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Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What's the story?
MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN centers on greeting card poet Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a nice guy from a small town who finds out he's the only heir to an immense fortune. When he comes to New York to live the high life, he finds he hates being rich. When he tries to give the money away to the poor, he finds himself on trial for insanity. In scathing exposés of his small-town behavior, the newspapers declare him a backwater dope. Meanwhile, Deeds falls for a woman named Mary (Jean Arthur) who turns out to be one of the offending journalists. This tale gets quite dark before its dawn, but in the end, the trial provides the means for reconciliation between Deeds and Mary. Poor Mr. Deeds has a heck of a time weathering the cynical and nasty folk who live in New York. When he's on trial, getting slandered by hypocrite after hypocrite, things get pretty depressing.
Is it any good?
A snappy plot about a simple man made suddenly rich and a strong performance by Gary Cooper drive this wonderful classic. A strong moral foundation, recommending a big heart over a thick wallet, makes the movie ideal family fare, although younger viewers may get lost within the fast-paced story. Some kids might find the courthouse scenes upsetting. Others may find the notion that Deeds can give away his fortune in any equitable manner a bit hard to believe (especially during the Depression).
But the movie is typical Capra fare: It wears its morals and its sentiments on its sleeve. Everything else, including the soundness of Deeds's financial planning and the dreariness of his trial, is secondary to its ultimate championing of common decency. The movie is buoyed by the two fantastic performances of Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur. He is the charming innocent, she the hard-as-nails city woman. Cooper has the ability to proselytize without sounding preachy, using the honest language of the common man. Arthur is sassy but sweet --a perfect foil.
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