Kirby urges his wife and son to leave the Sycamores to their particular brand of lunacy; further threatening to disown Tony should he not forget about marrying into such a family at once. As far as Anthony is concerned, the Sycamores are crazy. Unhappy circumstance, this gathering of the clan is interrupted by the police, who have come to arrest Grandpa for tax evasion; a night’s stay in the drunk tank is kicked off by DePinna and Paul’s accidental ignition of a whole box of fireworks, their fire power sending the clan frantically scattering into the street.
While debating the finer points of Grandpa’s life philosophy in jail, Kirby makes it known he thinks himself the better man, largely due to his wealth. Grandpa angrily points out that only a fool would take solace in embracing pile upon pile of soulless money. “You can’t take it with you, Mr. Kirby,” Grandpa points out, “So what good is it to you? As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends.” To illustrate this point, Capra and Riskin have concocted a scene not in the play; the kindly Night Court Judge (Harry Davenport), willing to pass on the erroneous ‘disturbing the peace’ charge, quite unable to see his way past the secondary charge; possessing illegal explosives, and thus fining Grandpa $100 – a sizable sum in 1938. Modestly ashamed of his behavior, Anthony Kirby instructs his high-handed mouthpiece to pay the fine; Grandpa turning the offer down flat as his neighborhood friends rally to get up a collection and pay off the fine themselves as the Judge amusedly looks on with sincere admiration.
Alice confronts Tony in front of the court; declaring she would not marry a man who cannot stand up and defend her honor – even as it has not been impugned by anything more than the Kirbys’ prudery. This creates a major tabloid scandal; the newspaper boys running with the story and inflating it to laughable proportions. Forced to flee the city in her shame Alice remains absent for some time, casting a pall on the Sycamores usually happy home. Grandpa elects to negotiate the sale of his house. The family will move to Connecticut to be nearer to Alice. Tony arrives to make his apologies. But Penny explains his intentions are too little too late and asks him to go. The neighborhood observes as movers begin stripping the Sycamore home of its belongings. Meanwhile, across town, Anthony prepares to meet with his board of directors and finalize the merger between his company and the competition, thus creating a mega-monopoly. However, he is confronted in his board room by Ramsey, the man he ousted by buying up property surrounding his factory. Passionately, Ramsey pleads – not for himself, but for Kirby to reconsider where unbridled greed has taken him; to the brink of self-destruction. Nearly collapsing after his entreaty, Ramsey leaves the room a dignified man, too late unencumbered by the hypocrisies of wealth and dying of a massive heart attack off camera a short while later.
It has all been for not, it seems, as Tony arrives to inform his father of his resignation from the company. He has decided his love for Alice means more to him than his seat as Vice President; a post he neither values nor feels he justly contribute to, as he does not respect his father’s business practices. Distraught and suddenly realizing Grandpa was right – he has no friends – Anthony Kirby arrives at the Vanderhof household as they are preparing to depart. Grandpa takes pity on Anthony, handing him a harmonica and explaining that whenever times are bleak, a verse and chorus of ‘Polly-Wolly Doodle’ seems to set the world right. Although disbelieving in Grandpa’s naiveté, Anthony has reached the end of his rope and elects to join Grandpa in this duet. Tony arrives to discover Alice has returned to her family home to have a final look around the place. The two are reconciled and Anthony informs everyone he does not intend to evict them from their homes. The scene dissolve to a tender moment around the dining room table; Grandpa giving the benediction and thanks, having ‘reached’ the Kirbys and made them ‘see the light’. They will become one big happy family from this moment forward.
Harry Cohn had great faith in Capra’s ability to direct You Can’t Take It With You, buying the rights to produce it for a whopping $200,000 (equivalent to $3,292,000 today). And Capra, despite his misgivings about remaining under Cohn’s thumb for much longer, nevertheless, dropped his lawsuit to make two of his most highly prized pictures for Columbia. In later years, Capra would grow somewhat more philosophical about his approach to making pictures, suggesting “A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something. I made mistakes in drama. I thought drama was when actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries. And scriptwriting is the toughest part of the whole racket…the least understood and the least noticed. But film is one of the three universal languages, the other two: mathematics and music.” You Can’t Take It With You is perfectly cast with a stellar ensemble of time-honored players and up and comers, of which James Stewart is arguably the freshest face in the crowd. Stewart was already a veteran of 18 pictures at MGM. Yet, none had offered the actor his break out to popular appeal as anything better than the male ingénue. But Stewart’s heartrending role in Navy Blue and Gold (1935) had captivated Capra, elevating his belief he had found his ideal ‘everyman’ in Stewart; an unerring confidence proven one year later when director and star collaborated on Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.
Over the years, speculation has arisen over what caused Lionel Barrymore’s confinement to a wheelchair. After 1940, the actor never walked again, although he periodically could stand in place for short intervals of time. Barrymore only hobbles in You Can’t Take It With You, assisted by a pair of crutches; his infirmity referenced casually in the movie as having sprained an ankle after losing a wager to slide down the banister at home. What is known for certain is Barrymore suffered from congenital arthritis already afflicting him in his youth. By his mid-thirties, this condition had severely worsened to the point where Barrymore became addicted to morphine and other pain killers simply to get by. An accident in 1936 fractured Barrymore’s hip. He would reinjure it again only one year later, never to heal properly. In retrospect, it is intriguing to reconsider what the rest of Barrymore’s acting career might have been without this invalidism, although, equally in retrospect, there remain few actors able to so completely command a room from their wheelchair.
When You Can’t Take It With You premiered, the reviews were unanimous, labeling it “a grand picture” with its emphasis “wisely placed on the human rather than on the farcical (yet) without sacrificing any of the comedy angles.” In the intervening decades Hollywood, and indeed the world, have gone through seismic shifts in tastes, talents and technological advancements and, in lieu of at least some of these changes – and others undiscussed herein, the more featherweight and almost pie-eyed optimism spread thickly throughout You Can’t Take It With You is perhaps a tad more challenging to get into at the start; the sight of a gawky Ann Miller (later, to be known as ‘tops in taps’ at MGM), deliberately pirouetting badly about the Vanderhof home, or Misha Auer glowering with his inimitable brand of lampoon for foreign accents, appearing far more stiltedly theatrical than it probably did in 1938. What saves the picture and makes it relevant to today’s audiences is Robert Riskin’s deft screenwriting; his ability to morph the popular vernacular of the stage – prone to intermittently long and prosaic pontifications – into palpable, and plot advancing points of interest. These keep the story afloat and moving forward in a compelling way. As Riskin’s third act has squarely shifted the focus of the play to increasing confrontations between Edward Arnold’s caustic titan and Lionel Barrymore’s impassioned humanist, the darkness that momentarily intrudes on all of their lives and permeates this otherwise delightfully whacky screwball comedy very much playing into our tragically contemporary thirst for the demise of innocence; the penultimate resolution, with its vivaciously ‘happy ending’, restoring a promise made to us in the movies from long ago: that even the worst of situations can be worked out to the satisfaction conclusion of all. God bless that notion, sorely in short supply these days.
You Can’t Take It With You has undergone a Herculean restoration to resurrect it for this Blu-ray release. In one of those Hollywood ironies that never ceases to amaze the vintage collector and movie lover; Columbia’s storage of such immortal screen art over the intervening decades was anything but stellar. By the early 1980’s virtually all of Frank Capra’s contributions were in an extremely delicate state of disrepair; some, like Lost Horizon, only existing in severely truncated versions, edited down for general re-release. Arguably, You Can’t Take It With You has been one of the most challenging restorations undertaken by Grover Crisp at Sony Pictures, the current custodians of the Frank Capra library (among many other treasures). And Mr. Crisp has once more shown an epic devotion, not only in maintaining this formidable back catalog, but applying whatever necessary expenses and digital tools presently available to the studio to resurrect these careworn elements from near oblivion to a state that – if not perfect – nevertheless, mark a progressive leap forward from previous efforts to keep this screen history available for today’s audiences to admire and study.
When Frank Capra died in 1991 he bequeathed part of his beloved Fallbrook Ranch to Caltech, his one-time alma mater. Unbeknownst to anyone, the ranch contained a stable with a padlocked room. As no one had the key – and apparently suffered from a deplorable lack of curiosity to discover what was inside it – this mysterious room would remain untouched for nearly another decade. When it was finally ‘broken into’, the discovery of Capra’s own private stockpile of nitrate 35mm prints, miraculously in good physical condition, provided Caltech with the most comprehensive collection of the director’s body of work. Alas, the negatives used to make these prints in 1940 were hardly perfect, due to the common practice of ‘over printing’. The preservation of You Can’t Take It With You would borrow whole portions from these newly unearthed archives, reinstated into Sony’s existing archived elements to ‘restore’ the audio and video to optimal condition for this new 4K hi-def release. But be forewarned, despite these formidable concerted efforts, You Can’t Take It With You is still not going to yield a ‘perfect’ presentation. Time has been very cruel. Even the best of intentions cannot recreate the opening night splendor audiences thrilled to back in 1938.
That said; the results achieved on this Blu-ray are nothing short of miraculous. Virtually all of the built-in dirt, scratches and other age-related mold and water damage that once plagued this image have been eradicated. The incredible amounts of density fluctuation and built-in flicker have been tempered to a degree where either no longer distracts, though both anomalies are still present and sporadically noticed. This latest restoration has also done much to reduce the over-contrasted grayscale that, on previous home video incarnations, deprived viewers of the finer details. The grain structure herein is often very thick. But again, Sony has done everything in their power to homogenize and stabilize its consistency. Restoring a classic movie is, in general, a challenging, labor-intensive, and, time – and money – consuming process. You Can’t Take It With You has made the Cook’s Tour to virtually all of the premiere facilities leading the charge in film preservation: from Sony’s own homegrown Colorworks to Cineric in New York, MTI Film and finally Chace Audio.
The results achieved are impressive to say the least and should become a cause célèbre for all studios to reinvest in their aging back catalogs. Sony has proven time and again to be the only studio consistently applying this fundamental philosophy to ensure its history does not quietly fade into the annals of time without a fight and for this reason they are to be sincerely commended and wholeheartedly supported in their efforts. Buy this disc! Well past its 75th anniversary, You Can’t Take It With You looks every bit to be pushing eighty. The point herein, is that it looks far better than it ever has before and, in fact, has been preserved in a manner that makes it highly watchable, if in no way living up to Blu-ray’s moniker of ‘perfect picture and theater quality sound’. Personally, I say ‘bravo’, thank you, and, bring on the rest – Lost Horizon, getting my personal vote for the next great Frank Capra release to hi-def. You Can’t Take It With You has no new extra features added this time around. We get Frank Capra Jr. reminiscing about the making of the picture; also his comprehensive audio commentary, along with author/historian, Catherine Kellison, plus the original theatrical trailer. Frankly, it is enough to have the film given back to us after so long and great an absence, restored and remastered in hi-def and in 4K no less. Bottom line: very highly recommended!
FILM RATING (out of 5 – 5 being the best)
4 (considering the source materials, though without such consideration, more like 3)