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Film / Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

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"People here are funny. They work so hard at living they forget how to live."
Longfellow Deeds

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is a 1936 classic film directed by Frank Capra, which won him the second of three Academy Awards.

Gary Cooper stars as Longfellow Deeds, a smalltown tuba player who is suddenly left a massive fortune by his rich uncle. He moves to the big city, where everyone wants a piece of his fortune. Intrepid Reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) meets Longfellow, initially exploiting his simpleness to advance her journalistic career but gradually finding herself falling for him. However, it's the Deeds family attorney, the scheming Mr. Cedar, whose greed will provide the biggest obstacle for Mr Deeds.

It was remade, quite loosely, as the 2002 Adam Sandler vehicle Mr. Deeds.


This work features examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Babe Bennett.
  • Amoral Attorney: Mr. Cedar is initially gleeful to find that he's representing a small-town Nice Guy, figuring he'll be easy to fleece. When that proves untrue, Cedar goes to work for the other potential heirs.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: While in the meeting of the opera committee, Deeds gets distracted by the noise from a fire engine, which they don't have in Mandrake Falls.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Manic depression has you become violent during the manic phases, not depressed phases. It's unclear whether that part was Science Marches On, Artistic Liscense:Medicine, or a purposeful indication that the doctor who was diagnosing Mr. Deeds was simply full of it. In addition, the graph he uses shows the two stages as "abnormal" for manic and "subnormal" for depressive, which besides being not even Distinction Without a Difference are not even real descriptions for the two stages as either stage could be either term, as well as not making full sense in context. In addition, the Austrian doctor's assertions that it's hard to spot "manic-depressives" since they can be normal for years (in addition to their phasings being slow and gradual) is also not true as someone in a manic phase typically has psychosis, and is what you would imagine and stereotypical image of anti-depression done to the level of psychosis: extreme sexual binging, deciding to create extreme projects that are very grand, being unable to sleep for days, and extremely active.
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  • Becoming the Mask: Babe stages a Rescue Romance with Deeds to advance her journalist career and then falls in love with him.
  • Benevolent Boss: MacWade, Babe's editor. He happily prints all the material she gives him, but when she decides to pull out of the story because she's fallen in love he doesn't badger her and accompanies her to Deeds' competency hearing as emotional support.
    • Deeds himself both to his mill workers back home and his domestic staff in New York.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: When Deeds discovers Babe lied. She has to tell that she loves him in court to make him defend himself.
  • Character Action Title
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Mr. and Mrs. Semple appear early in the film to complain that their rich uncle has left his money to the wrong nephew, then vanish from the action. This means they're not a Diabolus ex Machina when Cedar tries to save what he sees as his share of the money.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Deeds can act like this sometimes. Deconstructed, because it nearly gets him declared insane.
    • Some of the people from town qualify as well.
  • Country Mouse: Longfellow, who is intelligent but totally unfamiliar with the backbiting behavior of the city.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Several characters, but Cob takes the prize:
    Deeds: Twenty million, that's quite a lot isn't it?
    Cobb: It'll do in a pinch.
  • Decoy Damsel: Babe first pretends to be a Damsel in Distress in order to meet Deeds.
  • Disproportionate Reward
  • Evil Is Petty
  • Friend to All Living Things: Deeds
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Mr. Deeds is a kind and sympathetic man. But many people in the movie mistake him for being a pushover, when he is clearly an intelligent man.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Babe has one after she genuinely falls in love with Longfellow Deeds while on an assignment to do a hatchet job on him.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: We're assured Deeds is a great guy even before we meet him by the way his dog waits at the door for him to come home.
  • Hidden Depths: Babe (and the audience) slowly begin to realise Deeds is not simply a naive hayseed. He quickly cottons on when he is being mocked by his fellow poets and shows himself to be a deep and rather eloquent thinker.
    People here are funny. They work so hard at living - they forget how to live. Last night, after I left you, I was walking along and looking at the tall buildings and I got to thinking about what Thoreau said. They created a lot of grand palaces here - but they forgot to create the noblemen to put in them.
  • Incoming Ham: Mr. Hallor doesn't care how important Mr. Cedar is!
  • Love Redeems: Babe does a Heel–Face Turn because she fell in love with Deeds and marries him in the end.
  • Meaningful Name: Deeds, get it?
  • Meet Cute: Once Deeds moves to the big city, Babe wants to meet him so she can do a big story on him — so she pretends to faint outside his mansion, and he gallantly comes to her aid.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Deeds is knocked out of his depressed stupor at the end of the movie when the prosecuting attorney forces Babe to admit she loves Deeds so he can treat her as a hostile witness.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Almost referenced by name at the end: "It is the opinion of this court that, not only are you sane, but you are the sanest man who ever walked into this courtroom!"
    • Jane and Amy Faulkner believe themselves to be this. They describe Deeds as pixilated (that's as in pixies, not computer graphics) but when he asks them who else in Mandrake Falls is pixilated?
    ""Why everyone, but us!"
    • Arguably Cobb, who tries to rein in Deeds' eccentric behavior.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: A wealthy uncle dies and left his twenty million dollars to his nephew Longfellow Deeds, who had barely any contact with him and lives in upstate New York, rather than his already-wealthy shallow socialite nephew in the city. The second nephew and his wife are shown in a brief scene early on complaining that they aren't getting their long-expected fortune, and later Mr. Cedar turns to them to contest the will.
  • The Power of Friendship
  • Quirky Townsfolk
  • Rags to Riches: Deeds isn't poor; in fact he co-owns a tallow factory and rents property. But he certainly isn't prepared to have twenty million dollars (over $360 million in 2018 dollars) dropped in his lap.
  • The Remake: The 2002 remake staring Adam Sandler of all people!
  • The Roaring '20s
  • Screwball Comedy
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man
  • Sour Supporter: Cobb complains endlessly about Deeds' behavior, but when Babe turns up to apologize says that Deeds is one of the only good men to live in the city and backs him up all the way.
  • Spit Take: Cobb does an epic one when he finds out that Deeds is only concerned about where the town band will find another tuba player.
  • Those Two Guys: Babe's photographer duo.
  • Throwing Out the Script: A Capra staple trope.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Martin Semple was expected to leave his fortune to his other nephew, an already well-to-do man with a wife waiting for the money.