on July 4, 2004
This movie is perfect for July 4th..in fact, I watched this movie for the first time on this day! If you want to see how a bill is passed, what the Senate consist of in the government, how people in politics are after, great monuments like the Capitol and Lincoln, and a great storyline, this is the movie for you.
Jimmy Stewart played Jeff Smith, a Boy Scout ranger who loves America, was picked as a Senator. His honesty and rookie nature made him a ruse for the experienced Senators who are out to get him and throw him out of office with their lies. Meanwhile, he did find a friend who went with him all the way...his secretary, Clarissa (who falls in love with him). You will have to find out the rest of the movie what happens when people found out that Smith was telling the truth all along, and the bad guys.
This is a great movie!! Go watch it!
on January 7, 2010
I recently decided to view this version on one TV and the earlier release on the other. I really didn't think that there would be much a difference, but the Columbia classics release had a sharper picture than the Sony release. I switched teh DVDs and tried again to see if maybe the TV or the DVD player was a factor. I got the same result! My advice.. if you REALLY love this movie, pay extra and get the Columbia classics release!
on May 10, 2004
Frank Capra captures the heart of american patriotism without ever becoming preachy. Mr. Smith is equal parts civics lesson, romance, tense drama and at its heart: the perfect fish out of water comedy.
Jimmy Stewart is fantastic as Jefferson Smith an honorory senator who accidentally stumbles on corruption. Stellar performances were turned in by Jean Arthur, Claude Raines, Edward Arnold and Thomas Mitchell, but it is Stewart who dominates this film.
The phrase Capraesque gets bandied about with too much regularity these days when describing recent films. I would strongly reccomend Mr. Sith goes to Washington as Capra at his most Capraesque.
I saw this movie on sale and always heard good things about it. It's sited has one of the most important films from the 1939, a year of major classics, such as Gone with the Wind, Wizard of OZ, Son of Frankenstein, Dodge City etc.
James Steward gives an outstanding performance as an idealistic young man who's just been elected to the senate.
He gets to Washington and soon realizes that corruption is abound and the other elected senators are in the pockets and owned by the very rich.
To make matters worst he discovers that an area back in his home that he had hope would be set aside for children has a kinda scouts retreat is in danger of being destroyed because one of the very rich businessman who owns several senators of the U.S. Senate, as decided he wants it. Mr Smith refusing to be bribed, threatened, slandered or bullied all alone takes on this businessman, the corrupt senate and slanderous lies they use to try to discredit him with.
But nothing can break his spirit.
This movie was such a treat to finally get a chance to watch.
Mr.Smith Goes to Washington(released Oct/39)stars,among others,Jean Arthur,James Stewart,Claude Rains and Edward Arnold.Nominated for an outstanding 11 times,it only won one OSCAR in the writing category.1939 was a great year for film making,so it is not too hard to imagine why it did not win more.
The story finds Stewart/Smith as a down home boy who finds himself suddenly taking over the senate seat in his state,after its occupant decides to kick the bucket.Soft spoken,but as honest as Abe Lincoln,Stewart meekly and humbly accepts the position.Unbeknownst to him,the people behind the appointment are a group of corrupt and hardened politicians led by Arnold.One of the members of the group is Rains who also has been kept a Senate seat in order to push through graft after graft.Rains was a former friend of Stewarts father and Stewart has very high regard for him.
Once in Washington Stewart is given a secretary(Arthur)who soon learns that this naive young man is in for the ride of his life,in the rough and tumble political world there.Stewart is awestruck at the look and feel of Washington,with its' innumerable monuments to politicians long gone and to the hallowed words written there.Back in his office Stewart is chomping at the bit to get going but doesn't know where the gas pedal is.He consults his friend Rains,who suggests he introduce Stewarts idea as a bill,to start up a boys camp in his state.With Arthur's help this is exactly what he does,even though Arthur warns him of the numerous hurtles he will encounter.
When the corrupt bunch of politicos find out that the camp Stewart wants to create lies smack dab on the property that they have been planning to build a dam on,they jump into action.Rains is reluctantly pressured to come down hard by Arnold,who starts a vigourous smear campaign back home against Stewart.
Meanwhile Stewart has started to get an awful taste of how things really work,and he doesn't like it,nor does he know what to do.When his good friend Rains stands up in Congress and tells the floor that Smith is corrupt and should be removed from office,it's a gut wrenching blow.Arthur has temporarily fled Washington and quit her job.She decides to come back and help the lug get his ideals and kahonies back.Stewart decides to stand and fight for what he knows is right.He starts a filibuster in the Senate and for 24 hours tries to tell everyone present exactly what has been going on.Near the end Stewart briefly succumbs to a fainting spell,from exhaustion. Rains re enters the chambers and is allowed to bring in sacks full of letters from supposedly outraged voters in the state.Stewart knows they're all lies,and when he comes to he approaches Rains calmly and appeals to his decency one more time,his voice almost gone.Rains leaves the floor temporarily and a shot rings out soon after.Rains tried to shoot himself but was stopped.He re enters the floor and finally tells the truth to everyone,that it should be him shunned,not Stewart.That is where the film ends.That's one for the good guy.
This is the part that has always got me about the film.It ends too abruptly,as if someone in the editing room suddenly decided that it was time to go for lunch,and hurriedly snipped the frames together as is and left.There are two ways of looking at it,I suppose.One,is that the film continues on and shows a triumphant return of Stewart to his hometown and his proposal of marriage to Arthur,or two,leave them wanting more.Capra,et al,chose the latter.I'm sorry,but I have always thought the film screamed for more.
This film also has a cast of supporting players the likes of which you rarely see together,folks like HB Warner,Guy Kibbee,Thomas Mitchell,Eugene Pallette,Beulah Bondi,Ruth Donnelly,William Demerest,Jack Carson and many,many more.The film was made before the opening of WW2 and the sentiments it speaks of such as life,liberty and freedom of speech,was a kind of shout out to the world at large.So when WW2 broke out about a month before its release,it was ever the more meaningful.
Technically speaking this print is in its original a/r and I must say it needs a clean up.The opening credits tells us the film was restored by the Library of Congress,along with the help of other film institutions.That is all well and good if the film looked like it had been restored to a more acceptable level.The first reel is the most affected,with film deterioration and other defects front and center.Extras include commentary and an interview with Frank Capra Jr.,an advert gallery and the original trailer.Speaking of the latter,you will notice a parade sequence in there that isn't in the film.I can't help but speculate whether that was filmed as part of another ending,maybe Stewart's hometown return,as I would have preferred to have seen? Just wondering.
All in all this film still packs a major punch as a political noob goes up against the staid and corrupt state and Washington politics.Stewart does a bang up job and is ably supported all around by a great cast.But that ending.......
on December 15, 2003
My first inclination was to complain that this DVD is like way overpriced and has not come down in price in some time. Yes, it is a truly great movie, and the DVD has some extra goodies, but there is no reason why it still should be way over $20 in price. That being said, there are few films that might be worth it and this is one of them. It still captures the essence of what being an American is--or what it should be. The lone man voicing his ideas against the machine, reminding us of what sanity is, of what priorities should be. At no time in American history is such a voice needed more than now: we want to send nearly $100 Billion to our enemy while people here will starve today. If that isn't the "Taylor machine" I don't know what is. This film speaks to the real war on terror--the grip that power and greed have on this country at any given time. In movies, especially Frank Capra movies, it all comes out ok in the end, even though many of his films have a suicidal crisis in them at some point. Meet John Doe, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, It's a Wonderful Life, and Mr. Smith all have a suicide that nearly happens. Why would that be,in the films of Frank Capra, considered the "feel good" director of all time? Because at some point life can become not worth living when all of its better values have been perverted, when it seems hopeless and that there is no way out of the madness,when one cannot bear all the tension and contradiction.(Gee, sorry for such a downer review). It might have something to do with the fact that the country was in the "Great Depression", economically and psychologically in the group sense, and that things really were pretty bleak. In Capra films, the response to despair is hope (that the badness will relent) and kindness (the kindness of others towards the unfortunate). And maybe that is the answer for our time as well. Where will we find it? Anyway, all this malarkey aside, Mr. Smith is a great movie, full of laughs, drama, and telling satire, a landmark performance by Jimmy Stewart, and well supported by a great cast all around--Claude Rains, Thomas Mitchell, Jean Arthur, Harry Carey, Edward Arnold. One of the most enjoyable films you will ever see and worth the high price you will pay for the DVD. And now, my filibuster ends.
on October 26, 2003
Amazingly, I only just rented this movie and saw it for the first time this week, and I was pleased to see how well this legendary Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart classic had held up. Stewart won the Academy award for best actor in 1939 for his performance as the idealistic young senator from Montana who triumphs against dirty politics and overwhelming odds--including the collusion and corruption of those who he admired and thought to be his friends--such as his fellow Senator Paine, played by the great Claude Rains. I was equally impressed by Rains's part, and his dramatic reversal of his position toward Stewart at the very end and confession in the Senate chamber about his cooperating with the corrupt Taylor political machine has to be one of the most moving, climatic scenes in cinema--except that Stewart had just passed out from exhaustion after his marathon filibuster--so he didn't get a chance to witness it himself.
I was discussing the movie with someone who knows more about film than I do, and they said that the movie showed what tremendous range Stewart had, from joy to despair, from energetic exhuberance to exhaustion, and from his initial naive idealism about Washington to his quickly wising up about the realities of politics. They said Stewart really never had a chance to show as great a range of emotion during much of the rest of his career, since he was often cast in light-hearted and humorous roles after that. I thought this was an interesting comment about one of America's most famous and loved actors, as his part in Rear Window was certainly a very serious role, but again, I'm not an expert on film history so I offer this comment for what it's worth.
Overall, still a great classic that has stood the test of time, and a must see for fans of old movies, especially Jimmy Stewart, Claude Rains, and Frank Capra fans. And I can't forget to mention the rest of the supporting cast--Jean Arthur, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Arnold, and Guy Kibbee--are also superb.
on July 21, 2003
I've lived in Washington, DC for about 8 years now. You can't avoid the political headlines here if you wanted to. You kind of pick these things up.
So I decided to rent "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." I'd heard all the hype about what a great patriotic movie it was; about how it shows what it means to be a great American; about how proud it makes the viewer to live in such a wonderful democracy.
I finished the movie rather disillusioned. It's difficult to explain why without giving away the ending, but I'll try:
Jefferson Smith is tapped to fill the seat of a US Senator from some unnamed state after the elected senator dies. We're clearly shown from the beginning that he's not meant to be there as a man of principle; he's there to be a pawn of the other Senator from that state (Sen. Paine), and Sen. Paine cares about nothing but padding the pockets of one VERY powerful, rich, and influential private citizen (James Taylor).
When Sen. Smith's one pet project threatens to run headlong into Mr. Taylor's plans to make money, however, Sen. Smith finds himself firmly in the cross-hairs not only of Mr. Taylor, but also of Sen. Paine (who will do anything -- and I do mean anything) to maintain his corrupt dealings in the Congress of the United States.
So what disheartened me is, frankly, the way the movie ended. DON'T READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE. Sen. Smith's battle is hard-fought, and yes, you feel like he's the hero for standing up for the principles of democracy, etc. etc.... But he's fighting a losing battle. Were it not for that strange change-of-heart in (literally) the final minute of the movie, Sen. Smith WOULD have lost, and the Fat Cats would have won. And, frankly, I can't imagine that that last-minute change-of-heart would ever actually occur in any modern political climate.
So yes, this movie is about democracy, but not the way I thought. The movie instead comes perilously close to sending a message that the laws in this country are actually passed by rich, powerful men who have only their own personal interests in mind and not those of the Common Man. It highlights the seedy underbelly of the way the laws of this country are passed.
I didn't walk away from this movie proud of the way the Framers intended the U.S. Senate to work. I came away from this movie thinking that it was just too close to reality, where special interests dominate the lawmaking process and the little guy who stands up for truth and righteousness gets run over by the unstoppable political machine.
on June 27, 2003
I first watched this movie my senior year of high school (our government teacher showed it in order to explain what a filibuster is!). Last night I watched it again for the first time in eight years, with my younger brother who is a James Stewart fan. I realized then what a well-made movie MR. SMITH is! Stewart gives a magnificent performance, not least in that memorable filibuster scene, in which he talks himself hoarse (you can actually FEEL his exhaustion!). The character Stewart presents, Jefferson Smith, is an unsophistocated man who nevertheless fiercely believes in the ideals of America: powerful feelings burn beneath his naive facade. The rest of the actors are perfect in their roles, from Claude Rains' flawed idealist to Jean Arthur's tough yet good-hearted secretary who is eventually won over to Smith's way of thinking. The great acting performances and superb direction make MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON a fine film, as well as a tribute to the values -- freedom, tolerance, courage -- that make America great.
on June 1, 2003
MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON remains after sixty years one of the most compelling political films ever made. If Thomas Jefferson Smith's wide-eyed patriotism seems naive and overly innocent following decades that have seen McCarthyism, Vietnam, the rise of the Industrial-Military complex that Eisenhower warned us against, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and an attempted right wing cabal (via a partisan impeachment trial), perhaps this says more about where events have taken us rather than where it would be good for us to be. More depressing is the fact that the Senate (and the House) look more like the people Jefferson Smith opposes in the film, than Smith.
What makes this film continue to be such riveting viewing despite the very different world in which we live? Much of the script is part of the reason. There is a great deal of first-rate dialogue (even if portions seem a bit outdated), and some of Smith's speeches remain enormously effecting. But if I had to point to a primary reason, it is the acting. Put different actors in several key roles, and a film that might have been watchable in 1939 would be unviewable today. Jimmy Stewart makes this film. Has there been another actor who could have played this role, imbuing it with equal parts charming naivete, passionate patriotism, unmitigated optimism, and everyday wisdom while not in any sense making Mr. Smith look silly? I doubt it. Jean Arthur in several films managed the transition from cynic to believer as well as anyone short of Barbara Stanwyck. The film features a long and rich number of supporting actors, from Claude Rains to Thomas Mitchell to Edward Arnold to Eugene Pallette. But my favorite was Harry Carey, who plays the President of the Senate, though more with his eyes and smile as much as his voice. Carey had been one of the great stars of the silent screen in Westerns, but for some inexplicable reason never found the same success in sound. John Wayne often paid homage to Carey by physically mimicking gestures that were identified with Carey, in particular standing akimbo, with one arm laying across his chest to grasp his other arm just above the elbow. When Wayne made that gesture, it was as good as 'quoting' Carey, and all Western fans would recognize it as such. The cast is crucial, because even by 1939 standards, the entire story is more than a little naive, but the actors managed to 'sell' the story magnificently. The result is nothing short of magnificent.
This film had a huge impact on the 1940 Best Oscar decision. Today, looking back on 1940, I don't think there is any question that Henry Fonda clearly deserved the award for his work in THE GRAPES OF WRATH. His portrayal of Tom Joad is one of the great performances by an actor in the history of American cinema, not merely the finest performance that year. Yet, Jimmy Stewart won instead for his role of Macauley 'Mike' Connor in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, an award that he clearly didn't win compared to Henry Fonda's Tom Joad. Why? The Academy voters felt bad that he hadn't won the year before for his superb performance in MR. SMITH. In one of the most competitive Oscar competitions for Best Actor ever, Robert Donat managed an upset victory over Stewart, Clark Gable in GONE WITH THE WIND, and Laurence Olivier in WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Fonda didn't feel too badly, since he and Stewart were lifelong best friends.