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No computer generated images, small 1:33 ratio black and white screen and yet there is nothing in the world that comes close to the intimacy of this experience. Just look at Gary Cooper listening, trying to understand. Look at Jean Arthur falling in love. We have lost something very important along the way and it's not just innocence. How is it possible that nobody can get anywhere near this simple magic trick? They used to call Capra films "Capracorn" I wonder what they call Adam Sandler, Freddy Prinze Jr, and Jennifer Love Hewit comedies today? I want to jump into a time machine and go to those days, the days of Mr Deeds, Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur and Frank Capra.
Of all Capra's films this is the one I like the best, partly, I think, because there has never been anybody in the history of cinema to match Gary Cooper at putting on the boyish charm. As Longfellow Deeds, a man who inherits a lot of money he does not need and therefore does not want, Cooper is just right, a hick, but not a fool, a gentle man but not one who will let the wool be pulled over his eyes. The films' pertinence arises from its' depiction of a rich man prepared to give his wealth away to benefit his fellow man. It was a fantasy then, and is as much a fantasy now, because we do not learn, least of all from pictures even as good as this one.
One of Frank Capra's strengths as a film director was the great team he
assembled. Not only did he have a great technical group behind him, but his
casts combined talent that went from the major stars to the bit
In this fable, Mr. Capra gives an answer to those of us that always pondered: what would one do if one inherited a lot of money, or if one won the lottery (fat chance!) It must be terrifying to suddenly have a lot of wealth, in this case 20 million during the worst days of the Great Depression. Sometimes it's better to stay poor rather than have to deal with strangers that have designs on one's newly found wealth!
Gary Cooper has never been as charming as the tuba playing, country bumpkin whose life is changed dramatically when he has to go to Manhattan to claim his inheritance. His Longfellow Deeds gets to see first hand how the high society, his uncle belonged to, deals with this unsophisticated greeting card writing poet.
Jean Arthur was a natural comedienne. She is wonderful in this movie as the reporter who tricks Deeds into speaking with her and in the process falls in love with the man, the object of the ridicule she writes about.
Leonard Standing, one of the best character actors of the era, is equally effective as Cobb, the man who knows a thing or two about those society folks. George Bancroft was also good as MacWade.
The film has a pace that never lets the viewer down. In comparison with what passes today as film comedy, this is a masterpiece. It shows the genius of Frank Capra in charge of this group of people that make us treasure films like this one even if it's pure nonsense, which after all, was what the director was looking for to make us laugh.
Frank Capra knew that Gary Cooper was made for the part of Longfellow
Deeds, he waited until Harry Cohn could get him from Paramount before
making this film. It certainly is a once in a lifetime role and it got
Gary Cooper his first nomination for Best Actor. He lost that year to
Paul Muni for The Story of Louis Pasteur. But Capra won for Best
Director that year.
Cooper, poet laureate of Mandrake Falls, inherits 20 million dollars from a rich uncle. He's not terribly impressed with that as he feels he's living just fine in Mandrake Falls. But he goes down to New York City to settle the estate and gets put up in grand style at his late uncle's mansion.
The executor of the estate, Douglass Dumbrille, is one smooth talking, white shoe bottom feeder. This is probably Dumbrille's best known classic villain, John Cedar. He wants Cooper's power of attorney real bad to cover up some dipping he's done. Cooper isn't giving it to him right away though.
In the meantime his inheritance has become news and local editor George Bancroft has dispatched sob sister reporter Jean Arthur to invade his inner sanctum. That's a common thread in the Capra populist trilogy, a woman sent to invade the inner sanctum of the hero and ends up falling for him. Jean Arthur did it again to James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Cooper had it done to him again by Barbara Stanwyck in Meet John Doe.
After a whole lot of silly incidents which Arthur duly reports on, Cooper gets a real wake up call from one of what the current president then called a forgotten man. John Wray, a desperate farmer, tossed off his land and there were plenty of those in the twenties and thirties tells him off good and proper in a very powerful scene. Cooper, his own values questioned, decides to set up a fund to save the family farm as an institution.
Then he's called insane and Dumbrille takes as clients other heirs who want to contest the will. Which leads to Cooper's hearing in court to determine his sanity.
The values of Mr. Deeds are certainly eternal, honesty and decency don't and should never go out of style. Unfortunately the family farm is a thing of the past, there are less and less of them every year. It's agribusiness now so a faithful remake could never work today.
Yet the original still has a charm that cannot be denied, due to Frank Capra's vision and the way he got great performances out of the whole cast. One performance that shocked me was Raymond Walburn who usually plays avuncular, loquacious types. He plays the butler to Cooper's uncle and now to Cooper himself. To those who expect the usual Walburn we know and love, this is one different Walburn.
Even though Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is rooted firmly in the Thirties it should still be seen and studied today.
Or is it my favorite?!
Just a wholesome, thought-provoking expose on the weirdness of typical American city thinking and behavior, being brought to light by a naïve young man who has down-to-earth small-town common sense!
From the IMDB age-bracket reviews, it seems this movie might not appeal to the younger, especially girls under 18 (go figure).
A great Frank Capra-directed film. I also really like "You can't take it with you", but that film is more off-beat and goofy.
Enjoy this film when you're in the mood for something to remind you of "goodness". Whatever that is!
Frank Capra (Oscar-winning for directing) created one of the earlier Hollywood masterpieces with "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town". The film follows a good-hearted small-town Vermont man (Oscar-nominee Gary Cooper) who inherits a fortune from a relative he never knew. Now he must go to New York and take over his late uncle's estate, but he must also contend with a whole host of opportunistic bigwigs who want to take advantage of Cooper's kindness. Cooper is not as slow-witted as he appears though as he seems to outsmart all those around him. When reporter Jean Arthur comes along, Cooper falls hard for her and lets his guard down and forgetting himself, he may lose a part of himself that is priceless. Frank Capra dominated the 1930s and 1940s with life-affirming productions that were just simple human stories that would always strike emotional nerves for the audience. "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" is no exception. The remake should cause many to check this one out. This one stands up much higher than Adam Sandler's under-achiever. 5 stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think of 'Mr. Deeds Goes To Town' as the happier, shinier side of a
'Gary Cooper coin' that features 'Meet John Doe' as the cynical, grubby
under side. Both movies feature women who use newspaper stories to
distort or manipulate the two leading males, both played by Cooper. In
each movie, the two women (Barbara Stanwyck in 'Doe' and Jean Arthur in
'Deeds') end up falling in love with Cooper, as the women start
believing in their creation, or in the case of 'Deeds', finally seeing
Deeds as he really is. Furthermore, both movies turn an everyday man
into a hero of the people. It would seem that Cooper was the perfect
fit for whatever vehicle Frank Capra had in mind, so long as it was
about a 'hero of the people'.
But as far as 'Mr. Deeds' is concerned, there's so much to like about this film that it hardly matters at all to point out any minor detraction of the film. Capra works his usual magic from a well-assembled cast that includes Jean Arthur as Louis 'Babe' Bennett, and in one of his best roles to date, Lionel Standard as Cornelius Cobb. Fans of Standard may see a similarity between the character of 'Cornelius Cobb' and that of the 'Bodyguard' he played in Harold Lloyd's, 'The Milky Way'. Lloyd's film came out only two month's prior to the release of 'Mr. Deeds'.
With Capra's magic touch we are able to see a wonderful transformation take place inside the courtroom. Stacked with the odds against him, Deeds outwits his detractors by simply pointing out the idiosyncrasies of everyone in the courtroom involved in his virtual lynching. His simple homespun logic and mannerly approach to the proceedings works like Kryptonite over the jaded and corrupt super city slickers looking for the soft spot on his neck.
Although it is true that Capra has a 'magic touch' for appealing to the film going masses of yesterday, as well as today, his deftness in the art of emotional manipulation is a chief by product of that 'magic touch'. How can you not feel good about the character Longfellow Deeds when he's leaving his hometown while the local concert band is playing the song, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow"? To add more emotional punch to the send off, Capra has Deeds playing tuba to his own going away party. Deeds also plays, "Auld Lang Syne" at his hometown farewell. It would appear that Capra enjoyed using this tune, as he also did so in 'It's A Wonderful Life' ten years later.
Watch the scene where Deeds gets the hired help to yell and whoop it up inside his mansion just so they can all hear and enjoy the sound of their own voices echoing from wall to wall. It is a fantastic scene, but just one of many in this movie where you can feel layers upon layers of cynicism melting away from your soul.
10/10. Clark Richards
Thank you Library of Congress for restoring this wonderful film. Initially, I expected this Frank Capra flick to overwhelm me with sentimentality and false, overly contrived setups. Well, yes and yes with two huge buts: Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur. The acting is so good, so right in tone, humor, pace -- it makes everything believable (even the silly court scene at the end). It's a feel-good movie that still has a bitter-sweet message. Jean Arthur's acting is beyond anything I've recently seen -- every emotion is perfectly telegraphed with just the right intonation. Gary Cooper (who was nominated for best actor) sprinkles his complex role with the necessary amount of macho pixie dust. Highly recommended. Can't wait to see Mr. Smith goes to Washington.
Unvrivalled in the history of cinema and having just watched it again
for the umpteenth time, I thought a short review on IMDb was necessary.
I have watched the film regularly for the last twenty years and never
tire of its humour, its tenderness, its wit, its romance, its general
actors' performance and the originality of its subject matter. Never
have tears and laughs been so much intermingled in the same film..I was
gushing tears in the scene where Deeds hands a poem which Babe reads in
the fog on her doorstep ... a few minutes later Deeds goes running off
home, tripping up over a dustbin in the process and I was howling with
laughter ... likewise the long passage in the courtroom when Deeds
finally decides to "speak up" has me in fits of laughter over its
finesse and wit. The final scene, where Deeds comes back to the almost
empty courtroom to "collect" Babe who had been sitting by herself there
once again started off my waterworks as he picks her up and tenderly
embraces her all over the place. Indeed that final "kiss" is one of the
photos featured on France's 3rd TV channel's "Cinéma-Club" on most
They are truly indeed a BEAUTIFUL couple in all senses of the world. I will not go through the story of the film again as this has been more than amply related by others but suffice it to say I have never seen any other film made with quite this calibre and actors' performance. Ineed this is the type of film that could only be made once ! Each character is extremely well developed and each actor/actress has exactly the physique of the character they play - an absolutely perfect match, one of those "one-off" films where everything combines to make for the spectator's perfect pleasure.
What a shame that in the twenty first century we cannot produce films of this calibre using story line, actors' performance and plot alone - to obtain thrills from present-day audiences, large quantities of excessive noise, flashing lights and especially computer-generated imagery are necessary .... all this at the expense of plot and of the humour and witty lines. But, with modern technology being a double-edged knife, we should nevertheless thank God for it's enabling us to henceforth be able to appreciate these "golden oldies" for years to come !
In my opinion, a far superior work compared to that other Capra populist
film `Mr. Smith Goes To Washington' (even Jean Arthur seems fresher her in
role that is a virtual remake of the aforementioned film). We like the
story because we can identify with parvenus such as Mr. Deeds and this
us through all the way to the predictable, yet delightful and satisfying
conclusion that takes place in that good ol' American institution, the
courtroom. Just what the doctor ordered to battle a case of
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