Despite falling in love with him, New York reporter Babe Bennett produces a series of mocking articles when hick Longfellow Deeds comes to the city to collect his $20 million inheritance. But when his act of generosity to the dispossessed lands him in court, she finally rallies to his cause.
Frank Capra was so convinced that Gary Cooper alone could headline Robert Riskin's adaptation of Clarence Budington Kelland's Saturday Evening Post story `Opera Hat' that he persuaded Columbia chief Harry Cohn to delay shooting for six months (at a cost to the studio of $100,000) to accommodate Coop's schedule. While waiting, he stumbled across Jean Arthur in a B Western and cast her as the sob sister who befriends Mr Deeds while making him a sap in print. Despite being a veteran of 70 movies, this was the 27 year-old Arthur's first A-list lead and she was so nervous that she invariably vomited before takes and ran off set crying after them.
However, she turned in the archetypical Capra performance, as the sassy counterbalance to the guileless hero, and later reunited with the director for You Can't Take It With You and Mr Smith Goes to Washington. Cooper would also return for Meet John Doe, by which time this type of goodwill fantasy had become known as Capra-corn for its sentimental solution of socially implacable problems. Indeed, some critics complained that Deeds would have been a better film had the tuba-playing, verse-writing reserve fireman from Mandrake Falls lost his suit against the grasping lawyers to deny the audience an easy association with his Everyman affability and force them to recognise their own complicity in the capitalist conspiracy that he sought to resist. The Oscar-nominated Cooper wisely avoided playing Deeds as a rube and, consequently, his dismay at the greed and self-centredness of city life seemed as genuine as his distress on discovering Babe's cynical duplicity. Indeed, the sequence in which he cries behind the pillar confirms the now-underrated Cooper as one of cinema's most gifted actors. However, his naturalism was no match for the scene-stealing brilliance of Margaret McWade and Margaret Seddon, as the twittering Faulkner sisters, whose whispering in the witness box and insistence that everyone, bar them, had been `pixilated' was simply wonderful. Capra won a second Oscar for this provocative dramedy, which was remade as the execrable Adam Sandler vehicle, Mr Deeds, in 2002.
Gary Cooper is Jean Arthur are electric in Capra's sweet comedy drama.