Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

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Released 12-Jul-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Audio Commentary-Frank Capra Jr.
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1936
Running Time 111:01
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Frank Capra
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Gary Cooper
Jean Arthur
George Bancroft
Lionel Stander
Douglass Dumbrille
Raymond Walburn
H.B. Warner
Ruth Donnelly
Walter Catlett
John Wray
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Howard Jackson
Louis Silvers


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Arabic
Danish
Dutch
English
Finnish
French
German
Greek
Hungarian
Norwegian
Portuguese
Spanish
Swedish
Turkish
French Titling
German Titling
Spanish Titling
English Audio Commentary
French Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I had a strong sense of déjà vu watching this film again so soon after Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Like that later Frank Capra film, this one opens with a death. Wealthy businessman Martin W. Semple dies in a car accident in Italy. The firm of Cedar, Cedar, Cedar and Budington, led by Mr Cedar (Douglass Dumbrille) seeks out the nephew to whom the late businessman left his $20,000,000 fortune. They find him in the small town of Mandrake Falls, Vermont. His name is Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a tuba-playing composer of postcard poetry.

    Cedar immediately assumes that Deeds is a naïve yokel, which is to his advantage seeing that the firm has embezzled half a million dollars from the estate. Taking Deeds to New York with a view to obtaining a power of attorney, they soon realise that Deeds is not as dumb as they thought. Meanwhile star reporter Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur) goes undercover as a "woman in distress" to get a story on the Cinderella Man (as she dubs him). Soon she falls for him, but the lawyers seize on her newspaper stories of his naivety to get him certified as insane, especially after Deeds decides to give his fortune away.

    Structurally this has a lot in common with Mr Smith, following the fortunes of a less gullible but no less idealistic visitor to the big city as he is at first overwhelmed then must fight in front of group of learned men (this time a medical board instead of the US Senate) to clear his name. There's the initially cynical female love interest (played in both by Jean Arthur) and a similar range of quirky characters. While Deeds is not quite as good a film as Smith, that's sort of like saying silver is not quite as good as gold. It's a very entertaining film, though modern viewers may quail at the simple philosophies it espouses.

    As usual with a Capra film, the supporting cast is even more impressive than the leads. Silent film star George Bancroft plays Babe's editor, Lionel Stander is Deeds' press agent Cobb (and gets most of the best lines) and H. B. Warner plays the presiding judge at the medical board hearing. There are bit parts for Charles Lane as a shady lawyer, Raymond Walburn as Deeds' manservant, Walter Catlett as a tipsy poet and Gustav von Seyffertitz as Dr Von Hallor. Australian-born silent comedian Billy Bevan has a bit as the owner of a horse Deeds feeds doughnuts to, while Franklin Pangborn is a prissy tailor (he could not be any other kind) and Dennis O'Keefe has a small part as a reporter. The actor playing the man who voices his thanks to Deeds just before the latter is arrested is George "Gabby" Hayes, in a rare near-clean-shaven moment prior to becoming Roy Rogers' regular sidekick. There's nary a "durn-tootin" or "consarn it" in this film though, with some excellent one-liners written by Robert Riskin.

    Capra would win his second Best Director Oscar for this film, in his golden period in the 1930s. While the politics and philosophy of common man versus the big boys seems dated now, at the time audiences fatigued by years of economic struggle responded and the film was a major success for the minor studio Columbia. Capra was effectively their biggest star, and success would allow him much bigger budgets as the decade wore on. But neither he nor the public would sustain such simple idealism for much longer.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented full-frame in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1, close to the original 1.37:1.

    The print material derives, like that for Mr Smith, from the Library of Congress's preservation negative. This is not a full restoration, as it shows a considerable number of film artefacts and variations in quality. The transfer is quite sharp, but it seems to me that fine detail is not as clear as it could have been. Contrast levels are good, with a reasonable level of shadow detail, and the black and white image has a good range of tones from white to black.

    There are a couple of instances of mild aliasing, and in some medium close-ups I thought that Cooper's eyelids looked a little jagged instead of smooth.

    Film artefacts are constant throughout. For the most part they are just white flecks and specks of dirt. Some sequences are quite grainy while others are clear. There are faint scratches and often there is considerable flickering. There are also what appear to be water spots in some sections.

    Optional subtitles in numerous languages are available. The English ones are in clear albeit small white font and are reasonably faithful to the spoken word.

    The disc is single-layered.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The default audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, with several dubbed versions in other languages also available.

    Dialogue is clear throughout. This is as good a 1930s soundtrack as you are likely to hear, with no distortion and very little audible hiss. While the upper ranges are a little thin, the bass levels are excellent. I was quite taken aback at how well Deeds' tuba sounds, full and rich.

    What music score there is seems to be stock music not original to the movie. There is no composer credit on the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary by Frank Capra Jr.

    The director's son provides a commentary, which concentrates mainly on the historical context of the film and its own history. It is reasonably informative, especially in regards to Harry Cohn's cost-cutting measures at Columbia, but there are some lengthy dead spots. He also does not seem to know who most of the actors are. I should also mention that he claims that the screenwriter invented the words "doodle" and "pixellated", but it seems that the truth is that this film just brought these then obscure words into common usage.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    In comparison to the US Region 1, the Region 4 misses out on

    The Region 1 by comparison misses out on nothing.

    The UK Region 2 appears to be identical to the Region 4.

    It seems that the Region 1 has slightly better extras, but contains nothing that really warrants purchase unless you can get it for the same price or cheaper than the Region 4.

Summary

    A fine comedy from the pen of Robert Riskin and the hand of Frank Capra, with an excellent performance by Gary Cooper.

    The video quality is about as good as it will get short of a full restoration and clean-up.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The sole extra is good but not great.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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