“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a 1939 American political comedy-drama film directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Claude Rains. The film tells the story of Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), a naive and idealistic young man who is appointed to the United States Senate by a corrupt political machine.
At first, Smith is overwhelmed by the majesty and history of the Senate, but soon discovers that the political system is rife with corruption and graft. Smith’s attempts to expose the corruption are met with resistance from the political machine, led by Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains), who initially took Smith under his wing.
Smith is aided by his cynical and tough-talking assistant, Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur), who helps him navigate the treacherous waters of Washington politics. Together, they launch a filibuster on the Senate floor to try to prevent the corrupt bill from being passed.
Throughout the film, Smith’s integrity and idealism are contrasted with the greed and corruption of the political system. The film also portrays the power of the media and the importance of a free press in holding politicians accountable.
In the end, Smith’s filibuster captures the attention of the public, and his idealism and honesty win out over the corrupt political machine. The film is a classic example of Capra’s optimistic and patriotic style, with its celebration of American values and democracy. It was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and remains a beloved classic of American cinema.
Sidney Buchman, Lewis R. Foster, Myles Connolly
James Stewart, Lean Arthur, Claude Rains