Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
James Stewart and Jean Arthur
"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" is a comedy drama film made in 1939, directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Jean Arthur. The movie received eleven Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, even in the outstanding year of 'Gone With the Wind', 'Stagecoach', 'The Wizard of Oz', and other masterpieces, and won one Oscar, for Best Writing of an Original Screenplay. It is ranked at number twenty-six in the American Film Institute's List of Greatest Movies of All Time.
'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' is the movie which established James Stewart as one of Hollywood's foremost stars and it is considered by many to be Frank Capra's greatest achievement, a cinematic masterpiece. In 1989, the Library of Congress added the movie to the United States National Film Registry, for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
The film's success stems from a combination of factors. It has a compelling story line, a first class script, a hard hitting idealistic message which still has relevance today, wonderful characters well acted by a superb cast and a happy ending.
It is an honest movie which pulls no punches. James Stewart plays Jefferson Smith, an idealistic young man who is selected as a junior senator and who discovers at first hand how cynical and corrupt the political process can be. He doesn't give in, however and fights his case, and thus protects American values, with an impressive and unforgettable filibuster in the Senate chamber and the movie ends on an upbeat note.
James Stewart is ideally cast as the naive but ultimately strong and triumphant, wholesome country boy. In 1939 he was already a well known actor but this movie made him a top Hollywood star. He was ably supported by Jean Arthur who had also partnered him in Capra's 'You Can't Take It With You' in 1938. The fine cast also includes Thomas Mitchell and Claude Rains.
The movie received mixed reception on release. The public and major critics loved it but it was attacked by politicians in the U.S. Congress, and by the Washington press, as unpatriotic and even pro-Communist for its portrayal of corruption in the government and in big business.
'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington' was named as one of the best films of 1939 by the New York Times and Film Daily. It has lasted well and is still regarded as one of the most enjoyable movie classics of all time.
Main CastJames Stewart ... Jefferson Smith
Jean Arthur ... Clarissa Saunders
Claude Rains ... Senator Joseph Harrison Paine
Edward Arnold ... Jim Taylor
Guy Kibbee ... Governor Hubert "Happy" Hopper
Thomas Mitchell ... Diz Moore
Eugene Pallette ... Chick McGann
Beulah Bondi ... Ma Smith
H.B. Warner ... Senator Agnew
Harry Carey ... President of the Senate
Astrid Allwyn ... Susan Paine
CreditsDirector ... Frank Capra
Producer ... Frank Capra
Production Company ... Columbia Pictures
Written by ... from an original story "The Gentleman from Montana" by Lewis R. Foster
Screenplay ... Sidney Buchman
Cinematography ... Joseph Walker
Musical Score ... Dimitri Tiomkin
Format ... B & W
Release Date ... 19 October, 1939
Running Time ... 125 minutes
Academy AwardsOne Win:
Best Writing, Original Story ... Lewis R. Foster
Ten Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Columbia Pictures
Best Director ... Frank Capra
Best Actor ... James Stewart
Best Supporting Actor ... Harry Carey
Best Supporting Actor ... Claude Rains
Best Writing, Screenplay ... Sidney Buchman
Best Art Direction ... Lionel Banks
Best Film Editing ... Gene Havlick, Al Clark
Best Music, Scoring ... Dimitri Tiomkin
Best Sound Recording ... John P. Livadary