Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

Frank Capra won his second of three directorial Oscars for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, a film made with his longtime collaborator and screenwriter Robert Riskin. Released at the height of the Great Depression, it spoke to the beset masses on two levels: first off it provided a strong populist view that sided with the common working man and criticized upper class greed and secondly it is an immensely entertaining piece of escapist cinema. Starring Gary Cooper is a wonderful performance and perhaps against type as the small towned lighthearted Longfellow Deeds who one day discovers he has inherited $20,000,000. Taking the news in stride he almost immediately decides to give the money away, saying he has no need for it. However, he is persuaded to go to New York City where is surrounded and hounded by people trying to take advantage of him. One of them is a reporter, another fine performance from Jean Arthur, who seeks Deeds' company in order to get a story, while slowly falling in love with him. All the while, the slimy attorney in charge of the estate soon realizes that Deeds will never sign over the power of attorney so the devious shyster plots on throwing a couple road blocks in his way that will prevent him from donating his millions to needy out of work farmers. Mr Deeds Goes to Town is a delightful film that works on both aforementioned fronts. Gary Cooper brings immense charm and likability to his role. I couldn't help but smile every time he mentioned "socking" someone who had slighted him. I really liked Jean Arthur as well who had a difficult role she pulls off wonderfully where she has to be a tough go getter yet sweet and innocent when in the presence of Cooper. The light moments in Deeds work wonderfully and when the film strives for more serious notes, it hits them as well. Mr. Deeds is wholehearted entertainment that holds appeal to a wide range of people due to it genuine and entertaining handling of it material.