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>
Before the film was released to the general public, a major screening was held in Washington, D. C., at the invitation of the Washington Press Club, at Constitution Hall on October 16, 1939. More than 4,000 people attended, including Senators, congressmen, Supreme Court justices, and much of the Georgetown elite. Harry Cohn was there, and Frank Capra and his wife attended, sitting with the family of Senator Burton K. Wheeler, Republican from Montana. (Although Montana was never mentioned as the state Jefferson Smith was from in the film.) Some biographers have charged that Capra "overdramatized" his account of the preview in his book, and that there wasn't a flood of walkouts as he wrote. The audience was only superficially polite at best, however, and there were certainly strong reactions from certain congressmen and members of the press in the days and weeks that followed. See more »
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 »
Because of just one, plain, simple rule: Love thy neighbor. And in this world today, full of hatred, a man who knows that one rule has a great trust. You know that rule, Mr. Paine, and I loved you for it, just as my father did. And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any others. Yes, you even die for them, like a man we both knew, Mr. Paine.
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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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