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>
Edmund Mortimer was first chosen for the role of Senator Agnew, and studio records/casting call lists reflected this. However, Mortimer dropped out of the finished film entirely, and the role went to H.B. Warner. See more »
Under the Standing Rules of the Senate governing debate, Senator Paine would not technically have been allowed to attack Senator Smith's character and accuse him of graft. The rule states: "No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator." See more »
They're not letting what Jeff says get printed in the state. Now if I give you a raft of it over the phone, can you print it up and spread a billion copies? Swell! Get ready to take this down, Mrs. Smith.
Boys, everything about Jeff, get pencils and paper.
Alright, here we go.
All ready, Clarissa.
She called me Clarissa. Okay Ma! JEFF TELLS TRUTH, SHOWS UP TAYLOR!
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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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