Review: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)


I’d do a lot with twenty million dollars, and sorry farmers of America, you would not be touching my money!

Screenplay By: Robert Riskin
Directed By: Frank Capra

I was mesmerized by the first hour of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. I felt as if I was watching a much superior version of Frank Capra’s soon to come, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The theme of an honest man dealing with dishonest people, and in most cases not even dishonest people but people who only know how to look out for themselves. The theme of someone not willing to fit in with high culture and being branded a loon as a result. Those two themes were strong and more importantly they were real. Unlike Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town presented themes I could get behind and believe in. Because people do think and act like they did in the movie, but Mr. Deeds had the power because he had the money, so he could make a difference or change people’s minds if he so chose. Unfortunately a farmer showed up at Deed’s door and the movie went downhill from there.

I couldn’t connect with the final act of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town at all, it was far too schmaltzy, with one too many contrived sequences and a message I don’t agree with in any way. Helping out your fellow man is fine, and I applaud people who are involved with philanthropy. But, I can’t agree with a message that says philanthropy must be forced on a person, because if you are rich and aren’t helping the poor you are a bad, selfish man. That theme was presented in such a heavy and ham fisted way that I lost any interest in the final outcome of the movie. The moment that farmer entered Mr. Deed’s mansion I knew where the movie was going and realized that the entire first hour of the movie was about to be betrayed.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is still a good picture. It features a tremendously scathing first hour. Jean Arthur and Gary Cooper give stand out performances, while Lionel Stander gives a delightful portrayal of the gritty and tough press agent Cornelius Cobb. The themes contained in the first hour are timeless and they are handled in deft fashion. The first hour of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town isn’t schmaltzy, it is honest and earnest; the stuff great movies are made of. But, be prepared to be let down by the final hour when Mr. Deeds Goes to Town descends into a never ending deluge of schmaltz and meandering, and ultimately incredibly wrong, messages. The remake wasn’t any great shakes, but it wasn’t as disappointing as watching the final hour of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and lamenting over the film that could have been.



Bill Thompson

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