When a car crash ends the life of a fabulously wealthy patron of the arts, the decedent’s $20,000,000 fortune is inherited by one Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) of Mandrake Falls, Vermont. Already a reasonably successful local businessman, Deeds doesn’t really feel the need for anything extra in his life: he just wants enough time to practice his tuba and compose greeting-card doggerel. When Deeds is convinced to move to New York, hard-boiled newspaper reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) is dispatched to get the inside scoop on “The Cinderella Man.” Babe’s stories of Deeds’ eccentricities and no-nonsense dealings with phonies and poseurs provide excellent headline fodder; but she begins to regret her actions, having fallen in love with the big lug. Deeds ultimately sets up a foundation to dispense his fortune to the country’s neediest souls, on the proviso that the recipients do their best to get back on their feet, a turn of events that leads his lawyer John Cedar (Douglas Dumbrille) to try to have him declared insane. By the end of the sanity hearing, the judge (H. B. Walker) declares: “Not only are you sane, but you’re the sanest man who ever walked in this courtroom!” A joyously unadulterated hunk of Frank Capra-corn, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town was adapted by Robert Riskin from Clarence Buddington Kelland’s short story “Opera Hat.” In addition to the pleasure of watching the country bumpkin outwit city slickers, the movie is a film buff’s dream, boasting one of the best character-actor casts ever assembled for a single film. Nominated for four Academy Awards, the film won Frank Capra his second Oscar (out of three) as Best Director.
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