I first watched this 1938 movie in the 90s and I still watch it from time to time. Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur had great chemistry on screen. The following year they would be in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”…another great movie. Capra wanted Jean Arthur in It’s a Wonderful Life but she was committed to a Broadway show.
This movie is about a rich man named Tony Kirby (Jimmy Stewart) who is working reluctantly for his ruthless banker dad. He falls in love with his stenographer Alice (Jean Arthur). The father doesn’t really care but his mother is outraged that he would love someone beneath him. This part of the story you have seen before but it’s when the great Lionel Barrymore who plays Alice’s grandfather Martin Vanderhof enters… the movie gets going.
Martin and his family do exactly what they want, his daughter Penny received a typewriter in the mail by mistake and thinks she is a novelist, Alice’s sister dances every time music is played and a basement full of unemployed older gentlemen who like to invent things…especially firecrackers… It’s a crazy household but they live life and are not bothered by a thing.
This is the opposite of the Kirby family who is uptight, overwhelmed, and disgusted by this family…except Tony of course.
The movie is full of off-the-wall humor and Alice’s family is great. Anyone that comes to the house wants to stay…and sometimes does. The grandfather goes out and finds one person (Mr. Poppins) who invents things but works at a terrible job and Martin invites him to live at the house with his family to be…”a lily of the field” and quit his dreadful job.
Here are some quotes from the meeting
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: How would you like to come over to our house and work on your gadgets?
Poppins: Your house? Well I don’t know, thank you.
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: Oh go on, you’ll love it. Everybody at over at our place does just what he wants to do.
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: Mmm-hmmmm.
Poppins: That must be wonderful. But how would I live?
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: The same way we do.
Poppins: The same way? Well, who takes care of you?
Grandpa Martin Vanderhoff: The same One that takes care of the lilies of the field, Mr. Poppins, except that we toil a little, spin a little, have a barrel of fun. If you want to, come on over and become a lily too.
This is a screwball comedy and a good one. Lionel Barrymore is magnificent in this. Just a few years later he would play mean Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.
This movie was directed by Frank Capra. Some critics in his day called him “Capra-corn” because of the optimism he showed for the everyday man. I think he was a great director. This is one of his best movies.
It’s a very good movie…any movie with Jimmy Stewart can’t be bad. The comedy holds up today. After the movie, you will want to be a lily of the field.
This movie is based off a play written by the great George Kauffman and Moss Hart.