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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Joseph P. Kennedy, the ambassador to Great Britain, sent Harry Cohn a cablegram urging him to withdraw the film from European distribution. Kennedy wrote, "I have a high regard for Mr. Capra ...but his fine work makes the indictment of our government all the more damning to foreign audiences... I feel that to show this film in foreign countries will do inestimable harm to American prestige all over the world. ...Pictures from the United States are the greatest influence on foreign public opinion of the American mode of life. The times are precarious, the future is dark at best. We must be more careful." Cohn and Frank Capra had sent Kennedy many clippings from American reviews and editorials, all praising the film and expressing the opinion that Democracy can withstand, and in fact encourages, such questions as the film raises. See more »
(at around 9 mins) When the governor enters the Smith's home (with the band playing) we see, from the inside, Ma closing the door almost shut. When the scene shifts to outside the house, Ma is again closing the same door. See more »
Frank Capra and James Stewart were nearly unsurpassed at the task of taking the kind of story that is optimistic but that borders on being trite, and making it into a satisfying, worthwhile movie. In "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington", they accomplish this with a little help from Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, and Edward Arnold. It's not quite on the level of "It's a Wonderful Life", but it is as good as almost anything else of its kind.
Stewart's performance is important right from the beginning - hardly anyone else could have been believable as the earnest unknown who suddenly becomes an important political figure. Even his wide-eyed appreciation for what he sees in Washington comes across believably. As the story gets more complicated and his character is developed further, Stewart is even better.
The secondary characters are also important, because the story itself is a rather stylized, though still worthwhile, statement about politics. The characters are more believable than are many of the plot developments. Rains contributes a lot as Stewart's troubled colleague, and Jean Arthur is a natural for this kind of role. Arnold plays his devious character well. Capra holds it all together with his craftsmanship, keeping the story on track and getting the most out of the situation.
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