“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” (1936)

No, not the Adam Sandler remake. You know me better than that, right? The original, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, is one of those famous old movies that I’d never yet seen, so when Take-Up Productions had a Capra series, I made sure to address that gap in my movie experience. This is an utterly charming, funny movie, and a great example of Capra’s style.

Gary Cooper is Mr. Deeds, a small-town greeting-card writer who inherits millions when a distant relative dies suddenly. He’s a kindly eccentric, and tries to keep his head about him when he’s whisked off to NYC. There he meets Jean Arthur as Babe Bennett, a reporter who poses as an everyday small-town girl.

Louise “Babe” Bennett: That guy is either the dumbest, stupidest, most imbecilic idiot in the world, or else he’s the grandest thing alive. I can’t make him out.

They develop feelings for each other, but just as things might go well, he is sued for insanity in an attempt to seize his money. The suit is based on Arthur’s articles on him, and he finds out her real identity.

Will the bad guys steal his money? Will he be institutionalized? Will he forgive Arthur? Though the outcomes are predictable, the tension is real, and the enjoyment is palpable. This is truly a feel-good movie, though it easily could have been something else. Capra was to have made another movie, Cooper wasn’t available for months, the original female lead backed out, the studio head was against Arthur, yet it all came together. It has a further claim to fame. According to imdb:

This movie marks the entry of the verb doodle (in the sense of absent-minded scribbling) into the English language. The word was coined for the movie by screenwriter Robert Riskin.

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