Sunday, November 27, 2016

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

A wealthy man dies and the search for an heir turns up eccentric small town man, Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper). Unfamiliar to big city ways, he is taken in by reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur), wise in the ways of city life, and becomes the target of the popular press and those who get rich handling rich people’s money. When his folksy home-spun wisdom interferes with their plans, they use the bad press to question his sanity.

Jean Arthur could have been a bigger star. She was the female lead in plenty of pictures, some of them good, and was liked by her directors, but she never rose to A level stardom. Maybe because she was slightly older than her female contemporaries, hitting the big 3-0 when talkies became standard. Maybe she just managed to miss that one big roll. She turned down the Donna Reed roll in It’s a Wonderful Life because she didn’t want to work with Jimmy Stewart again. She retired fairly young. Her Columbia contract ended when she was 44 and she appeared in only two more films. Whatever the reason, she was always charming in the films I’ve seen, even the one I don’t care for much.

Here also is character actor Lionel Stander. His voice and looks are very distinctive and I remembered him as Max from Cheesy TV Hart to Hart four decades later. I noticed something Cooper would do. He’d make quirky facial expressions from time to time. I also Harrison Ford from Raiders doing something similar. I found it peculiar.

Here is Frank Capra at his Capriest. Pretty standard Rom Com format. I wasn’t charmed this time around. The principal reason was I didn’t find Deeds all that likeable. He was rude, quick to fight, and acted like a buffoon. Normally a Rom Com’s success relies solely on the chemistry of the two loves, and little else. Here, Deeds likability interferes. Overall not too bad, but (and I will say this again), it was too long. Fifteen minutes shorter would have been fifteen minutes better. AMRU 3.
“When the servant comes in, Mr. Hallor, I'm going to ask him to show you to the door. Many people don't know where it is.”

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