TSPDT placing: #992
An evening with the Vanderhofs is something akin to a Marx Brothers movie, with each character doing their own thing without regard for what outsiders might think. While some family members test fireworks in the basement, sister Essie (Ann Miller) practices her ballet to the xylophone music of her husband (Samuel S. Hinds), as her uptight Russian instructor Boris (Mischa Auer) complains that everything "stinks." Mother Penny (Spring Byington) attempts to finish writing a play, and Alice (Jean Arthur) slides down the staircase banister. With twelve activities happening at once, it's the farce of Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) without those troublesome murders. But behind all this chaos is the unmistakable unity of a close-knit family, and (as in many Capra films) it only takes a recognisable musical tune to bring together the Vanderhofs – and the snobbish Kirbys – for a collective performance that is genuinely charming in its sincerity. At least you can always be assured that a Frank Capra film will always leave you feeling good about yourself, the world, and the people in it.
Alongside the compassionate performances of Barrymore and Edward Arnold, enjoyable performances are also given by James Stewart and Jean Arthur, such that they repeated their love affair in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). You Can't Take It with You was adapted by Capra-regular Robert Riskin from a successful play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. I found it interesting that the screenplay bore what appeared to be a socialist slant, with Martin Vanderhof decidedly rejecting capitalist labour in favour of performing his preferred tasks for a minimum wage. This approach, we are shown, leaves one happier and assists the wellbeing of the entire community. I'm not so certain, however, of Vanderhof's insistence on not paying income tax, on the basis that he's not getting anything back from the government – this doesn't seem socialist, nor does it sound particularly "American," either. Even so, everybody can sympathise with the notion that money isn't everything, and that a single kindhearted gesture can go much further than a thousand dollar bills.
2) You Can’t Take It with You (Frank Capra)
3) The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock)
4) The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, William Keighley)