April 20, 1936 [Mr. Deeds Goes to Town]

There is an optimism in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town that passeth all understanding--in fact, it seems almost as inscrutable as a self-assured deity, a populist Buddha or Jehovah. When Job, a total wreck at the end of his trials, finally speaks up, God gives him what for, and how: Where was Job when it was time to build the heaven and the earth, and fill them up with stars and flora and fauna, and figure out what wisdom was--and so on. And Job knows when he’s licked: “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Somewhere near the end of the movie, the plaything of journalism and the pawn of his own level head, Longfellow Deeds, stops living, sits there in the courtroom, and lets everyone cover him in dust and ashes. He is, then, both the unknowable Lord and the meek penitent, ready to disappear like a final incarnation--with his tuba oom-pah-booming off in the distance.

Or maybe he is just a Frank Capra All-American, small-town to a fault---at least as far as New York figures it--and more than ready to trust fellow-traveling farmers and gentle crackpots, Democrats all--with an impish urge to redistribute just a little of the wealth, $20 million or so. Either way, I enjoyed watching the two of him subside into occult silence--and break out into New Deal song, both fitting Gary Cooper like an old pair of shoes, comfortable and ready for travel from one end of the country to another.

And while Deeds’ tendency to solve every problem with a sock in the jaw didn’t always seem the most consistent response from such a mystic/aw-shucks hero, I leaned back and let ‘im rip; after all, just about every last one of them--lawyers and hacks, Freudians and Capitalists--deserved it.


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