Monday, December 21, 2009

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)is a comedy directed by Frank Capra, based on the story Opera Hat by Clarence Budington Kelland that appeared in serial form in the Saturday Evening Post. The film stars Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in her first featured role.

In the middle of the Great Depression, Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), co-owner of a Tallow Works, part-time greeting card poet and tuba-playing small town man of Mandrake Falls, Vermont inherits 20 million dollars from his late uncle Martin Semple.

His uncle's scheming attorney, John Cedar (Douglass Dumbrille), locates Deeds and takes him to New York City with hopes that Deeds will grant him power of attorney over the vast fortune.

Cedar assigns ex-newspaperman Cornelius Cobb (Lionel Stander), the task of keeping reporters away from the heir.

However Cobb and Cedar are not able to keep away star reporter Louise "Babe" Bennett (Jean Arthur). Bennett pretends to be Mary Dawson who pretends to faint in front of Deeds from exhaustion after walking all day to find a job and worms her way into his heart.

Deeds is like a kid in a candy shop in his new mansion, running to the window to watch the fire trucks go by, playing with the echos in the vast mansion, and sliding down the staircase bannister.

However, Deeds has a certain wit about him. He will not agree to sign power of attorney over to Cedar without seeing his books. He does not fall for a scheme by an Attorney named Hallor (Charles Lane) who claims he represents a common law wife of Semple. He also tricks his bodyguards by locking them in a closet so Deeds can have an evening out without constant supervision.

Deeds first night out he takes Mary Dawson/ Babe Bennett the lady he just rescued to a restraurant popular with writers. At the restraurant, the writers make fun of Deeds simple ways. He stands his ground by decking them. One writer is impressed with Deeds and takes him on a night of drinking on the town.

Babe Bennett utilizes the opportunity to chronicle Deed's drinking bender in her paper and nicknames him the Cinderalla Man. After his drunken bender, Deeds vows to talk to no one but "Mary." Bennett continues her articles but slowly is beginning to fall in love with Deeds.

Just as Bennett decides to quit the paper and tell Deeds the truth, Cobb discovers her true identity and tells Deeds first. Deeds is left heartbroken.

Deeds decides to give away his fortune by helping farmers. This angers Cedar and Cedar joins suit with Deed's only living relative and they try to declare Deeds mentally incompetent.

Unknown to Cedar, Cobb, the man he hired to watch Deeds, respects Deeds and what he is trying to do for the farmers.

Deeds sinks into a deep depression and won't ask for an attorney or any help at his sanity hearing.

During his sanity hearing, things do not look good for Deeds, especially since he refuses to defend himself. Cedar paints Deeds as a manic depressive. Pointing out his attacking the writers at the restraurant, feeding donuts to a horse during his drunken bender, running the streets without his clothes, and so forth. Cedar even brings two women (Margaret Seddon and Margaret McWade) from Deed's hometown in Mandrake Falls who say Deed's is pixilated.

During the hearing, Bennett expresses her love for Deeds and he gets his fight back. Cedar's charges slowly one by one fall apart as Deeds explains himself and points out what some would call eccentric behavior in the Judge, Cedar and the psychiatrist.

Frank Capra won his second Academy Award for Directing for this movie. Gary Cooper received his first Best Actor nomination for his role as Longfellow Deeds. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay (Robert Riskin), and Best Sound Recording (John P. Livadary).

This is a classic comedy and Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper are at their best. It is a warm hearted film and shows that good triumphs evil in the end.

The movie also contains delightful performances by Ruth Donnelly as Mabel, H.B. Warner as the Judge, and Raymond Walburn as Walter.

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