Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936) Director: Frank Capra
Starring Gary Cooper and Arthur Jean, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town is a charming tale of small town dreams and big city delusions. It is based on a short story, Opera Hat, by Clarence Budington Kelland in 1935. It was originally published as a serial in The American Magazine.
Gary Cooper plays Longfellow Deeds, an eccentric tuba player in the local band in Mandrake Falls, a small town, and a poet who writes lines for greeting cards. Suddenly, a wealthy uncle of his dies and Longfellow inherits a vast fortune of $20 million. He is brought to New York City to claim the fortune and a law firm tries desperately to become his power of attorney, and claim some of his wealth. In addition, Louise “Babe” Bennett, a writer for the local paper, devises a scheme to get a story out of him, though after she finds out who he really is, a genuine gentleman who is uninterested in his fortune, she falls in love with him. However, he soon finds out that everyone in the big city is trying to embarrass and laugh at him. He decides to give away all of his money to the farmers who have been left out of work in the great depression, providing them each with a 10 acre farm and some supplies and if they work the farm for three years they may own it. This causes the law firm to file suit against him on charges of insanity, once they realize they will lose the money. Longfellow eventually wins on his own testimony and he and Louise are reunited in embrace.
During production a few other titles were considered including Opera Hat (the name of the short story upon which it is based), A Gentleman Goes To Town, and Cinderella Man (the name he was dubbed in the papers). Graham Greene once called it Capra’s finest film. The film was nominated for several Academy Awards and Capra won his second Academy Award for Directing. A sequel was planned for the film which eventually became Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is a great film with a virtuous allegory, an all too uncommon message in Hollywood today, and the film deserves its place among the greats.