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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 62,235 users  
Reviews: 228 user | 67 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 ...
Governor Hopper
...
...
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:

Capra at his greatest! 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  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One reason Frank Capra made this film was to help him get over the loss of his infant son, who had died following complications from a tonsillectomy. Initially Capra wanted to make a film about Frédéric Chopin, but Columbia head Harry Cohn nixed that on the grounds that it would be too expensive. Capra and Cohn were constantly at loggerheads over budgets, despite Capra being Columbia's most successful director with - at the time - two Oscars under his belt. See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Jefferson Smith: Boy, you should have been there!
Clarissa Saunders: I know, it was a wonderful party, and your suit went over big, and she looked beautiful, and when you left she said, "Thank you, Mr. Smith," but it was the way she said it, you nearly fell through the floor. Horseradish!
See more »

Connections

Featured in Precious Images (1986) See more »

Soundtracks

Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean
(1843) (uncredited)
Written by David T. Shaw
Played during the opening credits and often in the score
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Capra-corn but very watchable with some great performances...
1 August 2003 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

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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