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You Can't Take It With You Review


Essential
Jimmy Stewart's legendary career was just beginning when he co-starred in this Frank Capra classic, a warm, heart-tugging Best Picture Oscar winner. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway show by Kaufman and Hart, Capra's entry captures a wacky extended family living together in post-Depression USA, devoting all their efforts to their favorite pastimes with a smiling middle finger to societal expectations and demands.

The joy nearly leaps off the screen and begs you to join. In a charming introduction, family patriarch Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore, on crutches due to arthritis) meets a mousy accountant named Poppins (the appropriately named Donald Meek), a dreamer who'd rather make toys than punch meaningless numbers all day. With a simple tease of what could be, Vanderhof convinces his newfound friend to toss it all away and live with his family. And poof, as Poppins says, "the die is cast."

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The Devil And Miss Jones Review


Excellent
Wow, that title sure sounds like a porn movie, doesn't it? (The Devil in Miss Jones came out in 1972.) Of course, this one isn't adult fare, and in fact the devil doesn't even make an appearance in the film. The misleading title actually refers to a department store owner, J.P. Merrick (a masterful Charles Coburn, who never really got his due), who goes undercover in his own store to root out union organizers. Along the way he finds love, friendship (with Jean Arthur's Mary Jones), and a surprisingly funny series of events. The sole dud in the film: Robert Cummings, as Mary's boyfriend/union ringleader, whose whining and soul-searching nearly wreck the whole thing. It's supposed to be a comedy, Bob!

You Can't Take It With You Review


Good
Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur come together in Frank Capra's third and final Best Director effort, You Can't Take It With You, a movie which is amusing, but unfortunately ends up as one of his least enduring efforts. Overlong and underplotted, the film concerns two young lovers who finally endeavor to introduce their families to one another. As usual, Capra attempts to pillory big business, but the effort here is half-baked and overshadowed by slapstick antics between the two families. A Best Picture winner in 1938, the movie isn't aging well and can be suitably replaced by pretty much any of Capra's other works.

Please Don't Eat The Daisies Review


Very Good
When you think of classic romantic comedy pairings, Doris Day and David Niven don't immediately spring to mind. But Niven shows an extremely soft and lighthearted side in this madcap romp, one of Day's best films from her little-seen later years in the business.

The story is really a bunch of vignettes -- as the source book was -- about a woman with four rambunctious boys and a theater critic husband, all of whom move from the city to the country in an attempt to better their lives. Hysteria ensues as Niven's critic tussles with old friends who are all playwrights, and a leading lady (Janis Paige) who alternately slaps him in the face and tries to woo a positive review out of him.

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Heaven Can Wait (1943) Review


Weak
The premise at first seems quite a nice one. Henry Van Cleeve (Don Ameche, looking prematurely aged but still dapper in evening wear) comes down a staircase into a cavernous, Art Deco-inspired office where he is being interviewed by a dandy fellow referred to as His Excellency (Laird Cregar). Pretty soon it's clear Henry is actually dead, His Excellency is in fact Satan, and Henry is, for reasons that it will take the rest of the movie to explain, lobbying to be granted admission to Hades. Pressed for grievous offences or mortal sins, Henry can only say, "My whole life was one continuous misdemeanor."

Putting his lead foot first, director Ernst Lubitsch saddles his story with a script that never properly uses its complete potential. Henry feels that as part of his interview process, he must go through the story of his life, which would have generally been a decent idea, except that he led a pretty uninspiring one. Growing up in the mid-to-late 19th century, Henry is swaddled in privilege from the get-go. The scion of a wealthy family residing in a Fifth Avenue mansion, he becomes a general ne'er do well at quite a young age, something which the film (or at least his recounting) tries to blame on the effects of the women in his life (mother = too controlling, French maid = too permissive). By the time Ameche appears again as his younger self in the 1890s, his playboy ways have just been (supposedly) swept away by his having fallen in love with a beautiful woman whose name he doesn't know. Problem is, when he finally finds out the identity of the woman - Martha Strabel (Gene Tierney), of the Kansas City Strabels, who made their fortune in the meatpacking business - it turns out she's already betrothed to his stiff and deadly dull cousin Albert (Allyn Joslyn). Being of thin moral fiber anyway, Henry elopes with her. His carousing appears hard to put behind him, however, and 10 years later, Martha is ready for a divorce.

Continue reading: Heaven Can Wait (1943) Review

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