Study Guide

You Can't Take It With You Grandpa's Crutches

Grandpa's Crutches

Early on in You Can't Take It With You, Grandpa explains that he hurt his ankle when his granddaughter dared him to slide down the banister.

GRANDPA: The thing I like most about it is the crutches, I've been wanting to walk on them ever since I was a kid.

The crutches then are a sign of Grandpa's indomitable optimism and general playfulness. He is young at heart, which is, he shows, more important than being young of limb. Life can't get him down.

There's a twist there, though (and not just of a leg.) The cast in the film isn't real, but the crutches are; Actor Lionel Barrymore, who played Grandpa, had serious arthritis. Capra wanted him in the part, so they wrote in a broken leg for his character. The crutches can be seen as a sign of Grandpa's optimism and playfulness. But they can also be seen as a cleverly scripted acknowledgement of a real injury.

Grandpa isn't halted or deterred by setbacks, but in real life, spirit isn't necessarily enough to overcome hardships, even if you're a spirited old film star like Lionel Barrymore. Sometimes you need workplace accommodation too.

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