Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Director: Frank Capra
USA 1939
129 min

Holy Mackerel! This is a great film.
James Stewart plays the role of Jefferson Smith, a naive and hopeful man who, by the spineless governor of his state, is appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate. Unfortunately he collides with political corruption and gets dragged through the mud in the press.

Mr. Smith is the head of the Boy Rangers, and sees now his chance to start a national boy's camp and comes up with a legislation to authorize a federal government loan to buy a piece of land for that business. The loan will then be paid for by the contributions of the boy's camp's members. Donations starts to pour in immediately by mail.
The corrupt government, however, has other plans for that particular piece of land, and tries to make Smith their ally. When he still wants to go through with his plans (with the help of Clarissa Saunders, played by the adorable Jean Arthur) the government instead tries to smear the name of Mr. Smith. They ridicule him in the newspapers and come up with lies about his intentions of the boy's camp to get him out of the Congress.

Jim Taylor and Senator Joseph Paine.

Claude Rains plays Senator Joseph Paine, an old-time friend of Mr. Smith's father. He is torn between his personal feelings for Mr. Smith, and the will of his political boss Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold), who helped him to be successful in politics, and quickly could make him powerless. You can almost not recognize Rains by appearance in this role, and the only different thing is that his hair is white and he's got spectacles on his nose.

As the beautiful daughter of Joseph Paine, Susan, Astrid Allwyn steals the two scenes she appears in. The first of those, were she meets Mr. Smith and "turns the glamour" on him, making him so nervous that he drops his hat about three times, is very amusing.

Senator Joseph Paine and his daughter Susan finds Mr. Smith very amusing.

From the telephone scene with Astrid Allwyn and Jean Arthur.

Scene: Saunders finds Mr. Smith in despair by the Lincoln monument.

"It's a forty foot dive into a tub of water, but I think you can do it."

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington caused a lot of angry feelings around the country by Washington insiders, who thought they were pictured in a false and negative way. One of the real Senators even walked out from the screening he attended in disgust. But on the opposite side the film was rejected by fascists, nazists and communists in Europe for showing that democracy can work.
Director Frank Capra got anyhow letters years afterwards buy people being inspired by the film to go into politics.

The at first cynical Saunders is inspired by Mr. Smith's enthusiasm and energy, and soon finds herself falling for him.

From the filibuster scene.

The last line in this film might be one of the best ones ever, spoken by Jean Arthur:

Clarissa Saunders: [shouts] Yippee!

A couple of nice film posters.


Robby Cress said...

Mr. Smith is definitely up there in my top films. James Stewart is one of my favorite actors and Frank Capra one of my fav directors. The story and the performance are both fantastic and holds up so well. This should be a must see for any film fan.

Keith said...

This is a great film. I really like Jimmy Stewart. My brother is the bigger fan of us two, but I always liked him. This is one of his best films.

Christopher said...

I haven't seen this one in ages..Not since the 70s when PBS here did a big run on all the Capra Colombia films from silents like Submarine and to early classics like Platinum Blond and The Miracle Woman to this one!..but I do remember Jimmy up there in Congress going on and on about his "Boys Camp"..I keep seeing this DVD at the checkout line at my grocery store and have threatened to pick it up a few times..Maybe I should!...I really like that one Poster up there of Jimmy and Jean from the back and all the girls kissing him at the top..never seen it before!..its cool..

Lolita said...

Robby Cress:
You are definitively right. I'm embarrassed by how long time it took me to see this film for the first time. But (luckily enough, I should say) there are many hundreds of must-see-films, and it's hard to get through that list in a short time!

I love the young Jimmy Stewart. He is great when he is older too, but you don't get that cute naive impression from him like in this one.

Buy it! Of course you should buy it. But how many times have you not stood there and hesitated with a DVD in your hand? I know the feeling!
I like that poster too! I usually start my movie review posts with a poster, but this time I had three lovely to choose between... so I included them all!

Sebina said...

A favourite of mine, being both a HUGE fan of Jimmy Stewart, and Frank Capra is one of my favourite directors.

I remember buying the Region 1 Frank Capra Box set and being so ecstatic when I received it. Lol actually I’m like that with any Capra film I’ve bought… Especially when I, eventually, got all the films he did with Barbara Stanwyck. I really badly want to see some of his silents, so yeah, they’re on my wishlist… *squee*.

Lolita said...

An actor like James Stewart in the combination with Capra can't be bad!

I've also had an eye open for his silents, but it's still only un-cured curiousity! We should dig in our to-see-Capra-silents-list and see if he was as great in the beginning as he was by the 1930's!

radar said...

Now is the time to remind the nation about this film! You represent the film, the times and the reactions nicely in this piece and I would be honored to mention your blog in my article!