Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper
MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936). Director: Frank Capra. NOTE: This review reveals some plot points in the movie.

A wealthy man dies in an accident and leaves twenty million dollars to a content, small-town fellow named Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper). Brought to New York by lawyer John Cedar (Douglass Dumbrille), Deeds turns out to be not as dumb as he seems, although he falls for the hunger act put on by newspaper reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur), who at first only sees him as a story and mocks him in the paper. The two fall in love, but when Deeds discovers that Babe was the one behind the articles ... The film ends with a lengthy courtroom scene in which Deeds' sanity is brought into question. Frankly, Mr. Deeds is contrived and phony from the get-go. Deeds is seen as a fine, amiable fellow [who settles arguments with his fists!] but it doesn't occur to him to use the money to help other people until a starving farmer storms his mansion with a gun. When Cedar argues that Deeds isn't really responsible enough to handle twenty million dollars [because he wants to give it all away], the fact remains that Cedar is probably right -- in that Deeds doesn't know the right way to go about establishing a charitable fund. Robert Riskin's screenplay presents the quaint and preposterous notion that all big city dwellers are nasty "slickers" and small-town people are the salt of the earth [sure!]; caricatures wealthy opera fans [as if only the rich are cultured!]; and features a lead character, like John Doe, who never seems entirely real. To say all this becomes quite tiresome is an understatement. Deeds isn't so wonderfully noble -- he doesn't care about the money because he already seems to be well-off, owning more than one home and employing a live-in housekeeper. The only really amusing moments come in the climactic courtroom scene, especially with the little old ladies who think Deeds -- and virtually everyone else -- is "pixillated." Cooper is okay, Dumbrille is excellent, and Arthur as vital and wonderful as ever, the movie's saving grace. But this is far, far below the level of Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. A further minus is the irritating presence of Lionel Stander.

Verdict: Pure Capra-corn. **.

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