#120 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

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.

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#119 Wuthering Heights (1939)

1939 is considered by many as the best year of film. Here is the first film on our 1001 films list from that year. Based on the classic novel by Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights is when class separates doomed lovers Heathcliff and Cathy.

Heathcliff and Cathy have known each other since they were kids when Cathy’s father brought Heathcliff to live with him. With Cathy’s brother being the master of the house after their father died, Heathcliff is resorted to being the stable boy and servant of the house by Cathy’s cruel brother. Heathcliff and Cathy want to be together but the status of a stable boy being with a wealthy lady was unheard of in 1841. I remember reading this book when I was a teenager. It was a great book but I remember how long it was and how confusing it was remembering all of the characters since it’s generations and generations of people. Especially when they all share names! But luckily this movie is only the book’s first sixteen chapters. Did you read the book and what were your thoughts?

This movie is your classic melodrama. This is director William Wyler’s third film on this list next to Dodsworth (1936) and Jezebel (1939). He definitely has a knack for the genre of book adaptations. In just a couple of hours, we see childhood to adulthood with betrayals, in-laws marrying each other, fake slaps, and buckets of tears. The scenes where Heathcliff and Cathy are on Peniston Crag with the wind blowing in their hair in each other’s arms were epic! This film was a step down epic to Gone with the Wind. Believe it or not, Vivian Leigh wanted to play the role of Cathy but Wyler wanted Merle Oberon instead. The actor I was impressed with the most was Laurence Olivier. Now I understand why people call him one of the best actors in the world. He does not hold back on his emotions and you want to cling onto his every word. The speech he gives at the end for Cathy could break your heart. I couldn’t stand the character of Cathy. She had a good thing right in front of her and she took advantage. I also didn’t like how with Cathy

*Spoilers*

It’s like she wanted to die not just because Heathcliff marries her husband’s sister but because she relished the idea of everyone crying for her, including Heathcliff. While Heathcliff had a darkness inside of him, I still couldn’t help but feel more sorry for him than Cathy.

*End Spoilers*

As dramatic as this film was, the drama was just as real off-set. For example, Laurence Olivier was kind of stuck up. Because he had a Shakespearian background, Olivier would hate getting direction from Wyler and call film a “little medium.” He was also upset that his future wife, Vivian Leigh, did not get the part of Cathy which caused him to resent Oberon. Even though they worked well together in The Divorce of Lady X (1938), Oberon kept accusing Olivier of spitting on her which would cause him to yell at her which would cause her to leave in tears. Another interesting fact was David Niven, who played Edgar, was told to cry for a particular scene but he told Wyler there was a “no crying” clause in his contract. Because he didn’t know how to cry, Niven was given a menthol mist substance to make him cry which only made green goo come out of his nose, grossing out Oberon. Yeah, I would be too. 

Despite all of the drama, this movie was nominated for all of the major awards at the Oscars and only won Best Cinematography. This movie is an epic classic that deserves to be seen, especially if you’re into star-crossed romances.

Watch this classic book adaptation and comment your response:

 

#118 The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Introducing our third Alfred Hitchcock film on this. The Lady Vanishes is when a woman who is going back home to get married befriends a nice, old lady on a train only to vanish after falling asleep.

A young heiress decides to solve the mystery of the disappearance of her new friend, Miss Foy, who goes missing after she gets knocked out. When she tries to tell everyone on the train that her friend is missing, everyone pretends that they don’t know what she’s talking about for their own personal reasons. This movie reminded me so much of Flightplan (2005) that starred Jodie Foster where she loses her daughter on an airplane after passing out but everyone tells her she was never on the plane. Especially the scene above brought me back to that movie was Miss Foy putting her name on the window which proved she was on the train. But trust me, The Lady Vanishes was a much better film than Flightplan. Another thing I liked about this movie was the chemistry between Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave in that bickering-love relationship. It’s too bad they never made a detective series with the two of them. Well, they star together in The Stars Look Down (1940) if anyone is interested.

This whole movie puts us on a journey to find out what did happen to Miss Foy and the Master of Suspense strikes again. Were any of you able to spot the MacGuffin (a device that Hitchcock includes that is the silent driving force of the story)? It’s interesting how Vivian Leigh was tested for the role of Iris when she looks so similar to Margaret Lockwood. Makes sense! Apparently, Orson Welles saw this film eleven times. Only eleven?! Just joking. Another interesting fact about this movie is, according to Hitchock, this story was inspired by the legend of a woman in Paris who went to get her mother medicine and her mother disappeared from the hotel she left her at. The legend said the mother had bubonic plague and no one could know or everyone would flee Paris. The nerve! But still makes a good story for the screen. I highly recommend this film as I feel like this is one of Hitchcock’s finest and will keep you intrigued throughout.

Watch the movie that Orson Welles saw eleven times right here and comment your reactions: