In Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Longfellow Deeds is given a large fortune through inheritance, which he is later accused of spending senselessly, and is taken to trial by a distant relative who feels entitled to the money. He is accused of being mentally unstable and incompetent to handle such a large fortune. Throughout the movie, Longfellow is presented to the audience as a smart and wholesome character, while the other characters in the movie see him as naïve and unapt to handle the real world. He ends up surprising most of them, including Babe Bennett, who regretted her part in building the rumors that led to his tarnished reputation. At court, her words and the accounts of many others, were used to build the case against him. This scene, along with the rest of the movie, is a typical example of classic Hollywood cinema.
At this point in the movie, Longfellow is facing a deep depression due to the accusations against him and, unlike the rest of the movie, is seen mainly sitting still and extremely quiet. This helps the audience understand his emotional state, and contrast it with the rest of his actions. He is also always placed in the center of the frame, and Frank Capra, the director, does extreme close-ups of his face, much more than any other character. This allows the audience to focus more on Longfellow’s reactions in this scene than any other character, and it also calls attention to the fact that even though Longfellow is generally quite in the beginning of the trial, the audience is mainly invested in his reactions.
The lighting in this scene also lends itself to build the characters’ profiles. Those rooting for Longfellow are lit brightly, while those accusing him are darker have more shadows cast across their face. Their acting also adds to the classic Hollywood style, due to their exaggerated outbursts and overstated facial expressions. For example, when Babe decides that she wants to testify in favor of Longfellow, she acts in extreme dismay and displays explosive emotions. Furthermore, there are multiple angles where the diagonal lines draw attention to the main character of the shot, while showing the other characters involved. Such as when the psychologist is presenting his case against Longfellow, we see that he is the only one facing the audience while the judges are seated in a diagonal line that leads to the psychologist. Additionally, Babe is often brought into focus by lighting her entire face, allowing the audience to see her expressions clearly. There are also many scenes where she is shot slightly from above, giving the sense that she is in a vulnerable state.
In the tradition of screwball comedies, there are also a lot of comedic techniques used to entertain the audience, such as the constant use of hyperbole. Towards the end of this scene, Longfellow starts defending himself more and the accusation of playing his tuba randomly and applies it to others in the courtroom by saying that everyone has a kink that helps them concentrate. We then see multiple examples of people doing things that would be considered weird, such as “doodling.”
In the end, Longfellow is found competent to keep the money and do what he wants with it.