Sometimes it takes an everyday man to convince your country the difference between right and wrong which is what Mr. Smith strives to accomplish. Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is when the governor’s children convince their father to have the head of the Boy Rangers, Jefferson Smith, to be the replacement for the recently deceased Senator.
The United States government is rooting for him to fail considering Mr. Smith is an everyday, naive man. When Mr. Smith wants to create a national boys’ camp on the same spot as the government’s pork barrel project, drama ensues in making Mr. Smith look corrupt. Frank Capra originally wanted this film to be a sequel to Mr. Deeds Goes to Town but Gary Cooper was not available to be part of the project. This disappointed Jean Arthur who plays Mr. Smith’s secretary as she felt Cooper was more masculine with a stronger screen presence. Write in if you agree with her. James Stewart knew that this would be the role of a lifetime and was so excited to be part of this project that he would show up at the studio at 5:00am. True dedication! James Stewart knows how to put all of his talent and energy into a film that we cannot help but be amazed.
The best scene in this film is when Mr. Smith creates a filibuster in court to prove he is not corrupt. That is where James Stewart really shines in his acting. Interestingly enough, Stewart would put mercuric chloride in his throat to make his voice sound hoarse. The other scenes I liked are when Mr. Smith visits the Lincoln Memorial and he stares at that statue with such importance and admiration. This film got a lot of controversy during its time as the film was previewed at Washington’s Constitution Hall with 4,000 guests with 45 of them being senators. Two-thirds through the film, people were already hating the film as politicians did not like how politicians were portrayed as corrupt and evil. Did you feel that their anger was justified or too much of an exaggeration?
Even though this film is considered one of Frank Capra’s greatest, it wasn’t in my book. While I thought the acting was exceptional, I’m not one for politically-charged films. But I do give the film credit for not choosing a party but just making it about general politics. I wish political films were like that now instead of attacking people. I do recommend this film for James Stewart fans and those with an interest in politics. After all, Capra did receive a lot of letters over the years that this film inspired fans to become politicians.
Unfortunately, I could not find this film online but you can rent it on Amazon for $3.99. Here is the trailer for one of Frank Capra’s greatest and comment what you think.