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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

1938 Best Picture "You Can't Take It With You" Premiered 70 Years Ago Today

Academy Award winning film, You Can’t Take It With You from the play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, directed by Frank Capra, and starring James Stewart and Jean Arthur, premiered on August 23, 1938. The light, romantic comedy, with moments of whimsy and farcical humor would become the Best Picture of the year.

The story is something like a Cinderella fable. Stewart, a man from a family of rich snobs, becomes engaged to Arthur, a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family. The pair come from two decidedly different social spheres and the result is something like mixing oil and water. Although Stewart finds his love's family charmingly down to earth, his own parents are far less amused by the free spirited nature of a family who takes in lost souls like stray cats. The situation is just too much of a circus for their delicate sensibilities. And so, complications arise that work to keep the couple a part. It's only when the mighty rich bend to empathize with their "lessors" that the proud Arthur finally relents to a reconciliation with Stewart. If you think that sounds a bit simplistic, keep in mind there's also a mother who writes fantastic novels between painting portraits, a father who makes home-made fireworks with a trained crow on his shoulder, a sister who thinks she's a ballerina, a roaming Russian wrestler, and a brother-in-law football player who plays the xylophone.

This was Frank Capra's 33rd film as a director, his 27th feature, and his 17th sound picture. He certainly had a lot of experience going in to the project, but not all of it good. Although he had directed the Jean Harlow film, Platinum Blonde in 1931, his true breakthrough didn't come along until the outstanding success of It Happened One Night in 1934. Shortly after sweeping the Oscars in 1934, Capra produced Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Lost Horizon. Both films were tremendously successful and hugely popular. By the time he made You Can't Take It With You he was will in his stride at becoming one of the greatest film directors who ever lived.

Nominated for seven awards including Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress (for Spring Byington as the mother), Best Editing, Best Screenplay, and Best Sound, Capra would be the only winner with Best Picture and Best Director. A true classic in every sense of the word, be sure to catch You Can't Take It With You when you can. It's a film you'll enjoy and unlikely to ever forget.

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