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The play You Can't Take It with You won the Pulitzer Prize for the 1936-37 season, and was still playing on Broadway when this film was released. A December 23, 1936 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Paramount had "taken an option" on the play, but no further information about Paramount's involvement has been found. According to the film's production notes, Columbia paid $200,000 for the film rights to the play. Although a Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Tony Labriola was being tested for a part in the picture, his participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA Director Joseph I. Breen was concerned about the interactions between "Donald" and "Rheba" and their employers, the Vanderhof family. In a letter to Harry Cohn, Breen stated: "[when] showing the negro characters Reba [sic] and Donald, care should be taken to avoid objection in Southern sections of this country where the showing of negroes in association with whites has sometimes been subjected to criticism by the public generally and to deletion by political censor boards. Such criticism has been based on the feeling that negroes in pictures have been shown on terms too familiar and of 'social equality.'"
You Can't Take It with You marked the screen-acting debut of Dub Taylor. The film received Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director and was nominated for Supporting Actress (Spring Byington), Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing and Sound Recording. It was also voted one of the ten best pictures of 1938 by the Film Daily Poll of Critics. A New York Times article states that the picture was shot at the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, CA in sight of the sets constructed for Lost Horizon, Capra's previous film. On August 23, 1938, Columbia held a special, international press preview of the film. On that same day, Capra's three-year-old son John died of a cerebral hemorrhage. According to Capra's autobiography, he originally wanted Fay Bainter for the role of Penny Sycamore. Modern sources list the following technical credits: Casting dir Bobby Mayo; and Cam crew William Jolley, Sam Rosen, Lee Davis, and Victor Scheurich. Also listed are the following cast members: Edward Hearn (Court attendant); Eddy Chandler (Plainclothes policeman); and John Hamilton and Major Sam Harris (Diners). On October 2, 1939, Edward Arnold and Robert Cummings performed a radio broadcast of You Can't Take It with You for Lux Radio Theater. The play has been revived many times, including television presentations such as The Fabulous Sycamores, a segment of the NBC Network's Ford Theater, broadcast in 1955, directed by Edward Buzzell and starring Cecil Kellaway as "Grandpa"; a 1979 CBS presentation of the play directed by Paul Bogart and starring Art Carney as "Grandpa"; and a 1980s Broadway revival, taped and shown subsequently on television, directed by Ellis Raab and starring Jason Robards as "Grandpa."