Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
There's more than a Depression-era dime's worth of hokum in this story of a country bumpkin who inherits millions, then has his worm bitten in the Big Bad Apple, but at least it's Capra-corn.
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., June 28, 2002
MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (1936)
D: Frank Capra; with Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, Lionel Stander, Douglass Dumbrille.
When your last film was the first motion picture to win all five major Academy Awards (picture, director, actor, actress, screenplay), as was the verdict with Frank Capra's 1934 sleeper It Happened One Night, any version of sophomore slump is not an option. Not only did it take Capra forever to find the right follow-up, a near-miss with the great hereafter both delayed him further and determined the bootstrap-pulling Sicilian to spin inspirational yarns about and for the common man. Capracorn, sure. No one was more sentimental than George Bail-, er, Frank Capra. There's more than a Depression-era dime's worth of hokum in this story of a country bumpkin who inherits millions, then has his worm bitten in the Big Bad Apple. Gary Cooper's Longfellow Deeds is as much dolt as he is dear, and the whole feed-the-poor angle dated melodrama; the final courtroom scene was redone much better at the climax of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But Capra was no dolt. He had a gift for casting and knew a good screenwriter when he met one; Robert Riskin had, after all, landed them both Oscars last time out. Cooper and Jean Arthur, then, are pure money in their Manhattan courtship. The park bench scene in which Arthur's duplicitous reporter gets an inkling she may be falling for Gomer Pyle is what Thirties romantic comedies are all about; later, when he can't get words out while she can't hide her full-blown capitulation, heart strings be damned. Rip away. Lionel Stander as Deeds' right-hand cynic, dead-on as usual. When the receipts were tallied, Deeds was an unmitigated smash. Cooper was thought robbed for not winning Best Actor, while Arthur spent her entire career (and its subsequent afterlife) unappreciated as one of the screen's truly great comediennes. Capra, for his part, won a second Best Director statuette.