Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Frank Capra directs Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur and Lionel Stander in this tale of a small town eccentric who inherits a fortune and has to move to the city.

The thing about Capra is he goes dark really quick. For the first hour this a daft comedy, where much of the humour comes from straight talking everyman Cooper outwitting various wiseguys and corporate sharps. Then we get into the ‘socialism would help people’ message (admirable) and the courtroom drama to destroy our quirky, affable hero. Like It’s A Wonderful Life or Mr Smith Goes to Washington the lows our protagonist are pulled down to feel almost distastefully manipulative. Capra really tries to break his heroes, torture them with the very idea of themselves, before offering them or us any kind of quick redemption. I’m not sure Passion of the decent man holds up as entertainment these days quite so well.


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