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 <email@example.com>
Frank Capra and his crew went to Washington, DC, to film background material and to study the Senate chamber, which was replicated, full scale, in precise detail on the Columbia lot. James D. Preston, who was Capra's technical advisor for the Senate set and political protocol, was a former superintendent of the Senate press gallery. See more »
Jeff Smith is accused of putting forward his bill on Boys Camp for his own benefit, as the supposed owner of the land on which the two contending bills lay claim. Yet if he did own this land and was concerned about selling it overpriced "at $500 an acre", he would in fact support the bill backed by the corrupt Senators, since he would make a profit from the sale of "his" land whatever the State decided to build there, Boys Camp or a dam. See more »
Senator Joseph Paine:
I know how you feel, Jeff. Thirty years ago - I had those ideals, too. I was *you*. I had to make the decision you were asked to make today. And I compromised - yes! So that all these years I could stay in that Senate - and serve the people in a thousand honest ways! You've got to face facts, Jeff. I've served our state well, haven't I? We have the lowest unemployment and the highest federal grants. But, well, I've had to compromise, had to play ball. You can't count on people voting, half the ...
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Capra-corn but very watchable with some great performances...
Frank Capra's knack for getting the best out of JAMES STEWART and JEAN ARTHUR is demonstrated here with both stars giving superb performances. Ironically, Stewart would not win the Oscar for this role but was awarded one the following year for a lesser role in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.
As a bumbling, naive senator who is a lamb thrown to the wolves in Washington, D.C., Stewart does a fabulous job--although there are moments when his bumbling awkwardness looks a bit staged. Jean Arthur is a natural for the role of the wise secretary who at first scorns his innocent ways but soon comes to realize he's the real thing.
All of the supporting players are excellent--especially CLAUDE RAINS as a mentor to Stewart who finally has a conscience about deceiving him, and Harry Carey (the western actor) as the man with the gavel who soon realizes that Stewart is not to be underestimated. His reaction shots, grinning and sometimes stifling a grin, say more than words. He and Rains both deserved their supporting role nominations.
But, as usual in a Capra film, you have to be willing to forgive some obvious plot contrivances or overall schmaltz. The ending (when it finally comes after some excessive length in running time) is rather abrupt as though the director suddenly realized he'd gone overtime on the story. And some of the sentimentality (such as the scene where Arthur joins him at the Lincoln Memorial where she knew she'd find him), is hard to swallow until you remind yourself that--hey, this is Capra-corn.
Nevertheless, despite some flaws, it's the kind of comedy-drama about Washington, D.C. that only a director like Capra could make. And the replica of the Senate is amazingly detailed, as are all the interiors which were shot on a soundstage at Columbia. It's also a nice lesson in how the Senate works, how bills have to go through committees, the rules of behavior, filibustering, etc. It will leave you with a warm glow--somewhat like IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE in that respect.
Summing up: It's Stewart's show all the way. He's at his peak here.
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