Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

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Here’s a guy that’s wholesome and fresh. To us, he looks like a freak. Do you know what he told me tonight? He said when he gets married, he wants to carry his bride over the threshold in his arms… I tried to laugh, but I couldn’t. It stuck in my throat… He’s got goodness, Mabel. Do you know what that is?… No, of course you don’t. We’ve forgotten. We’re too busy being smart alecks. Too busy in a crazy competition for nothing.–Louise Bennett

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town was directed by Frank Capra, who was basically the AC/DC of the classic film world. There’s a simplicity and a directness to AC/DC albums and to Capra movies that’s reassuring.  Angus and Malcolm young aren’t suddenly going to walk out on stage with Jacksons, plug them into massive rack pedal boards and Mesa Boogies, and play jazz chords. Angus is going to plug a Gibson SG straight into a Marshall, and Malcolm is going to play a lot of big open string power chords. You know what you’re going to get. With Capra, you’re going to get Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper playing salt of the Earth guys who mean what they say and say what they mean. Strong, silent types whose gullibility stems not from their ignorance, but from their nearly unshakable faith in their fellow man. And opposite them you’re going to get Barbara Stanwyck or Jean Arthur playing a sort of TCM version of the manic pixie dream girl, a worldy-wise, razor sharp, disillusioned but ultimately good and beautiful woman who, through the power of love, will redeem the main character and be redeemed themselves in return.

That appeals to me.  Part of the reason may be because it’s designed to.  It’s a straight, white male fantasy based upon a world that never really existed, not even in 1936, and it’s important to recognize that.  Having said that though, we needn’t, I hope, throw the baby out with the bath water. Deeds is filled with great performances (especially from Arthur, who steals the screen every time she’s on it) and good writing grounded in the fundamentally good belief that nice guys don’t always have to finish last. Is that kind of idealism passe? I certainly hope not. In any event, Deeds deals it up in spades and in enormously enjoyable fashion.

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