MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN

(1936, Dir. Frank Capra)
Sony/Columbia Blu-ray SRP $19.99
116 min. / B&W / 1.33:1 / Subtitles

Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) is a gentle tuba-playing greeting-card poet in Mandrake Falls, Vermont who suddenly inherits $20 million from a distant uncle. He's swept down into Manhattan where a murder of big-city crows is waiting to take advantage of this hickish rube from the sticks, including scheming reporter Miss Arthur and unscrupulous financial attorney Douglass Dumbrille. Well, guess what? Mr. Deeds has common sense and a good heart and a sense of right and wrong and he's not the fool they all think he is. When he decides that money is the root of something bad where he's concerned, he decides to give the dough away to poor farmers, and so the Wall Street vultures swoop down and try to have him declared legally insane.

Million-dollar Dialog:

Mr. Deeds: “I guess I get the idea. I guess I know why I was invited here. To make fun of me. …. It’s easy to make fun of somebody if you don’t care how much hurt ‘em. I know I must look funny to you, but maybe if you went to Mandrake Falls you might look just as funny to us, only nobody’d laugh at ya and make ya feel ridiculous ‘cause that wouldn’t be good manners.”

Terrific movie with a great cast and isn't Miss Arthur lovely? Lionel Stander seems to have made a nice career for himself playing comic relief in her pictures, too. Jean was only in it because Carole Lombard walked off the set to go make My Man Godfrey and Jean, a contract player, was available on the spot. Director Frank Capra picked up on Oscar but the film lost to The Great Ziegfeld.

You can talk all you want about the politics of this picture, and in the middle of the Depression, it's definitely a statement picture about what's going on in America ("[Capra has] started to make pictures about themes instead of people" - Alistair Cooke) but I decided to simply enjoy it as a fine, funny romantic comedy with two top stars and a savvy director crafting a wonderful piece of entertainment; the final courtroom scene is a particular joy. I enjoyed the movie a lot.

The film has been restored and mastered in 4K is simply gorgeous; this edition has commentary by Frank Capra, Jr., a book on the film, and various featurettes. A must-buy and here in the Balcony, we’re especially glad to see so many of Jean Arthur’s films being restored (Only Angels Have Wings, You Can’t Take it With You). She never gets the respect she deserved as one of classic Hollywood’s most memorable stars.