Making the Grades
Movie remakes are as common in Hollywood as facelifts! Columbia's 2002 Mr. Deeds, starring Adam Sandler, is an example of such celluloid surgery. For the before and after comparison, check out director Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.
The 1936 film stars Gary Cooper as Longfellow Deeds, a simple man who writes greeting card poems and plays tuba in the community band. But the peaceful pastoral existence he has always enjoyed abruptly ends when a group of New York lawyers notify the bashful bachelor of an enormous inheritance from an estranged relative.
At the attorneys' insistence, a reluctant Mr. Deeds goes to town, where he is introduced to his deceased uncle's business associates and staff. Although they set to work immediately, their attempts to makeover the country bumpkin only prove "clothes do not make the man."
As news of his naive nature circulates, shrewd city slickers swoop in unscrupulous anticipation, hoping to get of piece of the beneficiary's good fortune. Amongst the vultures is Louise "Babe" Bennett (Jean Arthur), a journalist who negotiates an extended holiday in return for getting the scoop on the "Cinderella man."
Although Mr. Deed's taste of the Big Apple is soured by an invitation to go on a drunken binge, a convincing "damsel in distress" deception, and a public mocking of his self respect in the press, it is his unexpected financial decisions (such as a nip and tuck approach to the opera board's budget) that turn out to be more then the skin-deep socialites can swallow.
Full of the "corn" Capra films are famous for, the movie builds to a courtroom showdown where the common man takes on society sophistication. In spite of Mr. Deeds' propensity to produce poor prose and throw punches (he could use a few pointers on anger management), it's hard not to cheer on the underdog.
While the peaches and cream plot is not without blemish (the inclusion of a character being threatened with a gun is a bit strong for such a soft story), its sometimes-cutting look at the worth of face value is a message that needs no alterations.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.
Jean Arthur’s character is nicknamed “Babe”. What does this moniker say about changes in political correctness? What other portrayals in this film show differences in our social climate?
Patriotism and the plight of the common man are recurring themes in Frank Capra films. What does he include in this movie to make those points?