Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Release Year: 1936
Director: Frank Capra
Writers: Robert Miskin (screenplay), Clarence Budington Kelland (based on his 1935 short story “Opera Hat”)
Starring: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, Lionel Stander, Douglass Dumbrille Raymond Walburn, H.B. Warner, Ruth Donnelly, Walter Cattlett, John Wray
Rating: Won 1 Oscar: Best Director. Nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Gary Cooper), Best Writing, Best Sound.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #315, week 27 2020
Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), an honest and simple small-town man, inherits a massive fortune and becomes the targets of publicity-seekers and money-hungered scammers. Overwhelmed and disillusioned by his experiences, he makes a momentous decision.
Frank Capra (It Happened One Night,1934) is one of those directors whose name is forever linked with “classic Hollywood” on the strength of the classic films he made like a string of pearls during the 1930s and 1940s. Capra had a gift for the sentimental, which is coup de grâce of a film like Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. The film sets off in a tone typical of the 30’s where filmmakers are still discovering the techniques that would make the narrative flowing and seamless. Another example would be the otherwise quite funny Nothing Sacred (1937); a film like Mr. Deeds in some ways, which also feels episodic at times. In Mr. Deeds we see the same abrubt scene changes and small snitbit scenes obviously there just for laughs. This is all fine and well, but what really lifts the film is the forceful and wonderfully realised sentimentality of the story, to which Capra is able to elicit the proper response from his audience, much like he did with It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Much praise is due also to Gary Cooper (Meet John Doe, 1941) who stars a Mr. Longfellow Deeds, a simple but somewhat quirky small-town poet and tuba player who finds himself the butt of the joke and the unwitting victim of big city vultures. Cooper is magnificent at playing honest and very likable characters, and Mr. Deeds is certainly one of them. Jean Arthur (You Can’t Take It with You, 1938) is also very good as the cynical news reporter who dubes Mr. Deeds to get material for her ridiculing articles only to finds herself liking the man. In meeting this innocent man and seeing the cruelty with which he is treating, she is forced to confront her own cynicism, much like we are as audience. The film becomes better and better as it progresses and culminated in a classic court room scene that is one of the best of its kind. At turns thought-provoking, funny, sweet, and ultimately moving, this is a classic you don’t want to miss!
NB: As is often the case with old trailer, this one gives away major plot points.
The movie marks the first instance of the use of the word “doodle” to descibe abentminded scribbling in the English language. The word was coined by screenwriter Robert Miskin.
Carole Lombard was originaly set to play the female main character Babe Bennett but backed out three days before shooting began to do My Man Godfrey (1936).
Jean Arthur never saw the film until she and Frank Capra were invited to a film festival in 1972.