The Best Picture Winners: You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

29 Sep

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just around the corner and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving.

Looking back, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that Frank Capra’s film adaptation of You Can’t Take It With You would have been popular enough to win 1938’s Best Picture Oscar.  At the time, it was a popular and critical success.  George S. Kaufmann and Moss Hart’s play was such a success that it was given the Pulitzer Prize in 1936 and it was beloved elsewhere.  Capra’s film version was a box office hit, one of the top five grossing films of the year.

And yet . . . it hasn’t aged well.  This story, which centers on the sweet-natured son of a crabby old businessman who gets engaged to a secretary from a wacky family has familiar themes that Capra would use to better effect in It’s a Wonderful Life, and it is populated with characters and dialogue that seem forced.  Today the film looks and feels like third-rate Capra, and to watch it is to see the work of a director who did much better before and after.


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