Peak inspired lunacy, especially in the courtroom. Here is a shamelessly simple story with a populist point of view, but it is handled with such charm and charisma and acted so well by Cooper and Arthur that it became another Frank Capra classic. Cooper, a rural rube from Vermont, inherits
his uncle's vast fortune and becomes national news overnight. The whole town turns out at the train station to see Cooper, tuba player and poet, off to New York, where he will assume the responsibilities of his uncle's business and move into an enormous mansion. But cynical news editor George
Bancroft does not fall for Cooper's image of a simple, honest man. Bancroft assigns Arthur to interview Cooper, with explicit instructions not to spare the ridicule, but the aggressive reporter cannot corral Cooper. When she fakes a faint in front of his residence, the gallant Cooper picks her up
and takes care of her. She tells him she's unemployed, and then begins wheedling him for information.
Capra directs flawlessly as he captures the prosaic character of Longfellow Deeds; Cooper is tailor-made for the role, natural and authentic. Both he and Arthur remained favorites of Capra, who would use Cooper again in MEET JOHN DOE, Arthur in YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, and MR. SMITH GOES TO
WASHINGTON. Capra never had any doubt in casting Cooper for the role of Longfellow Deeds--his first and only choice--but he was in a quandary over the female lead until he spotted Arthur in a minor western. The director was at his high-water mark at Columbia, allowed by Columbia studio chief Harry
Cohn to function as he pleased without front office interference. Capra insisted that only Cooper play the lead in the film, causing the production to be delayed for six months while Cooper fulfilled other duties and costing Columbia $100,000. Cohn did not want any more postponements so he okayed
Arthur and the production got under way. Arthur literally shook with nerves before each scene, believing she could not pull it off. Yet she was an original in front of the cameras.
The supporting cast is extraordinary, notably Dumbrille, Bancroft, and that venerable character player Warner, who had appeared in many a Capra film and played Christ in DeMille's classic KING OF KINGS. The film achieved immense popularity and gleaned a fortune for Columbia chiefly because of the
gangling, rumpled, taciturn Cooper, who was one of the most durable film stars in history and ranked in the top-10 list for 15 years. In 1939 he made almost $500,000, making him the highest paid American actor that year, and would earn more than $10 million throughout his long career.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Peak inspired lunacy, especially in the courtroom. Here is a shamelessly simple story with a populist point of view, but it is handled with such charm and charisma and acted so well by Cooper and Arthur that it became another Frank Capra classic. Cooper, a… (more)