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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  19 October 1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 72,019 users  
Reviews: 239 user | 92 critic

A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn't back down.



(screen play), (story), 1 more credit »
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Top Rated Movies #126 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Chick McGann
Ma Smith
Senate Majority Leader
President of the Senate
Astrid Allwyn ...
Susan Paine
Ruth Donnelly ...
Mrs. Hopper
Senator MacPherson
Porter Hall ...
Senator Monroe
Larry Simms ...
Hopper Boy (as Baby Dumpling)


Naive and idealistic Jefferson Smith, leader of the Boy Rangers, is appointed on a lark by the spineless governor of his state. He is reunited with the state's senior senator--presidential hopeful and childhood hero, Senator Joseph Paine. In Washington, however, Smith discovers many of the shortcomings of the political process as his earnest goal of a national boys' camp leads to a conflict with the state political boss, Jim Taylor. Taylor first tries to corrupt Smith and then later attempts to destroy Smith through a scandal. Written by James Yu <jamestyu@ccwf.cc.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Stirring - In the seeing! Precious - In the remembering! See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 October 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  »

Box Office


$1,500,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In 1942, when a ban on American films was imposed in German-occupied France, the title theaters chose Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) for their last movie before the ban went into effect. One Paris theater reportedly screened the film nonstop for thirty days prior to the ban. See more »


At the train station, Jeff Smith is approached by Susan Payne and three other women. They ask for a dollar contribution each for the Milk Fund. Jeff Smith says "five dollars". It should only be four dollars. Soon after, reporters ask him about the women in Washington. He responds that four came up to him at the train depot. See more »


[after all the other Senators walk out]
Jefferson Smith: Oh, Mr. President, we seem to be alone. I, I'm not complaining for a social reason; it's just, I think it'd be a pity if these gentlemen missed any of this, and...
[Clarissa starts waving from the visitors gallery, and making hand signals]
Jefferson Smith: And, uh...
[he grabs the rule book]
Jefferson Smith: I, I call the chair's attention to... to, uh... Rule 5 of the Standing Rules of the Senate, Section... Section 3. "If it shall be found that a quorum is not present, a majority of the ...
See more »


Referenced in Mr. Miller Goes to Washington Starring Dennis Miller (1988) See more »


(1862) (uncredited)
Music by Daniel Butterfield
In the score when Smith is at the Arlington National Cemetery
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Want to Get Your View Across? Why Not Filibuster?
30 April 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The media and those in Washington, D.C. cringed in 1939 when Frank Capra (Oscar-nominated for directing) come out with "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". Capra, fresh off amazing successes like "Lady for a Day", "It Happened One Night", "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", "Lost Horizon" and "You Can't Take It With You", used his power to slap some bigwigs in the face with a powerful medium---the motion picture. The result was an immediate backlash by publications and politicians, but cheers from critics and the audience. As with society, the critics and the masses won out as the movie is a masterpiece in every way. A U.S. Senate vacancy leads to a dilemma. Who should be put in office? Everyone believes the apparently naive and gullible James Stewart (Oscar-nominated) is the logical choice because he will be easy to manipulate and he won't rock the boat. Stewart, the leader of the Boy Rangers (a local camp association for youngsters), gets blind-sided by many high-ranking officials who have alterior motives (Oscar nominees Harry Carey and Claude Rains in particular) when his idea for a national boys' camp goes by the wayside. Thus the only thing left for Stewart is to beat those in charge by beating them at their own game---creating a filibuster (a never-ending governmental argument for his cause). Stewart is solid as always here and the supporters (love interest/reporter Jean Arthur and drunk newspaper man Thomas Mitchell included with the aforementioned players) are all terrific throughout. The Oscar-winning screenplay is deceptively intelligent and Capra just had the uncanny ability to mix comedy, drama and interpersonal characterizations together to make consistently wonderful American film experiences. 5 stars out of 5.

52 of 63 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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people have gone over this but still didn't explain it. mrwnmero
Sentimentalist rubbish siluad2
Jefferson Smith: liberal or conservative gbromberg
Mr Smith punching people? luks-11
Would like to see a colorized version of this film cadams-5
I don't understand something... Angel_Buffy
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