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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama | 19 October 1939 (USA)
1:38 | Trailer

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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.



(screen play), (story)
Top Rated Movies #146 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Senate Majority Leader
Senator MacPherson
Senator Monroe
H.V. Kaltenborn ...


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


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


Comedy | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 October 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington  »


Box Office


$1,500,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film finished shooting eight days over schedule and $288,660 over budget. See more »


(at around 21 mins) In the montage as Jeff Smith wanders off after arriving in Washington, we see the display of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, and then supposedly a close-up of the document - only the "S"'s are written in modern style script and don't look like "F"'s as in the original document. See more »


Jefferson Smith: I can promise you one thing, I'll do nothing to disgrace the office of - the United States Senate.
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Battle Hymn of the Republic
(ca 1856) (uncredited)
Music by William Steffe
In the score when Smith is at the Lincoln Memorial
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

It works in a way no other movie could, THERE IS PROOF
1 May 2006 | by See all my reviews

Now, I must admit that this is one of my top five favorite films. There is a warmth, idealism, and kinda simple feeling of hope, that makes one believe that things will work out in the end. Capra knew exactly what he wanted, and it shines. Jimmy Stewart, in the role of his life, makes us believe, what we know is almost impossible in todays crass world.

Claude Rains is incredible as Senator Smith's evil mentor. Jean Arthur, as his confidant, plays the part so well,that we just want her to save the day.

The final scene, where the filibuster is taking place, is among the greatest ever made.


In the early 80s, I showed this film, over three days, to a group of 15 year old inner city teenagers. I taught Political Science in a very difficult school in Chicago. It was a new class, and not all of the "best" students took it.

I decided to show this film at the end of the year, just to see how long I could keep the students attention. I didn't expect much. Fifteen is a very tough age to keep any kind of attention span, and it was at the end of the day, 2:30 -3:15 pm. which made things worse. As the film began, there was rustling in the seats, boredom, that famous oh what a waste of time look...Mind you, this is 43 year old film, about a white Senator, in those "old" days, and being shown to a totally Afro-American crowd of 15 year olds, late in the day, (over a three day period, which meant the students would have to wait till the next day to see what was going on. ..By the end of the third day, Capra had worked his magic, and the entire class was spellbound by this film. They were there till the very end, and you could see how much they enjoyed seeing a film, that they wouldn't have looked at in a thousand years..Comments were wonderful. Any film that could accomplish this, more than 40 years after its conception, to a crowd that one would believe would have no interest deserves to be truly called a "great film."

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