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Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 12 April 1936 (USA)
A simple, small town man inherits a massive fortune, making him the target for scammers and publicity-seekers. Overwhelmed by the turn his life has taken, and awoken to another use for his new-found fortune, he makes a momentous decision.


Frank Capra


Robert Riskin (screen play), Clarence Budington Kelland (story)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Gary Cooper ... Longfellow Deeds
Jean Arthur ... Babe Bennett
George Bancroft ... MacWade
Lionel Stander ... Cornelius Cobb
Douglass Dumbrille ... John Cedar
Raymond Walburn ... Walter
H.B. Warner ... Judge May
Ruth Donnelly ... Mabel Dawson
Walter Catlett ... Morrow
John Wray ... Farmer


Longfellow Deeds lives in a small town, leading a small town kind of life - including playing the tuba in the town band. When a relative dies and leaves Deeds a fortune, Longfellow picks up his tuba and moves to the big city where he becomes an instant target for everyone from the greedy opera committee to the sensationist daily newspaper. Deeds outwits them all until Babe Bennett comes along. Babe is a hot-shot reporter who figures the best way to get close to Deeds is to pose as a damsel in distress. When small-town boy meets big-city girl anything can, and does, happen. Written by A.L.Beneteau <albl@inforamp.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Rocking America with laughter!


Comedy | Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

12 April 1936 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El secreto de vivir See more »


Box Office


$800,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Columbia Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Gary Cooper's relaxed acting style mirrored his off-stage approach to the work. Although the film marked a major step in his career, between scenes he would often lie down on the floor, pull his hat over his eyes and grab a quick nap in the midst of all the commotion of filmmaking. See more »


When Jean Arthur first goes to the witness stand in the trial scene, she is carrying a small purse. When, by the order of the judge, she returns to her seat, she does not bring the purse back with her.

While she does walk back to the seat without her purse, right after she sits down the bailiff places the purse next to her. See more »


Babe Bennett: I used to love to go fishing with my father. You know, that's funny. He was a lot like you, my father was. He talked like you too. Sometimes he'd let me hold the line while he smoked and we'd just sit there for hours. And, after awhile, for no reason, I'd go over and kiss him and sit on his lap. He never said very much. But, once I remember him saying,"No matter what happens, honey, don't complain."
See more »

Crazy Credits

Winthrop Oliver Warner (a studio musician) actually played the tuba for the film. See more »


Spoofed in The CooCoo Nut Grove (1936) See more »


Auld Lang Syne
(1788) (uncredited)
Traditional Scottish 17th century music
Played by a band at the train station, including Mr. Deeds on tuba
See more »

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User Reviews

The flaws are covered by the warming effect and the sheer charm of the film
29 March 2008 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

When a famous millionaire dies the media is aflame with the identity of his missing heir. The lawyers are just as interested and track him down to none other than small-town, simple-living Longfellow Deeds. He is more bemused than anything else about his sudden wealth and goes to New York to find out more. Once there he finds no end of people offering him services or selling him things and he tries to find some humanity within the city and the sharks around him. He believes he has found it with women-in-distress Mary Dawson but little does he know that she is really "Babe" Bennett – the sharpest reporter on the streets.

Unfair to watch this film with wholly modern eyes as some have done – berating it for its celebration of small-town values and perhaps depicting a naivety that is beyond the pale. Likewise though, I don't think that we should embrace it unquestioningly as many do. At its heart it is a Frank Capra film and it presents us with everything that we have come to expect from a film with that description. A simple man (many would say a "good" man) is confronted and to an extent crushed by examples of modern society that fly contrary to his moral and solid existence. That's it. It doesn't really matter what the specifics happen to be here as this is all you really need to know. To some extent of course this is all a bit obvious and naïve and indeed to some viewer it will be hard to get past that but in its favour it does manage to presence this homely cliché with an enormous wedge of charm.

This charm is evident throughout the film but one of the best examples of it is in the courtroom scene that manages to just about avoid being preachy due to the sheer cheering quality it has to it. Capra's direction and Riskin's script bring this out really well although I would question the tagline "rocking America with laughter" – it was amusing and warming but not hilarious by any means. I'm not entirely sold on Cooper in the lead and certainly not as enamoured as some are here. For my money he plays the "aw shucks ma'am" stuff just a bit too heavily, forgetting to give me a character to go along with it. Jean Arthur is better as she has more to play with, while Bancroft is fun in a bit of a cliché but a fun one. The rest of the cast do what you would expect whether they be simple men inspired, crooked men confronted or serving men treated with respect – all good but nothing earth shattering.

Overall then this is an obvious film that does just what you expect it to and watching it purely with modern eyes will kill it for many viewers. It is best watched with a mind to the period even if not total forgiveness – because it is not without flaws. The charm and the warming effect it has makes it though and, while not the Capra I would point the newcomer to, it is certainly an example of what we mean when we now say something is Capra-esquire (which is quite something – to have your name used as a descriptive word so many years later!).

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