Mr Deed s Goes to Town needs the marquee draught of Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur and George Bancroft to make it really go to town. With a sometimes too thin structure [from a story by Clarence Budington Kelland], the players and director Frank Capra have contrived to convert Deed s into fairly sturdy substance. The farce is good-humored and the trouping and production workmanlike, but there are some lapses in midriff that cause considerable uncertainty.
The native Yankee shrewdness endowed Longfellow Deeds takes a male Pollyanna tack that skirts some dangerous shoals. A mugg with a $20 million heritage should know how to be more practical about things and while scriptwriter Robert Riskin and Capra have managed to have him turn the tables more or less effectively in the trial before a lunacy commission, there are times when Cooper’s impression is just a bit too scatter-brained for sympathetic comfort.
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Capra’s direction is more mundane than flighty. With machinating attorneys, false claimants to the estate, down-to-earth ‘jest folks,’ etc, it’s to be expected that the general structure will be in like tune.
Deeds is a guy who plays a tuba in bed, slides down bannisters, decides to give away his $20 million just like that, after John Wray in a theatrical hokum bit waves a gun at him, fortified with a quasi-comunistic plea. Combined with some of the other lines and business accorded the male topper, audience credulity, despite the general lightness of the theme, becomes strained.
1936: Best Director.
Nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Gary Cooper), Screenplay, Sound