AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Alternate Title: Opera Hat
Director: Frank Capra (Dir)
Release Date:   12 Apr 1936
Production Date:   13 Dec 1935--5 Feb 1936
Duration (in mins):   115 or 118
Duration (in feet):   10,617
Duration (in reels):   12
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Gary Cooper (Longfellow Deeds)  
    Jean Arthur ([Louise] Babe Bennett [also known as Mary Dawson])  
    George Bancroft (MacWade)  
    Lionel Stander (Cornelius Cobb)  
    Douglass Dumbrille (John Cedar)  
    Raymond Walburn (Walter)  
    H. B. Warner (Judge May)  
    Ruth Donnelly (Mabel Dawson)  
    Walter Catlett (Morrow)  
    John Wray (Farmer)  
    Margaret Matzenauer (Madame Pomponi)  
    Warren Hymer (Bodyguard)  
    Muriel Evans (Theresa)  
    Spencer Charters (Mal)  
    Emma Dunn (Mrs. Meredith)  
    Wyrley Birch (Psychiatrist)  
    Arthur Hoyt (Budington)  
    Stanley Andrews (James Cedar)  
    Pierre Watkin (Arthur Cedar)  
    Christian Rub (Swenson)  
    Jameson Thomas (Mr. Semple)  
    Mayo Methot (Mrs. Semple)  
    Russell Hicks (Dr. Malcolm)  
    Gustav von Seyffertitz (Dr. Frazier)  
    Edward Le Saint (Dr. Fosdick)  
    Charles Lane (Hallor)  
    Irving Bacon (Frank)  
    George Cooper (Bob)  
    Gene Morgan (Waiter)  
    Barnett Parker (Butler)  
    Margaret Seddon (Jane Faulkner)  
    Margaret McWade (Amy Faulkner)  
    Harry C. Bradley (Anderson)  
    Edward Gargan (Second bodyguard)  
    Edwin Maxwell (Douglas)  
    Paul Hurst (First deputy)  
    Paul Porcasi (Italian)  
    Adrian Rosley (Italian interpreter)  
    Franklin Pangborn (Tailor)  
    George F. Hayes (Farmers' spokesman)  
    Charles Wilson (Guard)  
    Harry Holden (Guard)  
    Gladden James (Court clerk)  
    Billy Bevan (Cabby)  
    George Meeker (Brookfield)  
    Edward Keane (Member of the board of directors)  
    John Picorri (Member of the board of directors)  
    Frederic Roland (Member of board of directors)  
    Harry Stafford (Member of the board of directors)  
    George Pauncefort (Member of the board of directors)  
    Edwin Mordant (Member of the board of directors)  
    Lee Shumway (Bailiff)  
    Eddie Kane (Henneberry)  
    Beatrice Curtis (Secretary)  
    Beatrice Blinn (Assistant secretary)  
    Frank Holliday (Mr. Dodsworth)  
    Sherry Hall (Charlie)  
    Frank Austin (Mr. Rankin)  
    Jack Clifford (Court policeman)  
    Oliver Eckhardt (Dr. Emerson)  
    Lew Hicks (Chuck Collins)  
    Arthur Rankin (Reporter)  
    Steve Clark (Reporter)  
    Richard Powell (Reporter)  
    John Tyrrell (Reporter)  
    Jack Hatfield (Reporter)  
    Jack Mower (Reporter)  
    Sam Blum (Reporter)  
    Jess Mendelson (Reporter)  
    Antrim Short (Reporter)  
    Bert Moorhouse (Reporter)  
    Bud Flannigan (Reporter)  
    Charles Conrad (Reporter)  
    Al Herman (Reporter)  
    Mike Lally (Reporter)  
    Ralph McCullough (Reporter)  
    James B. Leong (Chinese chauffeur)  
    Edgar Bingham (Tailor)  
    Lawrence Wheat (Clerk)  
    Ky Robinson (Second deputy)  
    William Irving (Writer)  
    John T. Murray (Writer)  
    Jay Eaton (Writer)  
    James Conaty (Auditor)  
    John Binns (Old lawyer)  
    Jack H. Minton (Young lawyer)  
    Bond Davis (Young lawyer)  
    Pauline Wagner (Telephone operator)  
    Frank Hammond (Man at information desk)  
    Lee Willard (Business man)  
    Bill Phillips (Cameraman)  
    Bob Wallace (Cameraman)  
    Charles Sullivan (Taxicab driver)  
    Patricia Monroe (Hat check girl)  
    Lillian Ross (Hat check girl)  
    Peggy Page (Cigarette girl)  
    Janet Eastman (Shop girl)  
    Mary Lou Dix (Shop girl)  
    Bob Ellsworth (Policeman)  
    Hal Price (Policeman)  
    Jack Cheatham (Policeman)  
    Charles Hamilton (Policeman)  
    Fay Holderness (Nurse)  
    Katherine Block (Nurse)  
    Otto Gervice (Patient)  
    Don Wayson (Intern)  
    Jim Millican (Intern)  
    Harvey Sheppard (Intern)  
    Hal Budlong (Elevator man)  
    B. L. Dale (Farmer)  
    Hank Bell (Farmer)  
    Fred Cady (Farmer)  
    S. S. Simon (Farmer)  
    Charles E. Brinley (Farmer)  
    Ced Talbot (Farmer)  
    Ethel Palmer (Governess)  
    Dale Van Sickel (Lawyer)  
    Georgie Billings    
    Florence Dudley    
    Carleton E. Griffin    
    Ed Mortimer    
    Thomas Curran    
    Larry Steers    
    John W. Gustin    
    Arthur Stuart Hull    
    Gertrude Pedlar    
    Esther Peck    
    Georgia Cooper    
    Helen Hickson    
    Dora Clement    
    Louise Bates    
    Vesey O'Davoren    
    Vera Burnett    
    Mrs. Chasen    
    Joe Bordeaux    
    Bobby Dunn    
    Charles W. Hertzinger    
    Anne Kunde    
    Anne Schaefer    
    Bessie Wade    
    Lillian Lawrence    
    Mary Starling    
    Rita Donlin    
    Bobbie Beal    
    Barbara Knox    
    Kathryn Connolly    
    Barbara Bodwin    
    Althea Henley    
    Mary Jane Carey    
    Peter Duray    
    Broderick O'Farrell    
    Pat Somerset    
    Frederick Lee    
    Susan Rhoades    
    Ellinor Vanderveer    
    Flo Wix    
    Stella Le Saint    
    Beth Hartman    
    Bess Flowers    
    Kay Smith    
    Peggy Terry    
    Juanita Crosland    
    Ann Doran    

Summary: Martin W. Semple dies and leaves $20 million to his nephew, Longfellow Deeds, a tuba-playing resident of Mandrake Falls, which is a small town in Vermont. John Cedar, the deceased's lawyer, and Cornelius Cobb, a press agent, tell Deeds about his fortune and take him to New York City. Deeds quickly becomes tangled in the problems of the rich, including being the chairman of the board of the local opera company and dismissing a false claimant to the estate. Meanwhile, Cedar tries to obtain power of attorney from Deeds to cover up the half million dollars his firm embezzled from the estate. Cobb fights off the press, with the exception of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Babe Bennett, who poses as impoverished Mary Dawson to get a scoop on Deeds. She faints in front of the kindhearted Deeds, who takes her to a restaurant and falls for her almost immediately. The restaurant is a favorite spot for famous writers, and after being introduced to some poets he admires, Deeds realizes they are ridiculing his greeting card poetry. He punches two of the sneering poets, but lets one of them, Morrow, take him on an all-night binge. The normally temperate Deeds gets drunk, feeds donuts to a horse and, wearing only his underwear, is escorted home by the police. The next day a newspaper article appears chronicling his adventures and branding him "The Cinderella Man." Cobb restrains Deeds from any rash action, and although hurt by the article, Deeds carries on. Weeks pass, and Cedar is distraught about not obtaining power of attorney from Deeds, while Mr. and Mrs. Semple, Deeds' cousins, come to the law firm to make a claim against him. During this time, Babe, who is falling in love with Deeds, continues to secretly publish inflammatory articles about him. Soon Deeds and society hostess Madame Pomponi hold a charity reception, but Deeds, sick of his guests' arrogance and eager to keep a date with Babe, throws them out, then rushes to Babe's apartment, gives her a poem and proposes. She quits her job the next morning, hoping that Deeds will forgive her when she tells him the truth. At the same time she is quitting, however, Cobb is revealing her identity to Deeds, who is crushed. He is about to leave for Mandrake Falls when a starving farmer bursts in and accuses him of neglecting the poor by wasting his money on high society high jinks. Inspired by the man's pleas, Deeds decides to give farms to needy families, and devises an $18 million dispersement plan, which horrifies Cedar and the Semples, who have Deeds arrested on an insanity charge. At the sanity hearing, the dispirited Deeds refuses to defend himself, preferring to listen silently to the exaggerations and lies told about him. When Judge May concludes that Deeds must be committed to an asylum, Babe protests in open court, explaining that Deeds is not defending himself because he has been hurt by her and the others. Under cross-examination by Cedar, she admits she loves Deeds, while her editor, MacWade, Cobb and the farmers all urge him to defend himself. He finally takes the stand and points out the eccentricities of others in the courtroom, including those of Judge May and the psychiatrist, then explains that he is giving the money away to those who need it most. Judge May dismisses all the charges against Deeds and the crowd sweeps Deeds out, while Babe remains weeping until he returns to carry her away. 

Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.  
Production Text: Harry Cohn, President; A Frank Capra Production
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.  
Director: Frank Capra (Dir)
  C. C. Coleman (Asst dir)
Producer: Frank Capra (Prod)
Writer: Robert Riskin (Scr)
Photography: Joseph Walker (Photog)
  E. Roy Davidson (Spec cam eff)
Art Direction: Stephen Goosson (Art dir)
Film Editor: Gene Havlick (Film ed)
Costumes: Samuel Lange (Cost)
Music: Howard Jackson (Mus dir)
Sound: Edward Bernds (Rec eng)
Production Misc: Hy Daab (Press agent)
Stand In: Slim Talbot (Stand-in for Gary Cooper)
  Jim Priest (Stand-in for Douglass Dumbrille)
  Frances Wright (Stand-in for Jean Arthur)
  Stuart East (Stand-in for Lionel Stander)
  Frank Hill (Stand-in for George Bancroft)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the story "Opera Hat" by Clarence Budington Kelland in American Magazine (Apr--Sep 1935).
Authors: Clarence Budington Kelland

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd. 8/4/1936 dd/mm/yyyy LP6259

PCA NO: 1966
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

Genre: Comedy-drama
Subjects (Major): Deception
Subjects (Minor): City-country contrast
  The Depression, 1929
  Nouveaux riches
  New York City
  Press agents

Note: A Gentleman Goes to Town and Opera Hat were the working titles of this film. Opera Hat was inserted into the 1934-35 production schedule by Columbia when Lost Horizon , which Capra had intended to make directly after Broadway Bill , was delayed due to casting difficulties. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town was itself delayed when Paramount did not make Gary Cooper available for several months. According to HR news items, Ned Sparks was set for an unspecified comedy lead, and Columbia negotiated with Walter Wanger to borrow Peggy Conklin for an unspecified leading role, but it has not been determined why they did not participate in the finished picture. HR production charts list the following additional actors, whose inclusion in the final film has not been verified: Gennaro Curci, Si Jenks, Marjorie Gateson and Henry Otho. This was opera singer Margaret Matzenaur's first film and Cooper's first film for Columbia. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town received an Academy Award for Best Director, and was nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Cooper's first nomination), Writer and Sound Recording. It was also voted best picture by New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review and was named one of the ten best films of the year by the FD Poll of Critics. According to a MPH news item, the film was banned in Germany "on the ground that non-Aryan actors had participated" in the production. On 1 Feb 1937, Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur performed a radio version of the film for Lux Radio Theater . According to HR news items, Columbia and Capra intended to make a sequel to Mr. Deeds Goes to Town , starring Cooper and Jean Arthur, entitled Mr. Deeds Goes to Washington , based on the story "The Gentleman from Wyoming" (alternately called "The Gentleman from Montana" by both contemporary and modern sources) by Lewis Foster. This story was instead turned into the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington , directed by Capra and starring Arthur and James Stewart. Most contemporary and modern sources list H. B. Warner's character as Judge Walker, but in the film he is called Judge May. Modern sources also credit Charles Wilson with the role of the court clerk, but Gladden James is credited with the role on the CBCS, while Charles Wilson is listed as a guard. In a modern interview, Edward Bernds, the sound engineer, states that the opening scenes of Mandrake Falls were shot on the Twentieth Century-Fox lot's New England Street set, while in his autobiography, photographer Joseph Walker describes the Columbia Ranch in Burbank, CA, where Deed's mansion was built and filmed. While modern sources list many so-called "remakes" of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town , there have been only two official remakes, employing the same character and basic plot. The first was an ABC television series entitled Mr. Deeds Goes to Town , starring Monte Markham in the Cooper role, which ran from 26 Sep 1969 to 16 Jan 1970. The second was the 2002 film Mr. Deeds , directed by Steven Brill and starring Adam Sandler and Winona Ryder. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   4-Apr-36   
Daily Variety   25 Mar 36   p. 3.
Film Daily   27 Mar 36   p. 9.
Film Daily   30 Mar 36   p. 6.
Film Daily   8 Apr 36   p. 15.
Film Daily   12 May 36   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Jul 35   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Aug 35   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Dec 35   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jan 36   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Feb 36   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Mar 36   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Sep 36   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Sep 36   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jan 37   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jan 37   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   4 Sep 37   p. 46.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Aug 38   p. 2.
Motion Picture Daily   26 Mar 36   p. 6.
Motion Picture Herald   28 Mar 36   p. 29.
Motion Picture Herald   25 Apr 36   p. 37.
New York Times   17 Apr 36   p. 17.
New York Times   9 Nov 37   p. 19.
Variety   22 Apr 36   p. 14.

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.