Jean Arthur

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Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Review


Weak
Frank Capra's story of a simple man who inherits vast wealth has become a commonly-copied tale, but the tedium of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town outweighs its message of freedom and charity. Gary Cooper is dry as dust (despite being "eccentric" -- he plays the tuba!), and Jean Arthur makes no impression as the reporter who hustles him to get the inside scoop. I realize it's heresy, but the story just needs some life. Frankly, I can't imagine the upcoming Adam Sandler version could do any worse.

You Can't Take It with You Review


Essential
Jimmy Stewart's legendary career was just beginning when he co-starred in this Frank Capra classic, a warm, heart-tugging Best Picture Oscar winner. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway show by Kaufman and Hart, Capra's entry captures a wacky extended family living together in post-Depression USA, devoting all their efforts to their favorite pastimes with a smiling middle finger to societal expectations and demands.

The joy nearly leaps off the screen and begs you to join. In a charming introduction, family patriarch Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore, on crutches due to arthritis) meets a mousy accountant named Poppins (the appropriately named Donald Meek), a dreamer who'd rather make toys than punch meaningless numbers all day. With a simple tease of what could be, Vanderhof convinces his newfound friend to toss it all away and live with his family. And poof, as Poppins says, "the die is cast."

Continue reading: You Can't Take It with You Review

The Devil and Miss Jones Review


Excellent
Wow, that title sure sounds like a porn movie, doesn't it? (The Devil in Miss Jones came out in 1972.) Of course, this one isn't adult fare, and in fact the devil doesn't even make an appearance in the film. The misleading title actually refers to a department store owner, J.P. Merrick (a masterful Charles Coburn, who never really got his due), who goes undercover in his own store to root out union organizers. Along the way he finds love, friendship (with Jean Arthur's Mary Jones), and a surprisingly funny series of events. The sole dud in the film: Robert Cummings, as Mary's boyfriend/union ringleader, whose whining and soul-searching nearly wreck the whole thing. It's supposed to be a comedy, Bob!

Shane Review


Excellent
When a reformed gunslinger looking to mend his evil ways stumbles upon a conflict between peace-loving sodbusters and ornery cattle ranchers in the middle of the old old West, trouble is bound to happen. And trouble is what Shane gets, as our title character (played by Alan Ladd) soon finds out as he returns to some of his rough-and-tumble ways as he tries to defend the homesteaders. Earnest and exciting, even if it's a bit white hat/black hat (Jack Palance even makes an appearance here as an evil gunman who wears, you guessed it, a black hat), Shane is one of the great westerns, a film that inspired many which would follow it.

You Can't Take It with You Review


OK
Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur come together in Frank Capra's third and final Best Director effort, You Can't Take It With You, a movie which is amusing, but unfortunately ends up as one of his least enduring efforts. Overlong and underplotted, the film concerns two young lovers who finally endeavor to introduce their families to one another. As usual, Capra attempts to pillory big business, but the effort here is half-baked and overshadowed by slapstick antics between the two families. A Best Picture winner in 1938, the movie isn't aging well and can be suitably replaced by pretty much any of Capra's other works.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Review


Weak
Frank Capra's story of a simple man who inherits vast wealth has become a commonly-copied tale, but the tedium of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town outweighs its message of freedom and charity. Gary Cooper is dry as dust (despite being "eccentric" -- he plays the tuba!), and Jean Arthur makes no impression as the reporter who hustles him to get the inside scoop. I realize it's heresy, but the story just needs some life. Frankly, I can't imagine the upcoming Adam Sandler version could do any worse.
Jean Arthur

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