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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

 -  Drama  -  19 October 1939 (USA)
8.3
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 63,078 users  
Reviews: 229 user | 68 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.

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Writers:

(screen play), (story), 1 more credit »
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Title: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

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Top 250 #121 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
Guy Kibbee ...
...
...
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)
Edit

Storyline

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

Taglines:

Entertainment As Powerful As the Strength of the People! As Great As the Genius of Capra! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

19 October 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  »

Box Office

Budget:

$1,500,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TV)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The scenes where James Stewart wanders around in amazement at the Washington monuments were "stolen", since the US Parks Service had denied the studio permission to film near them. See more »

Goofs

When Smith arrives in Washington on the train, he's seen walking towards the exit with a porter behind him carrying his bags. The next shot shows the same porter coming into the station carrying someone else's bags. See more »

Quotes

Senate Minority Leader, Barnes: [Watches as Smith reads a note passed to him from the gallery] Does the gentleman wish to yield?
Jefferson Smith: Yield? Oh, no. I feel fine! The Constitution of the United States!
[Barnes throws both hands high in the air, turns away from Smith, then brings his arms down hard on his desk in frustration]
See more »

Connections

Featured in The Spirit of America (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

When Johnny Comes Marching Home
(1863) (uncredited)
Music by Louis Lambert
In the score when Smith goes sightseeing
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
drifts in and out of comedy and sincerity with the greatest of ease
20 May 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It was a lot of fun watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in a class where the professor noted how this was the sort of film that was of historical importance while not taking itself too seriously. And I think that's the way Frank Capra wanted it, in a sense. Perhaps in the time of 1939 America this film was seen as being of merit to the American Government's due (though according to the trivia, it was denounced at showing corruption and even banned for showing how democracy "works"). But the director is also wanting to make an entertaining movie, of the kind of Hollywood appeal that brings 8-to-80 years olds in attendance. What had me interested throughout, particularly in that climactic, rousing twenty-minute sequence in the Senate with Jimmy Stewart's constant, un-faltering filibuster, is how it really is a patriotic kind of bravura to be shown on the screen. Here is how it SHOULD be done, to an extreme perhaps, in getting things done in government. But at the same time, Capra keeps it entirely watchable with that group of kids up on the balcony, keeping the audience laughing and smiling all the way through the great lines that Stewart says. "Great principles don't get lost once they come to light. They're right here; you just have to see them again!" This is a kind of talent that I'm sure few other filmmakers at the time, or even after, could have pulled off.

The rest of the film isn't just Stewart's struggle to be heard as a young, new-in-town senator. It's also a witty, more often than not true look of how government tends to really work as opposed to how it should. Basically, the core of the story is the fish-out-of-water type, where Stewart's Jefferson Smith (one of his better Hollywood performances), leader of the Boy Rangers is called to be the senator of his state. He has a childhood hero in town in the form of a senior senator (Claude Rains, terrific as always). And there's even a woman (Jean Arthur) in the mix that's growing an interest in him, at first dubious. But despite the corruption that is almost thrust upon smith by Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold, as skilled a character actor as could be asked for), Smith fights it all the way to his final filibuster, which includes a reading from the Constitution, in-and-out cheers from the Boy Rangers, and general guffaws from the other senators. In other words, it's really much in that pure spirit of Frank Capra that 'Mr. Smith' is working in, and even at its cheesiest and sometimes most-dated moments, it's a very successful picture for what it wants to do. It's really an equal-opportunity kind of film about people in politics that should be able decades later to appeal to both the hopeful and the cynical, and it works as good as it does a comedy as it does a piece to show in history of film or American government course.


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