Wednesday 22 July 2015

George Kaufman & Moss Hart's "You Can't Take it with You"

The play "You Can't Take it with You" premiered at the Booth Theatre in 1936, running for 838 performances.  Mr. Kirby, played by William J.Kelly, is a Wall Street banker who intends to buy up a 12 block radius around a competitor's factory to put him out of business.  However, there is one hold out; Mr. Kirby suggests offering the family a large amount of money and if that fails, causing trouble for them

Mr. Kirby's son,Tony, played by Jess Barker, is the Vice President of the company.  He has fallen in love with the company stenographer, Alice Sycamore, played by Margot Stevenson, and proposed marriage.  No one knows that Margot lives in the hold out house.

Mr. and Mrs. Kirby disapprove of their son's choice of a mate, given that she is of the lower class.  Alice invites the Kirby's to dinner one evening, hoping to smooth things over.  However, the Kirby's come on the wrong evening and find the house in disarray.  The police arrive and arrest everyone in the house for setting off firecrackers illegally.

In prison, the Kirby's and Vanderhof's get to know each other a bit better.  Mr. Vanderhof points out to Mr. Kirby that even though he has wealth, he "can't take it with him."  Sprung from prison, the two families have their day in court where the judge asks why a wealthy family was associating with a lower class one.  Someone explains that they were discussing the possible sale of the house, but Alice points out that they are about to be in-laws.  However, disappointed at the poor treatment displayed by the Kirby's Alice spurns Tony and flees town.  Grandpa Vanderhof decides to sell their home and the neighbourhood prepares to vacate for the proposed factory.

Kirby's competitor, Ramsey, dies after confronting Kirby about his ruthlessness.  Kirby realized that Mr. Vanderhof is right:  he has no friends.  He visits the Vanderhof's again and realizes that they are good people.  Alice takes Tony back and the final scene shows the two families dining in harmony.

You Can't Take it with You was adapted for the big screen in 1938, directed by Frank Capra.  The production starred Jimmy Stewart as Tony Kirby, Jean Arthur as Alice Sycamore, Lionel Barrymore as Grandpa Vanderhof and Edward Arnold as Mr. Kirby

You Can't Take it with You circa 1938 courtesy

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