For at least three decades, one of my favorites movies has been Mr. Deeds Goes To Town (1936). Directed by the great Frank Capra, it’s a perfect example of the heart-warming Capra-corn that he was so famous for. It tells the story of a small-town poet who inherits a fortune during the depression, and how cynical big-city smoothies and sharpies try to mock and take advantage of him.
What is a wonder to me is that Gary Cooper, the star of Mr. Deeds, was a huge heart-throb. I’ve seen many of his pictures, and in almost every one, he is as slow and awkward as he was in real life. Cooper lacked co-ordination, and one behind-the-scenes story from Pride of the Yankees tells how the director had to film Cooper in a Yankee uniform with backwards lettering. It turned out he was so awkward that when they tried to get him to mimic Lou Gehrig’s left-handed batting, it was painful to watch. Instead, they reversed the lettering, filmed him batting right-handed, and then reversed the film
And yet, he was included in Irving Berlin’s great song about being smooth and suave, “Putting on the Ritz”:
Dressed up like a million dollar trooper
Trying hard to look like Gary Cooper
Despite all this, Cooper could act, and make you care. In Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, when he’d rather be railroaded into a mental asylum rather than give the city any more fodder to mock him, you feel his pain.
Here’s the trailer for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – While I enjoy Adam Sandler’s remake, Mr. Deeds, it’s a pale comparison. Find it and rent it if you can.