Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Lionel Stander, Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

One Good Deed Deserves Another

Over time some of cinema's most popular movies have come at the hands of director Frank Capra. He gave us "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and of course "It's a Wonderful Life" amongst others. He also gave us "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" a movie which in more recent years Adam Sandler tried to remake with his own style of comedy, which was never going to match up to the original. "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" is like many of Capra's movies, a story of how the honest up standing way of one person ends up affecting others in a positive way. Yes Capra's movies are very optimistic and often a little overly sentimental but with a blend of storytelling and comedy they remain some of the best entertainment ever made which achieve their desire of being uplifting.

After an Uncle he's never met dies in an accident, Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper - Blowing Wild) from Mandrake Falls ends up inheriting his Uncle's estate worth $20,000,000. Taken to New York by his Uncle's attorneys Deeds suddenly finds that everyone wants a piece of him, including the attorneys who are desperate to find anyway possible to get their hands on the money. It seems that Deeds only friend is Mary Dawson (Jean Arthur - Shane), a woman who he comes to the rescue of when she faints outside his home, but unbeknown to him Mary Dawson is in fact Babe Bennett a newspaper reporter duping him to get the inside scoop.

Raymond Walburn and Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

One of the marvellous things about "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" is that it has a well thought out storyline with a surprising amount going on, yet it never becomes complicated. You have the honest Longfellow Deeds with his small town mentality brought to the big city where many people including the attorney's handling his Uncles Will looking to take advantage of him. You have the dubious relatives who are also looking to get their hands on some money, the newspaper looking for stories on Deeds which leads us to Babe Bennett who pretends to be a damsel in distress to get close to him. And all of this is filled with little sub stories such as Deeds relations with those around him from his staff and also Cobbs who is there to protect him. But it never once becomes a hard movie to follow, in fact it is easy to follow and that is part of its charm.

The charm also comes from the message of the movie, that of the kindness of human nature when you stand up for your own beliefs. It's something which Capra did so well with many of his movies, although later on in his life is reported to have disliked. But in "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" it makes for a very peasant movie especially with Gary Cooper doing a marvellous job of playing the innocent Longfellow Deeds. In the scenes where you watch various people trying to dupe him you get that real impression of man who is not some back water dope, but someone who is both clever and has their own strong morals. And as the movie progresses those strong beliefs of what is right and wrong affect others making it very inspirational if a little overly sentimental with various powerful moments of dialogue.

And the charm also comes from the relationship that Deeds strikes up with Babe Bennett masquerading as Mary Dawson. Whilst being duped you get a sense of the feelings he has for the young woman and that those feelings go both ways, yet Bennett also has the guilt to deal with having duped him to get stories for the paper. It's a nice element which often works in tandem with a streak of humour which makes even the most innocent moment pleasantly amusing.

As for the performances well Gary Cooper makes for a brilliant Longfellow Deeds, delivering that sense of honesty which the character demands, yet also delivering the intelligence of the character. Alongside Cooper is Jean Arthur who was nearly not cast yet is brilliant as the beautiful Babe Bennett, especially when it comes to the guilt side of her character. But whilst Cooper and Harlow are the stars of the movie it is the smaller performances such as that from Lionel Stander as the gruff Cobb which brings it all together and often provide those almost quirky moments of comedy.

Of course as is often mentioned that whilst "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" has a feel good, positive even inspirational message about the good side of human natured it is also rather sentimental. I have to agree as there are some moments, such as when Deeds proclaims "God, I've got a lot of friends" when the whole of Mandrake Falls turn out to wave him off or when Deeds suddenly realises what to do with his huge inheritance when approached by a poor farmer. But in a strange way this almost manufactured sentimentality makes these older movies, these Capra movies so memorable for the right reasons, that of being positive.

What this all boils down to is that "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" is still a hugely entertaining and uplifting movie even if it is over 75 years old. It has a beautiful charm to it, from the performances of Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur through to many of those sweet, yet manufactured sentimental scenes. And although Adam Sandler tried to remake it with his own brand of comedy, Frank Capra's "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" still remains the best version.