Title – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Director – Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life)
Cast – James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold
Plot – Kind-hearted and naïve Jefferson Smith (Stewart) finds himself in Washington as part of the senate but it’s here that he realizes his hopes and dreams for his beloved country and constitution are often swept under the rug due to shady dealings and powerful people that have forgotten what made their country great in the first place.
“Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here; you just have to see them again!”
Review by Eddie on 20/01/2022
It’s not often you could proclaim a film to be entirely wholesome, but it’s a proclamation you could rightfully bestow upon one of director Frank Capra’s crowning achievements Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, a good-hearted and unashamedly sappy exploration of a good man trying to uphold justice in a corrupted political environment, that whilst at times too sentimental and dramatic for its own good, remains a joy to watch in this modern day that could do with more Frank Capra’s and characters such as James Stewart’s Jefferson Smith.
Making a star of its leading man, who later on in the 40’s would re-team with Capra to make one of the most beloved films of all time It’s a Wonderful Life, Stewart and Capra create magic together here as they bring to life the tale of Jefferson Smith being thrust into the U.S senate in hope the political parties ruling the house can manipulate their new colleague due to his kind nature and rose tinted view on the world.
What follows is a fairly Hallmark like procedural filled with much talking and hypothesizing as Smith battles to clear his name from fraudulent claims while trying to do good with his new power but the chance of being non-invested or not encouraged by this smile inducing battle against good and evil is only likely to fall on those with the most stone cold of hearts, a sentiment backed by the fact Washington remains well entrenched within countless top films of all time lists.
A proud citizen, Capra’s love for his country and the political system that is by the people for the people is on display here, while Stewart manages to balance out Smith’s naïve nature in a brilliant performance that in the wrong hands could’ve sunk and sunk quickly as audience’s failed to be captured by a figure that surely to goodness couldn’t be that blind too what is going on around him.
It’s impossible to think of a film like Washington coming to play today, with features such as Forrest Gump or even Paddington 2 coming to mind when you try and nail down the type of tone and sentiment the film delivers but coming from a unique time and place and two minds of some of Hollywood’s all time great figures ensures this effortlessly likable and fun tale will continue to be a benchmark for feel good affairs long into the future.
Final Say –
There are some moments that are a little too much to bare but for the most part Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a wondrously enjoyable drama that will make you believe in all the good that’s in the world, the perfect antidote for the time and place we all find ourselves in at present.
4 hoarse voices out of 5
I love this movie so much! It’s right up there with It’s a Wonderful Life. It might not make the top 20 but it would definitely be in my top 50 favourite films of all time.
It’s reputation has remained so strong all these years later! It has lost none of its charm and heart that is for sure.
In recent years, I’ve realised how much of a fan of Jimmy Stewart I am – I’ve always liked his work but each year I discover another and I still need to watch this one!
I also recommend: https://criticalpopcorn.com/2021/11/29/the-shop-around-the-corner-review-dir-ernst-lubitsch-1940/
Thanks for the recommendation mate! I too am a Stewart fan, he made some incredible films!
That one is as good as any, he’s always had that much more accessible ‘human’ element than others of the time.
I watched this on ABC iview last week. As a classic movie buff I can’t believe I ignored it for so long. Anyway, there is so much to love about it especially Jean Arthur. The filibuster nonsense in the third act was brilliant.
I am a little ashamed it took me so long to watch it too mate! It’s a fairly ageless film even if it were made like this today people would say its too sentimental.
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