Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Other movies recommended for you
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Plot: 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. Runtime: 129 mins Release Date: 18 Oct 1939
James Stewart and Frank Capra. One needn't know much more going in to be assured that this will be an enjoyable film. Together they take on the Washington elite with this dramatic comedy about a naïve Washington outsider who gets appointed to the Senate and stands alone against corruption and graft. Jefferson Smith James Stewart is appointed from an unnamed state after one of its Senators dies. He is appointed because the political fat cats need someone who will not seem like a crony, but who will not stand in the way of a graft scheme for a pork barrel dam that will make bigwig Jim <more>
Taylor Edward Arnold millions. When the wide eyed Smith gets to Washington, he discovers the corrupt bill because the dam will stand in the way of his own proposed bill for a children's camp. When he tries to stop the project, Taylor's political machine frames him to make it seem like he is the one taking graft. This leads to the dramatic confrontation in the Senate, where Smith filibusters in an attempt to get the truth out.This film is wonderful in so many ways. The story is a classic struggle between good and evil. In typical Capra style, the protagonist and antagonists are exaggerated so there is no confusion as to who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. If there is one clear message in Capra's films it is that those with strong moral fiber never give up hope. He likes to create utterly hopeless situations for characters to test their integrity, and rewards unswerving adherence to basic values and principles by triumph against the odds. I was dismayed to see a comment, obviously from a young viewer of this film, that said that the characters weren't realistic because no one used profanity. This is a sad testimonial to our culture, when it inconceivable to young people that there was once a time when profanity was the exception and not the rule. Stewart is brilliant as the idealistic and awe struck kid from the backwoods who is overwhelmed by the glory of Washington, with its monuments and history. The story brings us a confrontation between political expediency and idealistic principles with the message that the truly great men are the ones that don't compromise their principles to hold on to power. Stewart also brings a whole treasure chest of bumbling comedic sight gags that make him all the more lovable in the part.Jean Arthur is fabulous as the tough and savvy assistant who is jaded by Washington politics, but gets a fresh injection of fervor as she listens to Smith's noble homespun philosophies. Claude Rains is also masterful as the adulterated Senator, who sold his soul to corruption for a chance at the presidency. He plays the simultaneous sense of guilt and ambition with a torment that is clearly ripping his heart out, and the power of both emotions portrayed in his performance makes his character both repugnant and pitiable.This film is a national treasure. It is in my top 50 list of all time. The story of corruption in politics and the greatness of the men who resist it is timeless and would not be lost on the politicians in Washington today. A 10/10.
It works in a way no other movie could, THERE IS PROOF (by stuartpiles)
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.BUT <more>
THE PROOF, YOU ASK?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 no one would believe would have any interest in, deserves to be truly called a "great film."
Required viewing for anyone elected or appointed for public office. (by lenndogg)
Since the beginning of the art form, movies have generally fallen into two categories: the realistic, and the fantastic fantasy-based . There are some that point out that the films of Frank Capra unduly fall into the latter, that they are completely far-fetched and fastened in their own time, and even invented a pejorative term "Capra-esque" to describe any non-cynical, heartwarming picture that has a message. His great films, like It Happened One Night, It's a Wonderful Life, and of course, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, however, are not fixed in a single era, but all eras, the <more>
truest definition of a classic. And considering it was released among true powerhouses in 1939, a year as important to movies as 1998 was to baseball, its ideals, story, and general excellence shine as bright today as it did over 60 years ago.A Senator from an unnamed, middle America state dies and a new one must be appointed by Governor Hubert Hopper, a puppet whose strings are held by newspaper magnate Jim Taylor. They need to find one that would be easily controlled by the now-senior Senator Joseph Paine played brilliantly by Claude Rains , so a bill allowing a building of a dam near land by the Willett Creek owned by Taylor can pass in the Senate. After his initial choice is rejected by Taylor, and Taylor's handpicked man is shot down by the public, the governor chooses Jefferson Smith, played to perfection by James Stewart, a boy scout leader and local hero who is both wholly idealistic in his patriotism for America but naive and blind to the actual process. After he gets embarrassed by the local print media, Mr. Smith begins to learn the harsh realities of DC. Paine, Smith's boyhood hero, takes him under his wing and suggests that Smith try to create a bill. Smith agrees, and with his assistant, Clarissa Saunders played by Jean Arthur , they create a bill to create a campground for boys from all over the country to learn about each other and the civic process, much to the initial dissuasion by Saunders. Smith then wants to choose a site near the Willett Creek, the same site where the dam is to be built and when his superiors and true string-pullers find that out, major complications ensue.Although the basic premise is David vs. Goliath, the story is wholly originally and was probably one of the earliest pictures to suggest the government as corrupt. The characters are played excellently by all principal actors, with Mr. Smith you root for whole-heartedly, Mr. Taylor you root against for his sheer arrogance and greed, and Mr. Paine, who you pity as you see a man who lost his initial zest to serve the public and is now a jaded shell of his former self. A great performance was given by Harry Carey, Sr., who plays the Vice President/President of the Senate for comic relief. The lines where completely believable and the parts of Smith's final filibuster that were shown give the most impact. There is a beautifully shot scene with images of the monuments and sights of Washington with several national anthems synchronized as the score. The climax is as tension-packed as drama can get, and while the ending may seem rather sudden, and everything isn't completely or neatly resolved, it works perfectly and ends the movie on a happy note.Obviously, few if any people elected to public office has the moral character, conviction, and general good heartedness of Jefferson Smith, and I doubt whether the government would be better if it was. The movie showed an ideal, a supposed "lost cause" of truth in government. And although it is next to impossible for Capra and the eternal good guy Jimmy Stewart to ever fully change the world of politics with just a motion picture, at least it shows that maybe once in a great while, being the good guy has its definite rewards. If using the same analogy of the 1998 baseball season The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind were the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa of 1939 moviemaking, then this would be like Cal Ripken voluntarily ending his Iron Man Streak, something done with full class and the highest respect in mind, and that elevates an ideal of being the good guy and sticking to your dedication brings the greatest of riches. This picture is flawless in all respects and a true classic, with thought-provoking ideas, wit, a little bit of platonic romance, and an excellent cinematography and score, and deserves the rank as a 10 out of 10. And in giving this rating, either I'm damn right or I'm crazy.
A true classic that lives up to it's reputation (by perfectbond)
Mr. Smith is as good as it's legend. Sometimes I'm disappointed when a universally acclaimed movie isn't as enjoyable as I thought it would be. But here, that is not the case. James Stewart is deservedly remembered most for this role. That's saying a lot given his impressive body of work. This is also Frank Capra's signature film along with Mr. Deeds. The idealism of Jefferson Smith might feel a bit anachronisitc today but, and I know this is a cliché, the world could use more people with his values. The supporting cast is also spot on. Jean Arthur plays the same type as <more>
she did in Mr. Deeds and Claude Rains is terrific as the mentor who betrays Smith. Strongly recommended, 9/10.
"Either I'm dead right, or I'm crazy!" (by ackstasis)
Patriotic, stirring, uplifting, absolutely mesmerizing Here are just a few words that can be used to describe Frank Capra's brilliant 1939 film, 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.' Bringing together a stellar cast of both fresh and seasoned actors, Capra manages to reach into each of our chests, and wrench almost painfully at our heartstrings.Jefferson Smith James Stewart, 'It's A Wonderful Life' , is a young, enthusiastic patriot who resides in an unnamed American state, but is known throughout it most especially by the young boys of the region as an unsung hero. <more>
Head of the Boy Rangers, Smith has a love of his country and of nature, once quenching a potentially devastating forest fire single-handedly. After the unexpected death of a current Senator, Governor Hubert Hopper Guy Kibbee is forced to choose a replacement. Whilst his corrupt political boss, Jim Taylor Edward Arnold , urges him to appoint a handpicked stooge, Hopper surprisingly decides to follow the confident advice of his own children, awarding the job to Smith.Smith arrives in Washington, excited and idealistic, no doubt modestly considering himself to be unsuitable for such a prestigious position. He is proud to accompany the other current state Senator, Joseph Harrison Paine Claude Rains, 'Notorious' , a highly-esteemed man who was once great friends with Smith's father. Unbeknownst to Smith, however, Paine had long ago abandoned his political ideals, seduced by the promise of power and political longevity to make "certain compromises." Whilst Smith works tirelessly to submit a bill regarding the creation of a national boy's camp at Willet Creek, which he hopes will teach a new generation the value of freedom and liberty, the devious Paine schemes to dam that same locality, an act that will serve nobody but the power-hungry Jim Taylor. When Paine's cynical secretary, Clarissa Saunders Jean Arthur , informs Smith of these plans, he determinedly attempts to speak his mind, only to be quashed by the almighty "Taylor Machine."Frank Capra, who had previously supplied Columbia Pictures Corporation with two Academy Award Best Picture winners 'It Happened One Night,' 1934 and 'You Can't Take It With You,' 1938 , once again proved his undeniable genius, something he would continue to do throughout his film-making career. One often-cited example involves the romantically-awkward Smith's second encounter with Paine's beautiful daughter, Susan Astrid Allwyn . Rather than focusing on faces, as would be the typical style for such a scene, Capra keeps the camera firmly on Smith's hat, as he restlessly shuffles it between his fingers, frequently dropping it to the floor and stooping to reclaim it. This shot tells us more about Smith than any facial close-up ever could!Finally, James Stewart is unquestionably brilliant as the young, idealistic Smith, in one of his first critically recognised roles. The look of absolute awe and wonderment on his face upon first witnessing the Capitol Dome appears truly genuine, despite the fact that Stewart was merely acting against a projection. For his highly memorable filibuster speech at the climax of the film, Stewart dried out his throat with bicarbonate of soda to make himself sound hoarse, an act that could potentially have destroyed his later ability to speak. As we witness Jefferson Smith, ragged and exhausted, determinedly continuing to shout hoarsely at the Senate members, we immediately understand that his voice is reaching much, much further. He is not just shouting at the Senate, but he is shouting at the people; he is shouting at his country; he is shouting at us. And we are right there alongside him, quietly urging him along.
Idealism vs. "the machine" (by ACitizenCalledKane)
The theme of one man being able to combat the ways of a long-established system is not a new one. In fact, man versus machine is one of the oldest forms of conflict in cinema, but this is a different kind of "machine," this "Taylor Machine." When a young, naive, and idealistic man by the name of Jefferson Smith James Stewart is placed, as a pawn, in the United States Senate, he is honored and humbled by the job set out before him. He sees it as an opportunity to provide a service for his country, and, even more so, his people. In Jefferson Smith, we see everything that <more>
is good and wholesome in America. One man who wishes for nothing more than an improvement upon a country that he already cherishes. He intends to do everything he can to fulfill his duty as a newly appointed Senator. However, the people that put him there were not nearly as patriotic in their intentions. Jim Taylor Edward Arnold and Senator Joseph Harrison Paine Claude Rains have conspired to put Smith in office in hopes that he will simply sit there and keep quiet while they pass a bill that will profit Taylor. Smith's dream of building a national boy's camp is shattered by Taylor's scheme to build a dam in the same area. The powerful Jim Taylor is forced to pull some strings in order to discredit the young senator so that his dam can be built. The Taylor Machine frames Smith, accusing him of fraud. Shamed, Smith is ready to leave Washington behind when his assistant, Clarissa Saunders Jean Arthur inspires him to fight for his ideals just as his forefathers had. Smith returns to congress, armed with a new strategy to accomplish his goal.James Stewart gives one of his finest performances as Jefferson Smith, the young, passionately patriotic Senator confronting corruption in the government he holds so dear. Jean Arthur's performance as Clarissa Saunders is strong, while Claude Rains is forced to counter Stewart's inspired intensity a feat that I feel he accomplishes . The filibuster scene is one of the highlights of the film, and one of the more memorable sequences in American cinema. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a wonderful movie, not just because of James Stewart's relentless performance, but because it has quite a bit to say. It is a statement declaring that ideals are stronger than the pages they are printed on, and that it is our ideals and the spirit through which we see them realized that allows one man to topple "the machine."
Capra & Stewart Make It Work Very Well (by Snow Leopard)
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 <more>
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.
Political Story With Some Good Messages (by ccthemovieman-1)
When I started seriously collecting films in the mid '90s and discovered classic movies, this was one of the first famous classic films I watched. I found it a good movie, a very powerful one, but yet one I have not watched again, for some reason. I guess it wasn't that attractive to me to see multiple times.Yet, I can't criticize it. Jimmy Stewart is interesting as always, in the lead as "Jefferson Smith." Jean Arthur is the most fun of all the actors to watch in here and actually her "Clarissa Saunders" might be the lead character, not Stewart's. Claude <more>
Rains is so good that you want to punch his character, "Sen. Joseph Paine" right in the nose!I will say it's very dated, but some of that corny stuff adds to the enjoyment of the story. Some of it is refreshing, too, like the unashamed overt promotion of solid values, for instance - something Liberal viewers watching this must hate. You don't see that much patriotism or values-first themes in movies anymore.A good movie, but at 130 minutes a bit long and one that I would advise to rent first instead of purchasing blind because of its high reputation.
If there is a better film about America and American ideals, I have yet to see it, or even hear of it. Frank Capra is the quintessential American director. He was obsessed with optimism and an unequaled faith in the American spirit, and it really shows in this film. I personally don't care if the story is a bit far-fetched or if the characters are a bit exaggerated. This is not so much a film about Washington politics as it is about the power of right ideas. I feel he adroitly accomplishes his goal, which is to show that good can prevail. James Stewart is one of America's greatest <more>
actors. He was as hard-working and talented as anyone else. The role of Jefferson Smith could have easily been a caricature. A typical actor could have overplayed his bunglingness. Stewart, however, gives him a humanity and a naive sincerity that makes you really sympathize with him. This is one great performance. All of the supporting roles are very good. Claude Rains is perfect as the corrupted senior senator. He gives his character a interior goodness. I never really believed that he was totally evil. Jean Athur is witty and cynical as Saunders. She is one of the many innocents caught in the machinery of Washington. This is a really good movie. As a history teacher, I would like all my students to see this movie. This is more than fantasy. It is a positive view of America. It is a belief that the good should fight for the good until the end.