Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
October 8, 2016 by Dennis Amith
“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is a timeless Frank Capra classic. Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration and a digibook release, the “You Can’t Take It With You” Blu-ray release is highly recommended and the definitive version of the film to own!
Image courtesy of © 1936, renewed 1963 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
YEAR OF FILM: 1936
DURATION: 116 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, black and white, English Mono DTS-HD MA, French, German, Italian, Spanish Monaural, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Arabic, Czech, Dutch Fininish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilian), Swedish, Turkish
COMPANY: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2016
Directed by Frank Capra
Screenplay by Robert Riskin
Story by Clarence Budington Kelland
Produced by Frank Capra
Cinematography by Joseph Walker
Edited by Gene Havlick
Art Direction by Stephen Goosson
Costume Design by Samuel Lange
Gary Cooper as Longfellow Deeds
Jean Arthur as Babe Bennett
George Bancroft as MacWade
Lionel Stander as Cornelius Cobb
Douglass Dumbrille as John Cedar
Raymond Walburn as Walter
H.B. Warner as Judge May
Ruth Donnelly as Mabel Dawson
Walter Catlett as Morrow
Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a resident of small-town Vermont, leads a simple life until he inherits a vast fortune from a late uncle. Soon, unscrupulous lawyer John Cedar (Douglas Dumbrille) brings Deeds to New York City, where the unassuming heir is the object of much media attention. When wily reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) gains the trust and affection of Deeds, she uses her position to publish condescending articles about him — but are her feelings for him really that shallow?
As the legendary Frank Capra was known to churn out box office hits and win several Academy Awards with films such as “It Happened One Night”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, “Lost Horizon”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, to name a few.
Back in 1935, a short story titled “Opera Hat” was written by Clarence Budington Kelland for “The American Magazine”. Not long after, Robert Riskin would write a screenplay and once again, Riskin and Capra would collaborate for the fifth time.
While casting the film, Gary Cooper was Capra’s only choice for the film, but for the female lead, he had wanted Carole Lombard, who was the film’s original lead but quit three days before principal photography in order to star in the film, “My Man Godfrey”. And he would choose actress Jean Arthur, which the film would be her first feature film debut as a leading character.
And the film would become another big hit for Frank Capra as he would receive his second Academy Award for Directing and the film was nominated for “Best Picture”, “Best Screenplay” (Robert Riskin) and “Best Sound Recording” (John P. Livadary). The film would be nominated by the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review as “Best Picture of 1936”.
The film would star Gary Cooper (“High Noon”, “Sergeant York”, “Meet John Doe”, “Pride of the Yankees”), Jean Arthur (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “You Can’t Take It With You”, “Shane”), George Bancroft (“Stagecoach”, “Angels with Dirty Faces”, “The Docks of New York”), Lionel Stander (“Ince Upon a Time in the West”, “New York, New York”), Douglass Dumbrille (“The Ten Commandments”, “Road to Utopia”, “A Day at the Races”), Raymond Walburn (“Hail the Conquering Hero”, “The Sin of Harold Diddlebock”, “Christmas in July”), H.B. Warner (“It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Sunset Boulevard”, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”), Ruth Donnelly (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, “Bells of St. Mary’s”, “The Snake Pit”) and Walter Catlett (“Bringing Up Baby”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Friendly Persuasion”).
In 2013, the film received a digital restoration by Sony Colorworks. The digital images were restored frame-by-frame at Prasad Corporation to remove dirt, tears, scratches and this restoration would be fully restored and mastered in 4K for the film’s 80th Anniversary.
And now the film is available on Blu-ray ala Digibook courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is set during the Great Depression and the wealthy, late uncle Martin Semple has left his money ($20 million dollars) to his nephew, Longfellow Deeds (portrayed by Gary Cooper).
Semple’s attorney, John Cedar wants some of that money and so he head to Mandrake Falls, Vermont and finds Deeds, who is a co-owner of a tllow works, a part-time greeting poet and a tuba musician.
Cedar brings Longfellow Deeds to New York in order for Deeds to receive his inheritance and to become the new chairman of the company. But as Cedar tries to get Deeds to use his money for other things, Deed is not the type to follow everyone and prevents any greedy opportunists from taking his money.
Meanwhile, the journalists want to know more about Deeds and star reporter, Louise “Babe” Bennett (portrayed by Jean Arthur) disguises herself as a damsel in distress and pretends to be a poor woman named Mary Dawson. And eventually wins his confidence and starts to hang out with Deeds and each time.
Eventually, Deeds starts to fall in love with her, but he does not know that she is hanging out with him, so she can write articles about his adventures and his country ways, which many people find as odd. Nicknaming him “Cinderella Man”, Deeds becomes a popular person in media, embarrassing his uncle’s business partners.
But when Deeds finds out who Babe really is and that she is responsible for writing the “Cinderella Man” articles, it leads to Deeds spiral ling downward into depression. Leaving himself vulnerable for people to go after his money.
Will Deeds be able to recover from his depression?
“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 aspect ratio). Picture quality for the film is fantastic as white and grays are well-contrast while black levels are sharp. The film shows amazing clarity on Blu-ray showcases the detail of the film in high definition.
The print features the digital restoration that was done by Sony Colorworks in 2013 and the digital pictures were frame by frame digitally restored and dirt, tears, scratches and artifacts were removed. I personally did not notice any damage to the film and was very content with the beautiful picture quality of this classic film.
Comparing to the original DVD releases that I’ve had, clarity is evident. Sharpness is clearly evident, along with the black levels which were inky and deep. There is a good amount of grain throughout the entire film and no doubt, this is the definitive version of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” in terms of picture quality!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for audio, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” is presented in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio Monaural. The monaural lossless soundtrack is crystal clear with no sign of hiss, crackle or any popping.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Arabic, Danish, dutch, Finnish, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish (Castilan), Swedish and Turkish.
“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Frank Capra Jr.
- Frank Capra Jr. Remembers… “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – (11:11) Frank Capra Jr. talks about his father and his father working on “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”.
- Vintage Advertising Gallery -Featuring vintage posters, lobby cards, and more.
- Theatrical Trailer – The original theatrical trailer for “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”.
“Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: 80th Anniversary” comes in a digibook package with 30-pages. Featuring photos from the film plus “The Making of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” essay by Jeremy Arnold and “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Restoration in 4K” by Rita Belda.
Also, the Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet Digital code for the film.
When “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” was released in theaters, it really affected a lot of people. With the effects of the Great Depression still strong within viewers, you had an unlikely man becoming a wealthy multi-millionaire but also a man who didn’t exhibit the ego or attitude with one who has money.
If anything, Longfellow Deeds is a man who never had much and was content with what he had. But now that he has money, everyone is after it and he has been quite defensive. Especially when articles about him, dubbing him the “Cinderella Man” try to paint him as a goofball because of his country ways.
So, putting myself in that era, I can see why people gravitated towards the character of Mr. Deeds, but it helps when you have a talented actor such as Gary Cooper playing the role.
A film full of humor but also occasional drama, I personally enjoyed Frank Capra’s “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” because it’s main character is your everyman. A man who believes in hardwork but a man who doesn’t mind living his life, the way he wants, even though it doesn’t appeal to others. He is not a person who loves money nor is he controlled by it, he has the money and if he wants to give it away, its his own prerogative. Unfortunately, others do not feel the same way.
While many of Frank Capra’s films of the mid-to-late ’30s are known to become more darker overtime, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” starts off lighthearted but slowly transitions to a film in which Deeds changes for the worse, after finding out the woman he loves, is not who he thinks she is. And everyone, the rich and poor, wanting his money. He realizes that money doesn’t always bring happiness and he no doubt must live through tough situations, considering he has become a media spectacle.
As Gary Cooper is well-known and did a magnificent job as the main character, Jean Arthur makes her film debut. Known as the “Queen of Screwball Comedy”, even during the making of “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”, while the actress looked natural onscreen, is surprising that in reality, during the time of the film and even later in her career, she had extreme stage fright during production, which Capra would write about in his autobiography.
But Frank Capra did a magnificent job directing the film, Robert Riskin with the screenplay, Gary Cooper as the main protagonist and as for Jean Arthur, it was the film that helped make her a star.
As for the Blu-ray release, while I have owned “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” on DVD, this is no doubt the best version of the film to date. Fully restored in 4K, the picture quality looks absolutely amazing. The film is sharp, white and grays are well contrast and black levels are nice and deep. I saw no blemishes while watching this film (which I was expecting, considering the restoration that took place in 2013) and I was absolutely pleased with the overall look of the film. The lossless soundtrack is in DTS-HD Master Audio monaural. The special features includes an insightful commentary by Frank Capra Jr., but also good insight of the making of the film in a featurette featuring Frank Capra Jr.
And last, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is released in digibook format with 30-pages and for anyone who is not familiar with digibook, they look like a book. There are pages with an essay and photographs from the film throughout the digibook.
Overall, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” is a timeless Frank Capra classic. Featuring wonderful direction by Frank Capra and an amazing performance by Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur, plus a 4K restoration and a digibook release, the “You Can’t Take It With You” Blu-ray release is highly recommended and the definitive version of the film to own!
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