A disconcerting jolt of reality from 1938

The NY Time's film critic A. O. Scott wrote recently that when "slipping an old favorite into the DVD player, I’ve been confronted with a disconcerting jolt of reality. Those silvery images don’t seem to belong to the past, but to the scary here and now."

Scott was "stopped in his tracks" when watching the bank run scene in the Frank Capra classic It's a Wonderful Life that stars Jimmy Stewart and Lionel Barrymore. My similar reaction of a time-warped deja vu came from watching You Can't Take it With You a film based on a Pultizer-winning play which coincidentally also stars Stewart and Barrymore and was directed by Capra.

The movie begins with Anthony P. Kirby, a ruthless banker, standing in front of a map reviewing the remaining properties that he must purchase to create "the largest individual monopoly in the world." His colleagues worry that the government might scuttle their plan, but Kirby reassures them that "They'll be no interference from the powers that be." A clear contrast is drawn between the business moguls whose actions destroy community and the utopian home of Grandpa Vanderhof where community flourishes.

Without giving away too much of the plot, eventually the Kirby and Vanderhof families get arrested and are put in a holding cell together where Grandpa gives Kirby a stern dressing-down:

"Maybe it'll stop you trying to be so desperate about making more money than you can ever use? You can't take it with you, Mr. Kirby. So what good is it? As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends."
In the predictable Hollywood ending, Mr. Kirby turns out to be "a very good egg" and cheerful harmonica player and everyone lives happily ever after.

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