Mr. Smith goes to Washington
Dir. Frank Capra – 1939
IMDb 8.3/10 – Rotten Tomatoes 94%
11 Academy Awards nominations
Won Academy Award for best original screenplay
In 1989, Added to the United States National Film Registry
Jimmy Stewart won the 1939 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor.
“A small town idealist, Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) answers the call of duty when he’s unexpectedly named to fill a vacant seat in the U.S Senate. Determined to do some good, he sponsors a bill to create a national boy’s camp, unaware it threatens to undermine a graft scheme sponsored by his home states crooked political machine. Framed and threatened with expulsion, Jefferson takes to the Senate floor, where he attempts to prove his innocence in one of the most rousing climatic scenes in screen history”
I am a massive fan of Jimmy Stewart, and on a quest to see most of his movies. This has been one I have been waiting to see for a while now, and though my expectations were not quite met (because I was expecting something different) I really enjoyed it! The film is basically about politics but delivered in a exciting way equipped great acting and a lot of little laughs throughout the movie. A theme clearly shown is the difference one man can make even while surrounded by the most vile, puppet like men. The film proves to be highly inspirational in standing up for what you believe in, and not giving up even when all hope seems lost.
Jimmy Stewart delivered one of the best performances here! He was able to become a small town man just trying to do some good for his nation. He had all the flaws everyday people go through. From becoming awkward around a beautiful woman, too nervous to give a speech in front of a crowd, and being completely ridiculed for being young and naive. His body expressions and excitement just make you want to root him on to victory! The rest of the cast all played well roles. Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur) as Smith’s assistant for the bill. She was given this role by the crooked senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). Who worked for a corrupt political boss Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold)
A great contrast in this film is the arrival of Smith in Washington. He immediately left the men who brought him; out of fascination of the monuments. The music was patriotic during a montage of him sight seeing, however towards the end of the movie. Smith is beaten down from the corruption within the government particularly the senate; He returns to the Lincoln monument with disbelief in the words “government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth”
A weakness of this film though is that it lacked a sense of beginning, middle, and end. It seems a lot of movies around this time sort of get lost in the middle and it drags on. By dragging on I don’t mean it’s a bad thing because the stuff they are saying truly is interesting. If you aren’t really into listening to dialogue; I don’t think you will enjoy this movie too much. Though I don’t want that to undermine the film in anyway because it is in fact a timeless classic. The corruption in Washington and lies spread through the newspapers is still relevant today, and this film was made in 1939! Quite brilliant!
There are three scenes I love in this film. First off; when Smith is extremely excited while he’s forming his bill to create a national boys camp. The man is all over the place! All at once he is trying to form the bill, but distracted by the great benefits it will do for the young kids of america, and completely interested into Saunders while she’s writing for him. Secondly when Smith meets Susan Paine (Astrid Allwyn) for the first time. He was fumbling all over the place and fidgety with his hat because of the infatuation that had overcome him. That was a class act! Lastly the greatest of the three is when Smith delivers his filibuster. That was a moving performance right there.
Rating: ★★★ / ★★★★★
I suppose Mr. Paine, when a fellow bucks up against a big organization like that.. One man by himself can’t get very far can he?