You Can't Take it With You - Blu-ray Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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You Can't Take it With You - Blu-ray Review

Title: You Can't Take it With You


HTS Overall Score:70



George S. Kaufman’s legendary stage play “You Can’t Take it With You” has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. It’s been performed on countless stages around the world, from the simple little High School plays that I was a part of back in the day up to huge Broadway productions that housed a plethora of highbrow people much like the titular Kirby’s that the film pokes fun at. Hilariously funny and running a tightrope balancing act with humor and poignant social commentary, the play allows you to nod in agreement with the more serious moments, while laughing till your sides hurt at the ludicrous moments that pop up from the eccentric Sycamore family. The play has always been a rich part of my formative years, but I have to admit that I have NEVER seen the film till this date. I knew of its existence, but for some reason it never made it into my family’s movie watching routine. By the time I had moved out of the house and into my college dorm I had become more interested in things that blew up and watching Jackie Chan and Jean Claude Van Damme round kick someone in the face. It wasn’t until years later that I renewed my childhood love of classic black and white films, but at this point there were so many films that piqued my interest that Capra’s rendition of the play just always was on the back burner. I’m actually kind of glad that I waited till now to watch the film that has had such a troubled past on home video thanks to deteriorating source elements as this is easily the best and most polished the film has looked to date (after glancing at some screen caps of the DVD and comparing against the Blu-ray on a 120 inch screen it’s not even a contest). I laughed, I winced a couple of times, and I smiled wistfully at the screen and then laughed again.

Unlike the play, the film opens up with a look at the stodgy Kirby family. Anthony P. Kirby (Edwards Arnold) is the CEO and owner of a munitions enterprise that is just about to blast off into the big leagues. He’s come back to the Big Apple after making an HUGE deal that will allow him to run his major competitor out of business and absorb his assets into becoming the nation’s biggest and only monopoly on the munitions industry. His son, Tony (Jimmy Stewart), is set up to soon become one of the richest men in the nation as his father is grooming him to take over the business one of these days. Only thing is that Tony really has no love of the game. He does it to please his father, but in reality he’s way too in love with his secretary, Alice (the lovely Jean Arthur). To make things even MORE complicated, Mr. Kirby’s entire deal hinges on the sale of one property. He’s bought up 12 blocks of land in New York and with the acquisition of this one single house he can own the entire area, allowing his coup to invest in a giant factory that will make his millions into hundreds of millions.

This little house is owned by a rather kooky clan of people, headed by Grandfather Martin Vanderhof (Legendary actor/composer/author/director Lionel Barrymore). Martin has REFUSED to sell his house that he’s lived in for decades and decades much like the old man in Pixar’s “UP”. It’s his home, his life is there, and 2 more generations of his family lives there. In fact a few more people than just his blood make their abode there, as Martin Vanderhof threw off the trappings of business and stress to follow his dreams for the last 35 years. In fact all who live there toil and sweat at what makes them happy, even if it makes them little to no money. You could say that it is home to develop your talents and your dreams and hopefully it allows you to make some money too. We have Martin, the patriarch of the family who lives one day at a time, his daughter Penny Sycamore (Spring Byinton), her husband Paul Sycamore (Samuel S. Hinds) who has a talent for making explosive firecrackers, they’re daughter Essie (Ann Miller) who aspires to be a ballerina (despite being horrible at it), her husband Ed Carmichael (Dub Taylor) who likes to run his own printing press, and a mad Russian Kolenkhov (Mischa Auer), an oddball mooch who teaches Essie to dance while coming over for dinner every night and hamming it up as the stereotypical “Mad Russian”.

It doesn’t take long to realize that Tony’s future wife (much to the chagrin of Mr. and Mrs. Kirby), Alice is actually one of the Vanderhof family. In fact she’s pretty much the only “normal” one of the family, holding a traditional job and able to function in the hoity toity world of the bourgeoisie. Thus ensues a madcap adventure and blending of families that is both saddening and hysterically funny at the same time. Tony is desperate to have his parents approve of Alice, and decides to force the issue of a family get together to get his parents and Alice’s eccentric family to get to know each other. This sparks a crazed experience that will turn this humorous adventure in a wild display of fireworks, screaming rage, deeply introspective looks at the meaning of life, and plenty of laughs along the way.

Frank Capra’s “You Can’t Take it With You” won best picture and best director for 1938 and it’s not hard to see why. The movie is a lot of fun with a very accurate rendition of the original play. The only faults I can see with the movie is that some of the humor isn’t as easily translatable from play to screen, and some of the impact is lost. However, there are some changes to the original script that actually help the play a lot more than it hurts. Veteran actors all around do a marvelous job at embodying their characters, with the standouts being Lionel Barrymore and Edward Arnold as the patriarchs of their respective clans. Jimmy Stewart is basically Jimmy Stewart. He’s been awarded a million times, but is much like John Wayne. An American icon who is the GREATEST actor on the earth, but was so wildly charismatic that he carved himself into the American film psyche so well that he’s become synonymous with 1930’s through the 1960’s cinematic history. I was shocked and amazed to see that Ann Miller was only 15 years old during the making of the movie. She has always been a stunningly beautiful woman and she looked just like her older self here. I honestly had to do a double take when I realized who it was as I couldn’t believe someone that young could look as mature as she did. I had the biggest crush on her as a teenage boy and to this day I have to say that she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life (and I did have to chuckle that she had to play a girl who was awful at dancing when her dancing skills are legendary).


Not Rated by the MPAA

“You Can’t Take it With You” comes to Blu-ray with a seemingly mediocre transfer on the surface. It suffers from speckles, a VERY heavy layer of grain that borders on noisy at times, blacks that can be a bit washed out, and a whole section of the film that takes a serious cut in quality (around the bungled dinner party between the two families) for a significant portion of the latter half of the movie. Detail is good, but not excellent, sometimes fading into the grain at times, and other times looking excellent.

Now you’re probably wondering why I’m saying that it looks problematic on the surface. Well that stems from the fact that this film honestly has never looked better and that it’s actually looking this good is a miracle in and of itself. The original negatives for the film were lost back in the early 40s for some reason and the only thing left to pull this film out of extinction was a 3rd generation print that was in rough shape. The Library of Congress did their best with the print, restoring it as best they could to preserve it from falling into obscurity, but as luck would have, years later we were able to find a print of the film in Frank Capra’s old ranch home, giving a much needed boost in source material to clean the film up even further. The print they found was from the same negative as the 3rd generation print, but some scenes looked better than other, despite the addition of speckles, boosted contrast and dirt baked in. Thus with some digital manipulation they were able to splice certain scenes together to get the best possible outcome from the print. White that being said, “You Can’t Take it With You” is just lucky to be able to hit Blu-ray at all and look this good. I haven’t seen the DVD in years, but from what my aging mind can remember the film is leaps and bounds better on Blu-ray even if it will never look as demo worthy as other restored films from the same time period.

“You Can’t Take it With You” is given a nice DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 track that is pleasant, but hampered by source limitations. Dialog is crisp and fairly clean, and never really fading at any point, but the limitations of the day and recording devices show up when the more intense bits of the movie get going. The score is a bit dampened and shows some hisses and pops here and there, while the front stage isn’t wildly dynamic and fees a bit strained on the high end. While I can’t fault the source recording equipment at all, and Sony did a great job cleaning up as much of the audio as they could, the film is a dialog heavy experience that carries with it the weight of having been deteriorating over the decades in some vault. It is what it is, but I must say that I am delighted that it has preserved as best it could be for future generations.


• Commentary by Frank Capra, Jr. and Author Cathrine Kellison
• Frank Capra, Jr. Remembers "You Can't Take It With You"
• Theatrical Trailer


“You Can’t Take it With You” is a delightfully fun and insightful film that still rings true today, almost 80 years later. Some of it may seem a bit overly simplistic after we have been blessed by some incredibly deep and complex acting over the years, but it is whole lot of fun and one of my favorite stage plays brought to life. I’m only saddened that it took this long for me to watch the film reproduction of a childhood play, but am glad that Sony was able to give this such a great release after the years of languishing in an old vault. The disc is housed in a sleek digibook packaging with screenshots of the film as well as pages of the film’s history inscribed on the pages. Audio and video are a bit problematic, but once you know the history of the film’s close call with being lost forever, those flaws are easily overlooked. Definitely a must watch for any fan of classic Cinema.

Additional Information:

Starring: Jimmy Steward, Ann Miller, Jean Arthur
Directed by: Frank Capra
Written by: Robert Riskin (Screenplay), George S. Kaufman (Play)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA Mono, French, German, Italian, Spanish DD Mono
Studio: Sony Pictures
Rated: NR
Runtime: 126 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 8th, 2015

Buy You Can't Take it With You Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Must Watch

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