Mr. Deeds goes to Town

Since It’s A Wonderful Life was adopted by people born in the earlier half of the 20th century as THE movie to watch at Christmas, movies directed by Frank Capra have taken on the same old-people smell we associate with grandma.

IWAL certainly seems to have that depression era “Just be glad you are as well off as you are!” feeling, making those of us who did not live through those hard times feel like rolling our eyes.

Most of his movies have a kind of preachy, American propaganda feel to them.

HOWEVER, on a little closer examination, his movies are not all advocating that we sit back in a rocking chair with our hands folded, our job of being American handily completed upon birth.

I wanted to see Mr. Deeds Goes To Town and get some more impressions about Capra’s style and message. I’m interested in American propaganda, and I wanted to see how well he fit into the genre.

Now that I’ve seen it, I’m not so sure Capra falls under that category. I’m seeing a message of “enjoy the real blessings in your life.” It’s hard to distinguish that message sometimes, because the iconic symbols of American kitsch (Kundera-style) get so wrapped up in it.

Those icons, like Apple-pie, ideal womanhood as a June Cleaver clone, men in suits and hats, people who know their neighbors, little houses all in a row, tree-lined streets with perfect tidiness…I don’t know what else. These get in the way of me seeing the story as real or credible. I just see a doll house.

Mr. Deeds is a sweet man, and the movie is really funny in parts. The Tuba cracks me up, and so do the Pixelated old ladies. I think that there is a lot that’s real behind the dolls…I could see someone I know, someone who really exists behaving the way that Mr. Deeds does. Heck, if you play a tuba, you wouldn’t stop just because you inherited a ton of money.

In a lot of ways, Mr. Deeds was going against expectation, not behaving the way the other little dolls did. He held on to common sense and didn’t lose track of what was important. He had compassion and humanity.

And naturally, Gary Cooper is great.

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