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YOU CANíT TAKE IT WITH YOU ($30) is one of the great cinematic classics of the 1930ís. A wonderfully vibrant film that won two prestigious Academy Awards, one for the Best Picture of 1938 and the other for its legendary director Frank Capra. Of course, there was no way in the world that YOU CANíT TAKE IT WITH YOU could have been anything other than a great motion picture. After all, the movie was based upon the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, in addition to featuring a superb cast that featured Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Edward Arnold, Mischa Auer, Ann Miller, Spring Byington, Samuel S. Hinds and Donald Meek.

One could look upon YOU CANíT TAKE IT WITH YOU as the film that put the screwballs in screwball comedy, even though the genre had been around for a few years. The plot of YOU CANíT TAKE IT WITH YOU concerns a family of "screwballs" that live life the way it was meant to be lived- carefree and in pursuit of the things that makes one happy. Presiding over this rather bohemian clan is Grandpa Vanderhof (Barrymore), who has been pursuing happiness in the same house for thirty-five years.


The house itself becomes a point of contention, when industrialist Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold) decides to buy out an entire neighborhood, so his company can force the competition out of business and monopolize the munitions industry. Of course, Vanderhof is the only person who refuses to sell his home, thus souring the entire deal. Things are further complicated, when it is discovered that Vanderhofís seemingly "normal" granddaughter Alice (Arthur) and Kirbyís son Tony (Stewart) are in love and plan to marry. When the middleclass free spirits finally meet the repressed upper crust, more than a few comic fireworks ensue.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made YOU CANíT TAKE IT WITH YOU available on DVD in a decent looking full screen transfer that frames the movie in its proper 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Unfortunately, past regimes at Columbia Pictures didnít take very good care of the film elements for their classic motion pictures, which were used and abused to create reissue prints over the decades. YOU CANíT TAKE IT WITH YOU is one of those movies that bear witness to the ravages of time.


Sections of this black and white the movie have a "dupey" quality, with a soft appearance that places them multiple generations off the original camera negative- even down to the 16mm level. There are also blemishes and scratches on the film elements, but these arenít excessively bothersome. A noticeable grain structure is present throughout the course of the film, although in some places it is more pronounced than others. However, even when the film grain is at its heaviest, it isnít particularly bad. Blacks are generally accurate and the whites hold up fairly well, but the contrast and grayscale arenít consistent, due to various generations of film elements that comprise this complete motion picture. Additionally, details can be poor in multi-generational and 16mm replacement footage. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.

YOU CANíT TAKE IT WITH YOU comes with a Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack that also shows signs of age. Portions of the track can sound muffled, plus there is some surface noise and a bit of hiss. Dialogue is almost always understandable, but the voices can be a bit reedy. Additionally, I would rate the fidelity of this track as ranging from mediocre to poor, even for a film of this vintage. While there are no other language options, the DVD does include English, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some bonus trailers.

YOU CANíT TAKE IT WITH YOU is a great motion picture that evidences the fact that film preservation should have began with Thomas Edison. Columbiaís film elements are in rough shape and nothing short of a full restoration from better elements is going to make YOU CANíT TAKE IT WITH YOU look and sound any better. Still, this presentation remains watchable, so film buffs and Capra fans will want to take a peek.



You Can't Take It with You (1938)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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