Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes To Town

Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes To Town

Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Release date: December 28th 2010
Certificate (UK): U
Running time: 118 minutes
Year of production: 1936

Director: Frank Capra

Cast: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, Raymond Walburn, Lionel Stander, Walter Catlett, George Bancroft

As part of the Frank Capra season at the BFI Southbank, the 1936 classic Mr. Deeds Goes To Town returns to the big screen for one night only!

Nominated for 5 Oscars at the 1937 Academy Awards including Gary Cooper for Best Actor, the movie won one, earning Capra his second award for Best Director.

Based on the short story Opera Hat by Clarence Budington Kelland, the movie begins with small-town poet and tuba player Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) inheriting his uncle’s $20 million fortune. He waves goodbye to the townspeople and sets off to the Big Apple to take over his uncle’s business empire.

Before Deeds can shake 2¢ together he’s descended upon by lawyers, accountants, journalists, employees and all types of other moochers who want a piece of him and his fortune for their own selfish needs.

Newspaper reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) is assigned to report on the naïve and trusting millionaire when her editor believes Deeds is too good to be true. Her mission is to dig up dirt on him and she weasels her way into his life by posing as a damsel in distress whom Deeds goes weak at knees for. As Babe discretely writes one popular article after the next, Deeds is nicknamed “Cinderella Man” but has no idea they’re written by the woman he’s falling in love with. The trouble is, she’s falling for him too as she comes to realise he really is as good as he seems.

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town

As he uses his fortune to do good deeds, scheming attorney, John Cedar (Douglass Dumbrille) tries to have him declared as mentally incompetent and unfit for handling a vast fortune and empire on the basis that anyone so generous must be insane.

Gary Cooper, one of Hollywood’s greatest screen legends, at 6′ 3″ (1.91 m), softly spoken and with his trademark slow delivery of his lines, is wonderful in this role. Mr. Deeds is charming, innocent and likeable, something which Capra knew Coop would be able to bring to the role. He was his first, last and only choice for the role and the director waited until he was available to make the film, delaying filming at a cost of $100,000.

Coop would say of his chance to work with Capra:

“Working for Capra meant that I would one of the very best directors in the business and I would be getting an excellent opportunity to try out what I always wanted to do on a large scale – subdued comedy.”

He would count Mr. Deeds as one of his favourite film in the long list of films he played in.

“It was the most enjoyable I ever made. I liked Mr. Deeds. Heck of a good fellow. Wish I could meet him somewhere.”

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town opened at Rockerfeller Centre in New York in 1936, a few days after Desire opened at the New York Paramount starring Cooper and Marlene deitrich in their second film together. Fans clamoured to see both pictures one after the next with critics hailing the leading man already as one of the Hollywood greats.

The Gary Cooper Story, George Carpozi Jnr
Published by W.H. Allen, 1970

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