Patriotic Flick of the Day…. Frank Capra’s “You Can’t Take it with You.”


I have to admit, the 1930s play by Kaufman & Hart has always been one of my favorite—about eccentricity and individualism, but it’s playing on Turner Classic Movies tonight (1938, Lionel Barrymore and Jimmy Stewart) and it really is a Patriotic American Classic, not least because of the EXTREMELY well-taken pointed commentary on the Income Tax when the all-American family Patriarch Martin Vanderhof receives a visit from the Internal Revenue Service:

“Our records show you’ve never paid income tax in 22 years.”

“That’s right.”

“Well why not?”

“I don’t believe in it.”

“You what?”

“I don’t believe in it.”

“What’s in it for me?  What’s the government going to do with that money?”

It goes on from there, but the whole spirit of the script is deliciously anti-big business and anti-government and subversive as HELL, produced as it was during FDR’s Second Term when the New Deal and graduated income tax were really taking root.  Every character in the movie is a rugged individualist and an entrepreneur following his or her own dream and not willing to be enslaved by corporate or governmental norms.  This is the same Frank Capra who produced and directed “It Happened One Night”, “Mr. Deeds goes to Town”, “Mr. Smith goes to Washington”, and “It’s a Wonderful Life”, without which major Oscar-winning masterpieces Hollywood might never have been what it was in the ’30s and ’40s—the creator of the modern American conscience.

But “You Can’t Take it With You” is as iconoclastic as “It’s a Wonderful Life” is family-oriented, wholesome, and nostalgic and as proudly freedom-loving as “It Happened One Night” is virtuously sexy.   Frank Capra’s work embodied the conservative and Christian ethic in America.  It’s hard to believe Hollywood was capable of such magnificent articulations of “heartland” values.

But in “You Can’t Take it with You,” Martin Vanderhof and his family bridge the gap between the American Revolution and the Russian Revolution, and deny the grim reality that it was the world of the Kirbys rather than the Vanderhof’s that ultimately came to control New York City, just as Bedford Falls in real life became Pottersville even as it was saved as an island of friendship, love, and financial responsibility in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

2 responses to “Patriotic Flick of the Day…. Frank Capra’s “You Can’t Take it with You.”

  1. Pingback: You Can T Take It With You - Wirro

  2. Pingback: Patriotic Flick of the Day?. Frank Capra's ?You Can't Take it with … (you can t take it with you) | Today's Hot Stories

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