Home > Uncategorized > Sunday Screening #18: Mr Smith Goes to Washington

Sunday Screening #18: Mr Smith Goes to Washington

Another epic from our friends in Nashville.  I’ll let the Allen take it from here:
I’m into politics. Not in the same way that your high school civics teacher was into politics. I am addicted.  Everyday brings me one step closer to DVRing the news while I’m out so I won’t miss any of John King’s Magic Screen projections. God help me if I ever land on C-SPAN during a gridlocked debate; I might not leave the house till cloture. I have a t-shirt with Dennis Kucinch’s spry grin on it, and I’ve never even been to Ohio. Can you believe the theatrics Eric Cantor pulled during the healthcare summit at Blair House? Politics today is like an epic mashup of gladiator style throw-downs, John Grisham novels and reality TV.

And to think it used to just all be apple sauce.

Is it shameful that I want action figures of CNN’s Best Political Team on Television? The answer is, of course, absolutely not. Any guy should be so lucky as to have a miniature David Gergen made of plastic resin sitting right on his desk explaining what the White House’s position on an issue is likely to be.

What is shameful, however, is that I have never seen the quintessential political film of the twentieth century. I’ve seen a simple majority of it but never the entire film. It is supposedly one of Frank Capra’s best works, and I hear it caused quite an uproar in Congress when it was released. When I realized that the title character and I share both a love of politics and the commonest of surnames, I knew I needed to see what happens when Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
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  1. March 21, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    Glad I finally saw this film. Memorable characters, wonderful dialogue, hard-to-resist setup and payoff, a great portrayal of Washington politics and “the way the world works”. It has a lot in common with a parable, or moralistic tale, but not in an overly preachy way.

    Talk about perfect casting. Jimmy Stewart simply nails the young, idealistic, inexperienced senator. Jean Arthur also nails her part, too; she’s a natural foil for Stewart’s character. The scene where the two of them talk about the boy’s camp bill has a lot of great moments. Claude Rains is fantastic as always.

    When Stewart goes to the Lincoln Memorial, I actually felt a little patriotic. Capra, as has been said many times, certainly knows how to build and deliver on emotional scenes.

    In short, I was riveted from the beginning till the end.

    Some other random thoughts:

    Second Frank Capra movie starring Jimmy Stewart I’ve seen in which Auld Lang Syne is sung during an emotional moment.

    The guy trying to get out of the telephone booth early in the film was an unexpectedly hilarious moment.

    First time I’ve heard the expression “Christmas tiger.”

    The shot following what Jimmy Stewart was nervously doing with his hat was a great touch.

    The scene when Jean Arthur’s and Thomas Mitchell’s characters drunkenly discuss getting married was so classic. Definitely one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Again, Arthur really shines in that scene. And Thomas Mitchell’s reaction in the next scene after Arthur says, “Meet the man I’m going to marry”, was priceless.

    An unexpectedly dark moment was when the Taylor-organized truck runs the car being driven by a bunch of kids in support of Smith. It’s such a quick scene that it’s kind of a shock.

    Great pun:
    “Public opinion, made to order.”
    “Yeah, Taylor-made.”

  2. March 22, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    I’ll respond in a little. An unplanned trip to the Oregon coast took me away from my DVS and TV, so I didn’t get the chance to rewatch Mr. Smith.

  3. March 23, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    I still haven’t rewatched this, but I want to get some thoughts out there.

    I loved this Mr. Smith the first time I saw it and anticipate liking it again. Hell, I have to like it since it gave use The Simpsons episode where Homer and Mel Gibson remake make it with Gibson’s character killing Congress AND the president (plus another reference in the episode where Lisa goes to Washingon to read her America speech). Classic stuff.

    Jimmy Stewart owns pretty much every movie he’s in. It’s nearly impossible not to like him (much like with Henry Fonda or Paul Newman). The film turns what many find to be dull into riveting drama. It definitely gives a great view into the strategy behind getting anything done in Washington.

    Capra’s gooey sentimentality can be a little stifling, but it’s all killer here.

    That’s all for now. More to come…

  4. LMM
    March 23, 2010 at 9:32 PM

    Yea! I’m not scared of Jimmy Stewart anymore!

    Man, he totally freaked me out when I saw him in Vertigo. I won’t spoil for those who haven’t seen it, but yeah, freaked me out. Granted, I did see Harvey before that (and LOVE it), but Vertigo is what I really remember him for.

    I absolutely love this movie. The characters, the dialogue, the story, the twists, the way things play out…everything.

    It did start pretty quickly and took a bit for me to catch up on the whole “Senator died-Need new one” bit, but I was able to jump on board.
    I loved how the plot twisted and turned, and it wasn’t forced. Obviously the dam was going to play a part, but when it did it made sense. It wasn’t “Oh, yeah—figures.” I was engaged and wanted to stick with it to the end no questions asked.

    Yes, Stewart was perfect for this role. His fresh face and peaceful eyes made you really believe he was idealistic and wanted what was right for the country. Then he gets blind sided by a ‘friend’ of the family who you wouldn’t expect to treat you that way because he looks like a loving grandfather/family friend. Brilliant. Though, you should of known, Susan was a bit posh for her own good.
    Jean Arthur was great. I loved how bitter she was, yet still had the hope of a better tomorrow. She worked wonderfully with Stewart and I loved their scenes together.

    Some of my favorite scenes:
    When Smith and Saunders are first discussing the bill.
    The hat scene when Smith is talking to Susan.
    When Smith is being sworn in (just a beautiful shot).
    The Lincoln Memorial when Saunders tells Smith not to give up.

    I agree with johnwm1 about the car crash scene. It was a bit much, at least it was quick, but it also showed how F-ed up politics can get. It’s interesting that we watched this movie this week considering the Health Bill was passed on Sunday. Sort of parallels what’s going on now; with the idealistic ‘newbie’ and old Congress.

    In short, I really liked this movie.
    And Stewart is awesome….not a creep.

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