|Mr. Deeds Goes to Town|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Capra|
|Produced by||Frank Capra|
|Written by||Clarence Budington Kelland
Robert Riskin (screenplay)
|Editing by||Gene Havlick|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release date(s)||April 16, 1936|
|Running time||115 minutes|
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is a 1936 American comedy film directed by Frank Capra, based on the story Opera Hat by Clarence Budington Kelland that appeared in serial form in the Saturday Evening Post. It stars Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur in her first featured role. The screenplay was written by Kelland and Robert Riskin in his fifth collaboration with Capra.
In the middle of the Great Depression, Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), co-owner of a tallow works, part-time greeting card poet and tuba-playing inhabitant of the hamlet of Mandrake Falls, Vermont, inherits the enormous fortune of 20 million dollars from his late uncle, Martin Semple. His uncle's scheming attorney, John Cedar (Douglass Dumbrille), locates Deeds and takes him to New York City.
Cedar gives his cynical troubleshooter, ex-newspaperman Cornelius Cobb (Lionel Stander), the task of keeping reporters away from the heir. He is outfoxed, however, by star reporter Louise "Babe" Bennett (Jean Arthur), who appeals to Deeds' romantic fantasy of rescuing a damsel in distress by masquerading as a poor worker named Mary Dawson. She pretends to faint from exhaustion after "walking all day to find a job" and worms her way into his confidence. She proceeds to write a series of enormously popular articles mocking Longfellow's hick ways and odd behavior, naming him the "Cinderella Man". Meanwhile, Cedar tries to get Deeds' power of attorney in order to keep his financial misdeeds secret.
Deeds, however, proves to be a shrewd judge of character, easily fending off Cedar and other greedy opportunists. He wins Cobb's wholehearted respect and eventually Babe's love. However, when Cobb finds out Bennett's true identity, Deeds is left heartbroken.
Just as he is ready to return to Mandrake Falls in disgust, a dispossessed farmer (John Wray) breaks into his mansion and threatens him with a gun. He expresses his scorn for the seemingly heartless, ultra rich man, who won't lift a finger to help the multitudes of desperate poor. The intruder then comes to his senses, but Deeds realizes what he can do with his troublesome fortune: he decides to provide fully equipped 10-acre (40,000 m2) farms free to thousands of homeless families if they will work the land for several years.
Alarmed at the prospect of losing control of the fortune, Cedar joins forces with Deeds' only other relative and his grasping, domineering wife in seeking to have Deeds declared mentally incompetent. This, along with Babe's betrayal, finally breaks his spirit and he sinks into a deep depression.
During his sanity hearing, things look bleak for Deeds, especially since he initially refuses to defend himself. Cedar even gets Deeds's Mandrake Falls tenants, eccentric elderly sisters Jane and Amy Faulkner (Margaret Seddon and Margaret McWade), to testify that Deeds is "pixilated." That charge falls apart when the two spinsters admit that everyone in town, except themselves, suffers from the same affliction. When Babe convinces Deeds that she truly loves him, he systematically punches holes in Cedar's case (before punching Cedar in the face) and the judge declares him to be "the sanest man who ever walked into this courtroom".
As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified)
|Gary Cooper||Longfellow Deeds/Cinderella Man|
|Jean Arthur||Louise "Babe" Bennett/Mary Dawson|
|George Bancroft||MacWade aka "Mac"|
|Lionel Stander||Cornelius Cobb|
|Douglass Dumbrille||John Cedar|
|H.B. Warner||Judge May|
|Ruth Donnelly||Mabel Dawson|
Originally Frank Capra was going to make Lost Horizon after Broadway Bill (1934) but lead actor Ronald Colman couldn't get out of his other filming commitments, so production planning changed to adapting Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. The two main cast members, Gary Cooper as Longfellow Deeds and Jean Arthur as Louise "Babe" Bennett/Mary Dawson were cast as production began. Capra's "first, last and only choice" for the pivotal role of the eccentric Longfellow Deeds was Gary Cooper. Due to his other film commitments, production was delayed six months before Cooper was available, incurring costs of $100,000 for the delay in filming. Arthur was not the first choice for the role but Carole Lombard, the original female lead, "ankled" the film just three days before principal photography, in favor of a starring role in My Man Godfrey. The first scenes shot on the Fox Studios' New England street "lot" were in place before Capra "discovered" his heroine in a rush screening.  In any case, the opening sequences had to be reshot anyway when Capra decided against the "broad" comedy approach that had originally been written. 
Despite his penchant for coming in "under budget," Capra spent an additional five shooting days in multiple takes, testing angles and "new" perspectives, treating the production as a type of workshop exercise. Due to the increased shooting schedule, the film came in at $38,936.00 more than the Columbia budget for a total of $806,774.00.Throughout the preproduction and the early principal photography, the project still retained Kelland's original title, Opera Hat, although Capra tried out some other titles including A Gentleman Goes to Town and Cinderella Man before settling on a name that was the winning entry in a contest at the Columbia Pictures publicity department. 
The film was generally treated as likeable fare by critics and audiences alike. Noted reviewer Graham Greene was effusive that this was Capra's finest film to date, describing Capra's treatment as "a kinship with his audience, a sense of common life, a morality..."  Variety noted "a sometimes too thin structure [that] the players and director Frank Capra have contrived to convert (...) into fairly sturdy substance."
This was the first Capra film to be released separately to exhibitors and not "bundled" with other Columbia features. On paper, it was his biggest hit, easily surpassing It Happened One Night.
American Film Institute recognition
Capra won his second Academy Award for Directing in 1936 for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, while Cooper received the first of his five nominations for Best Actor. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay (Robert Riskin), and Best Sound Recording (John P. Livadary).
At the end of the year, the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review named "Mr. Deeds" the "Best Picture of 1936."
A radio adaptation of the film was originally broadcast on February 1, 1937 on Lux Radio Theater. In that broadcast, Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur and Lionel Stander reprised their roles from the 1936 film. 
A short-lived ABC television series of the same name ran from 1969 to 1970, starring Monte Markham as Longfellow Deeds. It was also remade as Mr. Deeds in 2002, starring Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder.
A mistaken belief is that a sequel called Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington was written and eventually became Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Although the latter has some similarities to Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, including starring Jean Arthur and being directed by Capra, its 1939 screenplay was actually based on an out-of-print novel, The Gentleman from Montana and was an entirely separate project.
The bucolic Vermont town of Mandrake Falls, home of Longfellow Deeds, is now considered an archetype of small town America with Kelland creating a type of "cracker-barrel" view of rural values contrasted with that of sophisticated "city folk". The word pixilated, previously limited to New England (and attested there since 1848), "had a nationwide vogue in 1936" thanks to its prominent use in the film; although its use in the screenplay may not be an accurate interpretation. The lyrics to the 1977 Rush song "Cinderella Man" on the A Farewell to Kings album are based on the story of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.