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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama | 19 October 1939 (USA)
A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn't back down.

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(screen play), (story)
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Top Rated Movies #145 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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H.V. Kaltenborn ...
H.V. Kaltenborn
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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

Plot Keywords:

senator | dam | bill | senate | corruption | See All (98) »

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Capra's Greatest Hit --- The Screen At Its Most Inspired! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | 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)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TV)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

James Stewart was delighted with his role, and began to attend the rushes--something he had seldom done with his films at MGM. Frank Capra screened the footage at the projection room in his house. Stewart said, "The first time I stopped off at Capra's house I was there an hour and forty minutes. There was take after take, from every angle. He really covered himself. Every scene from every angle. Well, I didn't stay to the end. The next night it was clearly going to be even longer! After an hour I turned to Frank. He was fast asleep." Needless to say, Stewart soon went back to avoiding dailies. See more »

Goofs

The President of the Senate repeatedly recognizes Jeff Smith on the floor of the Senate as "Mr. Smith." Senators are not recognized by name but as junior or senior senator from the state they represent. See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
Clarissa Saunders: [shouts] Yippee!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Terror Firmer (1999) 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

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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